Nursing informatics is about using information to improve the quality of care and patient outcomes. As health care has, like just about every other specialty on earth, become more dependent on computers and information systems, the field of nursing informatics has gained in importance, giving computer-savvy nurses an opportunity to make their career paths more interesting by combining their skills in technology and patient care.
Why Choose Nursing Informatics?
Keeping track of patient care involves a ton of information today, and not keeping that information well organized can create serious problems. Computerized charting, online medication reconciliation and electronic health records present great opportunities, but they also create the need for specialized nurses who can help design better information procedures and train floor nurses in how to use them properly. Informatics is a growing field that barely existed just a few years ago.
As a nursing informatics specialist, you can expect work on improving methods of analyzing nursing and health care data, safeguarding the security of patient data and potentially training your colleagues in the use of new technology. In truth, that doesn’t even cover all the things you can get involved in as an informatics specialist. You might, for example, work on implementing an electronic health records program in the emergency room that tracks ER wait times, frequency of narcotic administration and staffing/patient ratios. Virtually every different area in a health care facility has different information issues that an informatics nurse could potentially be in charge of improving
If you like doing research, this specialty can give you lots of chances to indulge it. Nurses with a masters in informatics often do research on issues in quality assurance and treatment. They can also be sought-after in the private sector by employers in hospitals, private clinics, governmental agencies, businesses that design and sell health care information technology systems.
Some of the courses you are likely to take in a master’s program in nursing informatics include:
- Statistics for Health Informatics
- Health Information Systems
- Networks for Health Informatics
- Knowledge Management
- Research Methods
- Project Management
Are You Suited to Informatics?
People who gravitate towards an informatics degree generally enjoy working with computers and want to focus on how information systems can be used to improve patient care. If you’re allergic to your computer, this career path is not for you! A high level of curiosity, a love of technology, an exacting nature and the ability to understand relationships among data types can all help take you far in nursing informatics.
What is Involved in Earning a Masters in Nursing Informatics?
Informatics masters programs are available online or on campus, and generally require 18 credit hours on average. Most programs have at least one practicum that must be completed successfully in order to graduate. As with most master’s programs, you virtually always need to have a bachelor’s degree to qualify.
Degree or Certificate?
You should be aware that certificates, which are shorter and less expensive than a masters degree, are also available nursing informatics. Certification programs tend to be are designed for professionals who want to expand and update their knowledge of healthcare informatics, but may not necessarily be planning to make it the primary focus of their career. If you work in a small to mid sized health facility, this may be the best option for you, since there may not be a full time position in informatics available there. The informatics degree can help you into a new specialty where you focus more on technology, but don’t lose the need to keep interacting with other nurses and helping to improve patient outcomes.