Chat Transcript: Nursing Informatics–Where are the Opportunities?

What type of background and nursing education does someone need to be a nurse informatician? And where are the jobs in this exciting and expanding area of health care?

On April 18thAmerican Sentinel University and NurseTogether.com sponsored a live chat, to discuss nursing opportunities within the field of informatics. Here’s a transcript this lively Q&A.

American Sentinel: Approximately 70,000 health informatics specialists are needed, according to Don Detmer, the CEO of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), the main professional body relating to health informatics in the U.S.

Informatics nurses can look forward to a variety of career options in numerous settings. Nurses can have informatics careers as managers/executives, administrators, educators, and consultants. Nursing informatics career opportunities are available in hospitals and other healthcare providers, public health organizations, research labs, medical software companies, insurance agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and educational institutions.

American Sentinel: The ANA defines nursing informatics as: A specialty that integrates nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice. Nursing informatics facilitates the integration of data, information, knowledge, and wisdom to support patients, nurses, and other providers in their decision-making in all roles and settings. This support is accomplished through the use of information structures, information processes, and information technology.”

NT.com member comment: Do these jobs require experience?

American Sentinel: While the opportunities are plentiful, nursing informatics is not an entry-level career. RNs who find work in this specialty typically have several years of experience and professional education in both information systems and nursing. One year of coursework, with a good set of fundamentals in computer science, programming, and multiple applications, will provide the groundwork needed to step into a nursing informatics role. After a few years of informatics work the next logical step was to take the ANCC Board Certification in Informatics. A Master’s degree or certificate in Nursing Informatics, Health Informatics or related fields will improve salary and job potential.

NT.com member comment: Yes. How much computer knowledge does a nurse need to have to begin this?

American Sentinel: Many community colleges offer basic computer programming courses and this is an excellent skill to have.

NT.com member comment: I have a Masters in Information Systems and 20+ yrs as an RN. I am having trouble getting a job. I have been networking but no interviews so far. Any suggestions?

American Sentinel: Our suggestion is that you look at the larger vendors like Cerner, Medisys, GE. Go to CareerBuilders.com and NurseTogether.com and search Informatics, Information Systems, and you will find lots many of the companies like Cerner have listings on their web sites for employment. Check out the home page of any of the big EHR companies. Join the ANA CARING organization.

A Master’s degree in Informatics is generally required for advanced nursing informatics positions. Informatics Nurses must have strong verbal and communication skills, analytical skills, as well as clinical knowledge and technical proficiency. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers the Informatics Nurse Board Certification Exam for the RN-BC credential. This credential improves a nurse’s employment and salary potential.

The Technology Informatics Guiding Education Reform (TIGER) Initiative was started in 2006. The group defined action steps, one of which was education and faculty development. Incorporating information technology skills into education and practice is at the same place as research was in previous decades. You could join them to extend you knowledge in this subject area. (informatics)

American Sentinel: (Here are some essential questions to ask)

Will most hospitals require someone to be their chief “informaticians”?

Why are nurses ideal for this job?

What are beginning salary ranges?

American Sentinel: Nursing informatics provides excellent salary potential. Here are average salary figures for the most common career titles. Informatics nurse $80.000/year nurse analyst $69,000 and nurse informatics specialist $66,000.

Income for senior managers can go well into the six figures. A Senior Nursing Informatics Specialist job opening in a major city is currently offering $105,000 to $145,000 / year and a Director of Nursing Informatics job is currently offering $90,000 to $140,000 / year. A Senior Nursing Informatics Specialist job opening in a major city is currently offering $105,000 to $145,000 / year and a Director of Nursing Informatics job is currently offering $90,000 to $140,000 / year.

NT.com member comment: how do I get started on nursing informatics as a qualified RN?

American Sentinel: Talk to your own employer about opportunities to be more involved and learn more. Take some computer courses at the community college. Look at pursuing additional education in nursing informatics.

NT.com member comment: I understand you have a RN to MSN informatics program?

American Sentinel: yes, American Sentinel has an RN to MSN in nursing informatics, with courses on databases, project management, and information systems.

While the opportunities are plentiful, nursing informatics is not an entry-level career. RNs who find work in this specialty typically have several years of experience and professional education in both information systems and nursing. One year of coursework, with a good set of fundamentals in computer science, programming, and multiple applications, will provide the groundwork needed to step into a nursing informatics role. After a few years of informatics work the next logical step was to take the ANCC Board Certification in Informatics. A Master’s degree or certificate in Nursing Informatics, Health Informatics or related fields will improve salary and job potential.

NT.com member comment: Is your program accredited?

American Sentinel: Yes, by the CCNE – Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

NT.com member comment: If I have MSN-CNL and 23 years in info systems including data and process analysis, requirements acquisition and project management, can I sit for the informatics exam? 7 yrs RN but not in hospitals…

American Sentinel: yes, you need 2000 hours in informatics, but not in a specific area of health care.

NT.com member comment: How can a CNIO improve care through better electronic documentation on patients for frontline nursing staff?

American Sentinel: We now have lots of information about our patients from the electronic health record – what we need is nurses who can do research on this data and identify areas for improvement.

NT.com member comment: What are CNIO and CPOE?

American Sentinel: Chief Nursing Information Officer and Computerized Provider Order Entry.

NT.com member comment: 2000 hours of informatics to sit for the board exam – would that include QI data analysis for quarterly reporting on metrics like average lengths of stay, etc.?

American Sentinel: In addition to the ANCC certification, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) also offer a Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS) certification. This certification has more of a project management/IT emphasis whereas the ANCC test focuses specifically on nursing informatics and how that relates to nursing in general. Most people choose the certification that best matches the area they work under. If they are in an IT department, they tend to prefer the CPHIMS certification. If they work under Clinical Informatics directorship they may prefer the ANCC certification. Also, the CPHIMS exam is open to all healthcare IT professionals, including the CIO, programmers, informatics specialists and consultants.

Nurse informaticians need to study the data to show trends and areas for practice improvement.

American Sentinel: Another good educational opportunity is WINI, (Weekend Immersion in Nursing Informatics) is a nursing informatics continuing education course that travels around the country to provide affordable, in-depth nursing informatics education. Approved by the Maryland Nurses Association, an approved provider of nursing continuing education, WINI focuses on basic competencies in nursing informatics.

American Sentinel: Better programs organize the communication between and among systems and talk to all stakeholders can greatly reduce the documentation time so nurses can spend it with patients and delivering better care.

American Sentinel: Informatics nurses can look forward to a variety of career options in numerous settings. Nurses can have informatics careers as managers/executives, administrators, educators, and consultants. Nursing informatics career opportunities are available in hospitals and other healthcare providers, public health organizations, research labs, medical software companies, insurance agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and educational institutions.

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