What is Nursing Informatics?

There are many places on the web where we can find the definition of what nursing informatics is.

According to the American Nursing Informatics Association, nursing informatics

is a specialty that integrates nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, knowledge and wisdom in nursing practice.”


As compact as that definition is, it doesn’t really tell me much, specially if a person has no experience in nursing or computer science, and that’s why I would like to explain what nursing informatics is, from my own personal experience.

However, if you’re satisfied with that definition, and you would like to explore other more pressing subjects such as,

How much do nurse informatics make?

Or

What’s a the difference between a clinical and nursing informatics analyst?

Or

You got an informatics interview coming up and you want to know what questions they might ask you, then feel free to explore some of the following posts on this blog:

Nursing informatics salaries

Nursing Informatics vs Clinical Informatics

Nursing Informatics interview questions.

Understanding What Nursing Informatics Is

Nursing informatics is a field within the field of health informatics, where people who have a nursing degree are involved in the implementation of a computer application in a hospital, nursing home, doctor’s office, public health clinics, or other healthcare setting.


The implementation of a computer application in any of these settings goes through different standard phases.

A project begins with the design and analysis phase, it moves to the configuring phase, then testing phase, training, implementation and support phase.

During each of these specific phases, a nursing informatics analyst will perform specific tasks and can also serve as a liaison between different departments within a healtcare facility to complete a project.

Briefly, during the design and analysis phase, the analyst collects data required to implement the project to the specific needs of a client.

In the configuring phase the data from the prior phase is used to build the system.

During the next phase, the system is tested to see if it’s working as needed, and then the users are trained to use this system.

Finally, the project is implemented and this is known as the go live. At this point the users are supported in case any issues might occur.

Designing And Analyzing

To illustrate these phases, let’s assume a hospital has a specific team of nurses who do wound care. This hospital decides to implement an electronic record for this group of nurses.

The role of the informatics nurse is to meet with the members of the wound care team and do the following: give a demo of how the system works; explain the possible ways that the system could be configured to meet the needs of these users; gather data related to specific fields that are charted by the wound care team; lastly, to understand how the workflow of this department works.

This part of the project is the design and analysis phase.

Configuring The Application

Once the informatics nurse gathers all this information, the system is then configured based on the data already collected and thus new workflows for the department can be defined or improved.

These workflows need to be also configured in the system. This process could be done by one person, but in reality, the system most likely needs to have different configurations which are assigned to different persons.

Example: one person could be in charge of collecting and uploading all the users to the database, while another person has to build the assessments the nurses will use. In smaller facilities though one person could run the whole show.

Testing

When the system has been configured, it needs to be tested to make sure that it works as designed and to make sure that no errors happen when the users operate the system.

Unit testing is a method to test specific modules of the system as a whole.

For instance, the person who collected and uploaded the users to the system could run a query or script to make sure that all the users are there.

The person who built the assessments could make sure that all the elements of the assessment are in place. Once each person has their own module working, integration testing happens. During this process, the modules come together and everything is tested from a to z to make sure everything works as expected.

Training

After testing is done, users are trained on how to use the system. This is an opportunity to see what their future system looks like and also to discover potential errors that need to be fixed. At the same time, the users get to see if the workflow makes sense. It so may happen that sometimes they realize that it doesn’t, so minor tweakings are done to the system to improve it.

Implementation And Support

When the system is at last implemented, the superusers (users identified by the informatics nurse as being able to navigate/use the system well), who were trained earlier in the project, help other users to navigate the new system. Also, when unexpected issues occur during a go live, it is the role of the informatics nurse to fix them or delegate them to the person in charge.

Nursing Informatics In A Nutshell

By now you might be wondering, so how is nursing informatics related to all this?

The informatics nurse can have different roles in the prior scenarios. Simply, they can be the liaison between the nurses and the developers or technical staff, or they can be the ones collecting the user requirements, setting up an application, or tweaking it to customize it to your hospital’s or clinic’s needs, or they can be out training users, or providing support once an application goes live.

However, depending on the size of the employer, these roles can be done by either a single person, or each role could be actually devoted to one person at a time.

For now though, be aware that nursing informatics is a broad and generic field where nursing science and computer technology merge to come up with solutions to meet or improve the quality care requirements for patients. Nurses take many roles within this field to make the magic happen, and on the next post, I will discuss the roles of an informatics nurse in greater detail.

