Nursing Informatics

Nurses interested in understanding how technology and analytics now drive healthcare delivery systems may be interested in a degree in nursing informatics (NI), available through graduate-level education. Somewhat similar to healthcare informatics (HI), nursing informatics integrates nursing and science with communication technologies and information management. Its aim is to promote the overall health of people and improve healthcare outcomes, according to the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA). It is a field that may seem abstract on the surface, but through data, analytics and technology ultimately works to support “consumers, patients, nurses, and other providers in their decision-making in all roles and settings,” according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

Many students entering one of the nursing informatics programs already are licensed as registered nurses (RNs) and have a nursing background. In nursing informatics programs, they can learn more about the technological part of the job, including various design system alternatives, how to manage information technology and even how to evaluate the effectiveness of various systems. They may become knowledgeable about databases, information systems, management theories and system security. Their expert skills can enable them to work in a variety of settings, ranging from ambulatory to acute or long-term care settings, and in occupations as clinical analysts, nursing analytics and informatics nurses.

Nursing Informatics fast facts
Projected Jobs CreatedNot available
Projected Job GrowthNot available
Low SalaryNot available
Average Salary (Median)$93,000
High SalaryNot available
Entry-Level EDUBachelor's Degree
Sourced from BLS, January 2015

Degree & certification Programs

Most professionals pursuing an education in nursing informatics need to complete an academic program at the graduate level, although some bachelor’s of science degrees in nursing (BSNs) do offer nursing informatics tracks. Many of the existing nursing informatics program offerings do range from a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) degree with a specialty in nursing informatics (NI) to a graduate-level certificate, post-master’s certificate or PhD or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DPN). Below are a handful of the available programs that are offered on-campus. This is followed in the next section by a list of related programs that are offered online, of which the programs are diverse and many.

  1. Adelphi University: The 39-credit hour healthcare informatics (HI) program offered through this Garden City, New York school, helps prepare students for both management and leadership roles. The program is designed for working professionals, allowing students enrolled part-time to take courses in the evening and able to complete the program in three years. So that students gain more practical knowledge, the program features a field experience course as well as a capstone research course. The school also offers a healthcare informatics certificate program and an online master’s degree in healthcare informatics.

  2. Thomas Jefferson University: The MSN in Nursing Informatics degree available through this Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, school has been developed for professional nurses and includes six three-credit MSN core curriculum courses exploring topics such as epidemiology in the health professions and health policy, legal issues and the ethics of practice. The degree also includes six nursing informatics (NI) specialty courses, totaling 18 credits and featuring three three-credit practicums. The school’s MSN degree can be completed full-time in just over a year or part-time over three years. Graduates should be eligible to sit for the Nursing Informatics Clinical Nurse Specialist certification offered through the American Nurses’ Association when they have finished.

  3. Vanderbilt University: The nursing informatics degree available through this Nashville, Tennessee, school can be completed in as quickly as three semesters, or one year, of full-time study, including a summer session. The 39-credit hour program starts out by introducing students to topics such as desktop maintenance, healthcare financial management and the ANP role within the U.S. healthcare system. The program then leads to the study of web development for healthcare applications and a clinical informatics practicum in the second semester. In the final semester, the summer, students complete a second clinical informatics practicum, during which they test out their new skills in nursing informatics in a healthcare setting.

  4. Shenandoah University: At this Winchester, Virginia, school, students complete five different classes to work toward a graduate certificate in health informatics. They learn about integrating up-to-date technologies in the practice setting, comparing systems models, and the changing roles of healthcare informatics professionals. Three of the five classes they take, including Health Informatics System Development and Health Informatics System Dissemination, require clinical hours, for a total of 240 hours completed for the certificate. Other classes include a seminar in health information technology (HIT) and an exploration of roles, trends and issues in health informatics. The certificate is 12 credits in all and should allow RNs to test for the informatics certification exam offered through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Admission requirements can vary by school, but often include prior completion of a bachelor’s degree and a minimum required grade point average, often a 2.75 or 3.0. Other requirements can include an essay explaining an applicant’s reasons for applying, letters of recommendation and even prerequisite courses in statistics or math. Students may also need to show proof of immunizations, have a physical exam to attest to their overall health, completed CPR certification, proof of health insurance, and a criminal background check.

Hybrid & online programs

Many nursing informatics programs can be found online since the types of courses in these programs are often well-suited to this format. In fact, you will find that many different schools offer instruction in nursing informatics through distance learning, so keep on looking until you find the program that is suitable to you. Understand that the programs available online in nursing informatics are diverse and we are listing just four below, but there are many more available:

  1. The University of Maryland: Students enrolled in the online master’s degree program in nursing informatics at this school can complete their work either on a part-time or full-time basis. The master’s degree is broken into three basic areas, including nursing core courses and electives, leadership management courses, and nursing informatics courses. The nursing informatics section is the largest, comprised of seven courses including healthcare database systems, human-technology interaction in healthcare and others. Some of these, including the practicum in nursing informatics, have pre-requisites or co-requisites. The school also offers a post-master’s certificate and a PhD and DPN in nursing informatics.

