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, nursing informatics experts have become more in demand. A nurse with training in this specialty can consider some interesting career paths that require knowledge of both technology and patient care.
Why Consider Online Informatics Programs?
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. Most recently, the increased use of mobile devices to collect clinical patient info has made it even more important to understand how to organize much larger and more complex patient records ( See how one hospital has studied the importance of digital patient informatics). Informatics hardly existed a decade ago, but it’s rising importance has prompted many online schools to create graduate and post master’s certificate programs in it.
Informatics and Nursing
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.
Nursing Informatics Education Requirements
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’s 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 nursing master’s programs, you virtually always need to have a bachelor’s degree to qualify.
Which Type of Certification Should You Pursue?
You should be aware that certificates, which are shorter and less expensive than a masters degree, are also available in this field. Nursing informatics certification programs tend to be designed for professionals who want to expand and update their knowledge of the field, but not necessarily work 100% in the informatics field. 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. Keep in mind that some schools offer so-called “bridge” rn to msn programs that can help you get you advanced qualifications without stopping to spend several years getting a nursing bachelor degree.
Over the long run, there’s little doubt that the informatics field will keep creating new opportunities. Here’s an interesting view from the AMA on what health practitioners need to know about informatics today.