Other topics you might be interested in:

What do informatics nurses do?
Interviewing tips for an informatics position.
Reader’s questions about nursing/clinical/health informatics

 

Questions? contact me through here

Chris (25 Posts)

Chris Smith works as a clinical analyst consultant with 9 years of experience working in the nursing informatics field. He started this blog to help others learn more about nursing informatics because he got tired of reading a lot of misinformation about this field on the web. You can connect with Chris on Google+


39 Responses to What is Nursing Informatics?

  • DeVonna Bahta says:

    Dear Sir:
    Thank you for such helpful, straight forward information re: Nursing Informatics. I am not a degreed nurse but was a licensed practical nurse for 30 yrs. I have a BA in English and Communications. I love medicine and miss being a part of it. I have been thinking about the prospect of Nursing Informatics. Will they accept a person that is not an Registered Nurse. I have worked, Pediactrics, Geriactrics, Home health. I would like to be a part of this exciting growing field. Looking forward to your answer.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for reading the blog.

      To answer your question…Yes, you can be an LPN, and get a job in nursing informatics. The key is looking at the requirements of the job. Many jobs are advertised as clinical analyst and these jobs want some type of clinical experience. It could be lab experience, pharmacy experience, radiology experience or nursing experience. It doesn’t matter if you have an RN without a BSN, or an RN with a BSN, or even an LPN. As long as you have clinical experience then you can apply for the job.

      There are also jobs that specifically require the candidate to have a masters degree in nursing or even a bachelors in nursing, so just don’t apply to those jobs and you’ll be fine. But I have met many LPN’s in the field doing informatics, so you don’t have to be an RN, unless the job specifically demands it. But plenty of jobs out there that don’t require it.

  • Karen says:

    Thank you for having this blog. This has helped me a great deal in writing my career development plan for my Master’s in Nursing with a concentration in informatics

  • Jules says:

    How can an LPN with a BA in sociology & Anthropolgy get training in nursing informatics without an RN license. I have only seen programs for RN’s. Please let me know which school is willing to train an LPN.
    Thanks.

    • admin says:

      Unfortunately programs that offer an informatics program require the candidate to have a bachelors degree in nursing because the informatics program is usually a master’s program and any masters requires a bachelors degree, which translates to having your RN, BSN.
      Nonetheless, depending where you work, getting trained by your employer is the next logical step for LVN’s/LPN’s. I have met a good number of LVN’s/LPN’s working in this field, and all of them got trained by their employer. Be aware though, that the field is extremely competitive right now and that also means that just going to school and getting a degree won’t guarantee you a job because even though there are many jobs out there, employers are looking for candidates who have some type of experience in the field.

  • Rebecca says:

    Thank you for such detailed information about nursing informatics. As an RN,BSN I was wondering what type of computer courses would be most helpful to obtain before applying for the MSN program in informatics?

    • admin says:

      A database course always helps. But most informatics programs have a database course in their curriculum. I wouldn’t worry so much about the courses, but if you do want to get a head start, maybe look at the courses of the program you’re planning on enrolling, and then see what courses might be your weakest link, and then try to read up on those subjects. I know that in the past nurses have told me they had the most difficult time with their database class.

  • Sam says:

    I am getting my B.A in Health Adminstration on fall 2012 and I have CNA certificate. Can I do the nursing informatics? Or I can not?

    • admin says:

      No, you cannot do nursing informatics, unless you have a nursing degree already; and that’s because most nursing informatics program are master’s degrees and thus, they require a bachelors in nursing.

      • Samuel masresha says:

        Thanks but can I get certificate on information system and work in a hospital with my degree in the hospital or not?

        • admin says:

          I just realized…what CNA certification are you talking about? Certified nursing assistant or certified novell administrator?

          And yes, you could be hired.

          Why not? Anything is possible because most hospitals have an IT department, and within that department, there are different types of people employed.

          There are database administrators, network technicians, computer technicians, etc. Thus, depending on what skills you bring to the table and how good you are, you could be hired.

  • Leah says:

    Great info! I have been searching around the web for LPN-RN or BSN course and came across Nursing Informatics. I got excited because I have always thought of pursing my computer degree. I have been an LPN for almost 3 years, and was a CNA for 5 years. I acquired my bachelors degree in computer science in Philippines in 1996, and because of that, I had an opportunity to get a US visa. The problem is, I have not taken advantage of my degree. Meaning, I have not worked in the IT field since the move in 2000, and felt so outdated and my skills became obsolete. And that’s how I thought of switching into medical field. I also got accepted to an RN program in a junior college, but unable to finish. I still want to pursue my education but can only do it online.