  2. Duke University: The 38-credit hour program available through this school can be completed part-time or full-time and almost entirely through distance learning, although students are required to be on campus a few times as they work on their nursing informatics degree. The program includes four core courses, totaling 12 credits, which explore learning about population health in a global society and advanced nursing practice. These are followed by 10 nursing informatics courses, totaling 26 credits, which address data analytics, cognitive informatics in healthcare, and technology leadership. Two one-credit research seminars are also included, and upon graduation, students should be prepared to sit for the certification exam offered through The American Nurses’ Credentialing Center (ANCC) generalist exam for nursing informatics.

  3. Texas Tech University: This Lubbock, Texas-based school offers a master’s of science in nursing informatics (NI) degree online. However, occasional trips to the Lubbock campus are required for field experiences or to complete immersion work related to competencies. The degree is composed of 39 semester-hour credits and should allow students to sit for ANCC certification and the HIMSS Certified Professional in Health Information Management (CPHIMS) exams. The school also offers a post-master’s nursing informatics certificate for those who already have an MSN degree.

  4. American Sentinel University: The MSN degree in nursing informatics offered through this school has classes that can be completed entirely online. The 36-credit hour program includes 18 credits in core classes followed by 18 credit hours in the nursing informatics specialization. The culminating course is an informatics capstone project, in which students design, implement and evaluate an evidence-based project. The capstone project also requires 130 hours of practice experience activities. Students also explore clinical and administrative systems and data mining during the specialization portion of their degree. Twelve classes are required in all to finish this master’s degree in nursing informatics.

At many schools, you will also be required to complete research projects or practicums that may require your actual appearance at a healthcare site or sites. For example, at Duke University, in the final course — Synthesis of Specialty Practice – a practicum occurs in a health care organization that requires a minimum of 224 hours. During this time, students complete a project under the mentorship of a professional who is already working in nursing informatics.

Core & Elective Courses

Nursing informatics degrees prepare nurses to become experts in the delivery of healthcare by implementing and using information technology to improve health care outcomes and patient care. Many programs first feature introductory courses, often the foundation of an MSN degree, which are then followed by specialty track courses in nursing informatics. These courses may vary by name, but in some programs may be called:

Core courses

  • Health Promotion and Population Health

  • Bio-Statistics for Evidence-Based Practice

  • Professional Transitions: Advanced Nursing Practice

Informatics Courses

  • Consumer Healthcare Informatics

  • Healthcare Database Systems

  • Health Information Exchange Standards, Methods and Models

  • Informatics of Clinical Practice

  • Information Technology Project Management

  • Systems Analysis and Design

Practicums are often needed to complete many nursing informatics degrees, but the actual requirements and hours may vary by school and program. Some nursing informatics programs may also have students involved in project management experiences.

Accreditation

Like other nursing programs, many nursing informatics programs are accredited through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). This agency is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit programs and help assure the quality of bachelor’s, graduate-level and residency nursing programs. A search page on the CCNE website allows students to search by level of education and state. Another institution accrediting nursing programs is the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN), which was once the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc. (NLNAC). This organization closely ties its accrediting process of certificate, diploma and degree programs to state exam and licensing processes. The ACEN also has a search page on its website, allowing students to search for programs based on degree level and by state.

Career Outlook

The BLS does not currently track data regarding nursing informatics specialists, which is considered a subset of health informatics. It does track job growth for health information technologists and technicians, which the BLS estimates will be 24 percent from 2012 to 2022, but these positions only require an associate degree. They also make up about 60 percent of all health informatics jobs, according to Jobs for the Future, but ignore the growth that has occurred in related more-advanced positions, such as those for auditor and compliance review occupations, and even for clinical documentation specialists.

However, a study by Credentials that Work estimates that job postings for healthcare informatics professionals should grow by 36 percent from 2007 to 2011, compared to just 9 percent growth for all healthcare occupations and 6 percent for all jobs. As jobs for skilled workers grow, those for entry-level occupations may decrease and those for more skilled workers increase, particularly as electronic medical records (EMRs) come into more use, given federal government incentives, Jobs for the Future suggests.

Career FactsNursing Informatics
Related CareersHealthcare Informatic Specialist, Health Information Technician, Healthcare Manager
Common Job TitlesClinical Analyst, Nursing Analyst, Informatics Nurse, Nursing Informatics Specialist
Technology & EquipmentBiometrics, 3-D Printing, Robotics And EMRS
Sourced from BLS, January 2015

Licensing & Certification

States do not currently appear to have any nursing informatics licensing processes beyond those already necessary to be employed as a nurse. However, there are at least two different credentials that nursing informatics professionals may be able to seek. These include the certifications available through the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS): the Certified Associate in Healthcare Information & Management Systems (CAHIMS), for those with less than five years experience, and the Certified Professional in Healthcare Information & Management Systems (CPHIMS), for those with more than five years experience. The CAHIMS is a new certification. Information, including exam eligibility, review materials and renewals, on both the CAHIMS and CPHIMS certifications can be found on the HIMSS website. The organization celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011, and has a membership that exceeds 52,000.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) also offers board certification in nursing informatics. This certification is good for five years, and allows nurses to use RN-BC (board certified) credentialing after their name. The computer-based exam for this credential is 3.5 hours long and includes 175 questions. Additionally, graduates might also be eligible for certifications offered through the Commission on Certification for Health Informatics and Information Management (CCHIIM), but will want to check on eligibility requirements.