    My questions are: What are my options in this field? How long does it take for me to get a degree in Informatics Nursing? Can I do everything online? And by the way, I am in my late 30′s, if that matters. :)

    • admin says:

      If i were you, given your background, I would draft up a resume, and apply for jobs. If you go the degree route, you first have to get your bachelors in nursing, and then get your masters in NI. That is the longest and most expensive route. Or you can get a bachelors in health informatics, but not sure how many years that will take you. I have replied via email for a more detailed response.

  • Nola Gokhale says:

    I am a registered nurse and have some knowledge about computer technician. Where would you be able to study nursing informatics in Australia. I live in Adelaide. How much scope does it have in Australia. I know in US it is a sort after line. Awaiting your response.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for reading the blog.

      Indeed, I’m based in the USA, and my knowledge about informatics in Australia is minimum. And yes, in the USA, many of us working in the field do not have a master’s degree in nursing informatics. We were hired and trained. It might be a good idea to write to your “local” nursing informatics association to see if they have any universities offering informatics as a study course: http://www.hisa.org.au/

    • Friend says:

      Hi Nola,
      You studied your 10th class in Kotak salesian school, Visakhapatnam ?

  • Ashley says:

    I am a RN and I love working with the computer charting systems. We just implemented a new one at the hospital I work at and its like second nature for me I understand it and love using computer charting. I was wondering if I need another degree to apply for a nursing informatics Job or is it good enough that I am an RN and have worked with multiple types of computer charting systems??

    • admin says:

      Hi, briefly, you don’t need any additional degrees other than nursing, to get a job in this field. If you’re an entry level candidate, and you go for a master’s degree, it gives you the chance to interview for a job, but it doesn’t guarantee you a job. However, getting experience in the field such as participating as a superuser in a project, most likely will get you an interview and a job as an entry level candidate. I’ve emailed a more detailed response.

  • Sandra says:

    So I recently graduated high school and I wanted to know exactly what would my major be considered as if Im enrolling and what exactly does a N.I. do?

    • admin says:

      I’m not really sure what the question is about the major, but I will assume you’re asking what major you need to have to enter nursing informatics?

      If so, you start with a nursing degree, which means a nursing major.

      And what do N.I. do? Did you read my post above your question? But briefly, N.I people configure software applications used by clinical staff at hospitals.

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  • Mia says:

    I’m an LPN working on my RN ADN at this time. I have been a Minimum Data Set (MDS) coordinator for over 20 yrs and work on collecting/gathering medical data to input into a computer software to complete a comprehensive assessment of longterm care facility patients for compliance, reimbursement and improve patient care. Just wondering if you have any pointers as to how should my resume be updated to attract employers searching for informatic nurse? please e-mail me privately if you can. Thank you for your time in advance.

  • Val says:

    If I have a bachelors in global business and get a Masters in science with emphasis in nursing informatics, will I not be as marketable as someone who has a bsn…will that effect my salary as well?

    • admin says:

      So if I take what you tell me in your comment—-you have a bachelor’s in global busines and you’re going to get a masters in science with an emphasis in nursing informatics—how can you get a masters in science with an emphasis in nursing informatics if you don’t seem to have a nursing background? Or maybe you do and you didn’t include that, but assuming you don’t, I don’t really see how you can market yourself for a nursing informatics job without a nursing background, and therefore, you’re not as marketable as someone with a BSN. And yes, your background and experience affects your salary as well.

      Nonetheless, maybe you want to write back with your specific background and I can give you a more precise answer.

  • Elisa says:

    I’mplanning to attend Grand Canyon University they have already accepted me into the program and I’m supposed to start at the end if July. I’m getting the masters under the college of arts and science, not under nursing, so it would be a MS not a MSN. Currently I have no experience in the medical fields, I was planning to get my masters, get a job then once I’m hired get my Bsn, one they will probably pay for it, which will save me money and two once I’m done with everything I’ll have enough experience to get a good job. Its seems easier to get my masters now since most the schools I talked to have some type of waiting list for their nursing programs.

    • admin says:

      Well, to me it looks like you’re going about it the longest and most difficult way. If you just want to get in the informatics field, you don’t necessarily need a nursing degree. You can get a job in clinical informatics, and yes, many people work under this field with no medical experience. Sure, right now is very competitive, but many make it without having clinical experience. You might want to review my post: http://www.nursinginformaticshq.com/clinical-analyst-vs-clinical-informatics-nurse/

      Also, why not just go for a health informatics master? At least you’ll come out with a relevant degree and you can start applying for jobs. Instead, you’ll come out with a degree, then try to get to nursing school, which is another 2 years, and then get at least a year of clinical experience….And yes, I’m not going to say that just because you come out with a master’s in health informatics, you’ll find a job right away, because again, things are very competitive, but it would save you at least 3 years of the nursing experience, unless of course, you’re dying to be a nurse.

      And about salary…if you have no experience in the medical field, no experience in informatics, I wouldn’t worry about the salary first, because with no experience, you’ll start with an entry level type of salary, no matter what degrees you have.

  • Yiskah says:

    Great information on Nurisng Informatice. Can you tell me the difference between Nursing Informatics and Healthcare Informatics? Also, in the role of either does the nurse actually build the programs? I am interestedi in informatics but for the most part I enjoy building (developing) databases. Does a Nurse or Healthcare Informatics person build and analyze databases or are they more like the superuses after th build is completed? If they do not what type of degree is geared more towards building (developing) databases?

    • admin says:

      The Health Informatics field is a broad field which covers clinical informatics and nursing informatics and these 2 fall under the umbrella of healthcare informatics, which integrates and merges information technology with all other types of health disciplines, such as pharmacy, nursing, public health, etc.

      As far as database, you’ll have to look for jobs in the IT department of a hospital, not the informatics department. Most hospitals are divided into these 2 departments, but if not, then the database jobs will be most likely under programming. Informatics jobs as you mentioned are a bit more of configuration/implementation/support and you don’t really get to configure/program/build databases unless you of course do work for a vendor and you’re assigned to that role. This is definitely a complex question and I sent you an email with more details.

  • Mairim says:

    This a great blog with lots of information. I am trying to decide the most direct way to get into Nursing Informatics. I have a Bachelors of Science in Bus Adm. 2000. I worked as a LPN 2011-2013 and I just recently got my RN license (Associate of Science in Nursing). I currently work in the hospital.

    I was wondering can I do an Associate in Health Info Mgt and combine it with my ASN to get an opportunity for a job in Nursing or Healthcare informatics? Eventually, I am going to get my Bachelors of Science in Nursing and my Master of Science in Nursing. For the immediate future, I wanted to find out if by acquiring the Associates of Science in HIM will help me now. Your advice is greatly appreciated.

    • admin says:

      The most direct way to get a job in informatics is to get involved in your current job with informatics. You don’t mention if your hospital uses an EMR, but if i were in your shoes, i would try to volunteer for anything that your informatics team does, like testing, user meetings, implementation, rollouts, etc.

      As far as all the other degree stuffy you wrote about….again, to get a job in informatics, you don’t need all that. But let’s say your goal is to become an informatics director. Then for that position, you would need a master’s degree, but you don’t really need to get an associates in HIM or even get your BSN to get a job in informatics.

  • Gen says:

    Hi! Just the site I was looking for as i’m looking to get my MSN in Informatics. I have my BSN and have 3yrs working experience in acute care. Last year I was part of introducing the Paragon-Mckesson system to our hospital and I loved the fact that I can have Nursing and Information technology in one! I was wondering what are the best schools to acquire MSN informatics, as I understand this program is mostly online..thank you! =)

  • Beth says:

    Great info !!! the definition of infomatics was so vague for me. Thank you for the phases and explanations. My concern is in tweeking the system to match the specific needs of the facility for charting as I have no formal IT training. Ive used numerous systems but if the position is not entry level what education should i pursue in an online course of study. Also as informatics is growing, and the hospitals are converting to all computer. what will be the role of the nurse informatacist after the facility is up and running ? How much longevity is there? How would I be utilized once all is well with the systems being used ?

  • Ann says:

    Great info. What is the projected need for nursing informatics? I have only have my RN with an associates degree and wonder how the job outlook will be by the time I’m done with school if I pursue this. Thank you!

    • admin says:

      According to sources, The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) estimates that up to 70,000 health informatics specialists will be needed in the next several years – making it safe to say that health information technology (HIT) is one of the fastest growing specializations in the healthcare industry today.

  • May says:

    I have a BSN degree and been working as an OB nurse for 24 years. Can you give me advice on how to be an informatic nurse, what course do I need to take, how long is the program and how much does it usually cost? Thank you.

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