Nurse Informaticist

Over 95 percent of hospitals, clinics, and medical centers utilize electronic health records (EHRs), which means most nurses have worked with them. However, EHRs are more than just notes on a patient’s visit. In order to get the most out of EHRs, it is essential to have a keen understanding of patient care delivery as well as how to interface and work with EHRs. This is where nurse informaticists excel. 

Nurse informaticists are registered nurses who have completed additional schooling and education in informatics, data analytics, records management, and advanced nursing. They work anywhere medical care is delivered to evaluate technology uses, implement new record-keeping systems, assess data, and make recommendations to improve patient outcomes. Centers that adequately utilize nurse informaticists can see better patient care delivery, less frustration from staff when interfacing with technology, and more accurate and usable data to make informed decisions.

To get started in this career, aspiring professionals will first need to complete a nursing program and then many earn a master’s of science in nursing informatics. This specialized master’s can take 18 months to complete, and most programs are offered online with the busy working nurse in mind. In addition to nursing informatics and data analysis courses, students will also take leadership and advanced nursing practice classes to help prepare them for management roles. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021), there is a bright outlook for nursing jobs. Between 2020 and 2030, there is an anticipated 9 percent increase in jobs in this field, translating into over 276,000 new positions. While not all of these jobs are for nurse informaticists, this is a new and growing field with an ever-increasing demand. 

To learn more about this tech and patient focus career, keep reading. The guide below covers top programs, certification requirements, typical job duties, and salary expectations.   

Nurse Informaticist Specializations & Degree Types

Nurse informaticists first have to complete a general nursing program. This can be either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Upon graduating, students will need to obtain a registered nurse license to practice in their state. 

After gaining some work experience, nurses can then complete a master’s of science in nursing informatics. This specialized degree includes advanced nursing practice techniques as well as informatics, data analytics, quality improvements, and patient care.

Admissions Requirements for Nurse Informaticist Programs

 The admission requirements for a nurse informaticist program will vary by school and competitiveness of a given institution. However, in general, most master’s in science in nursing informatics programs will require:

  • An unencumbered registered nurse license
  • Completion of a nursing program either at an associate’s or bachelor’s level
  • Prerequisite coursework
  • A minimum GPA
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A statement of purpose
  • Current CV or resume
  • Proof of English proficiency for international applicants

Nurse Informaticist Program Accreditation

Students need to ensure that the nursing program they attend is accredited. Accreditation is a lengthy process that evaluates all aspects of a degree, including curriculum, faculty, facilities, student outcomes, and practicums or clinical experiences. Not only does accreditation assure employers and certification agencies that a student has completed a quality program, but it may also be required for hiring or licensure. 

The top accrediting agencies for nursing programs are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The CCNE only accredits bachelor’s degrees or higher, while ACEN will accredit programs at all levels. 

On-Campus Nurse Informaticist Degree Programs

University of Utah – College of Nursing

Nurses looking to learn how to bridge technology and patient care can complete the master’s of science in nursing informatics at the University of Utah College of Nursing. Graduates of this interdisciplinary program will not only learn about the latest technology, analytics, and programming, but they will also gain leadership skills to step into management roles in their organizations. The technical courses are offered in collaboration with the Biomedical Informatics Department. 

Students must complete 40.5 to 42.5 credits to earn this degree. Required courses include human systems interaction, quality improvement in healthcare, clinical decision support, and systems analysis & implementation. During the final semester, students must complete a master’s practicum and a capstone project. This program is touted as being highly affordable, with in-state tuition available to many students through the Western Regional Graduate Program as well as numerous scholarship opportunities. 

  • Location: Salt Lake City, UT
  • Duration: Two years years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,002.76 per credit 

University of San Diego – Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science

The master’s of science in nursing informatics at the University of San Diego Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science emphasizes using technology to improve the quality of healthcare and research. As part of this degree, students will learn how to innovate and find new ways to promote healthcare delivery and education for diverse populations. They will also gain keen skills to analyze trends in healthcare and evaluate new technologies. 

As with most nursing informatics programs, this one is also interdisciplinary, so students should expect to work across departments. Leadership and ethics courses are required in addition to classes in financial management, healthcare delivery systems, database design, and healthcare information management. Two three-credit practicums are required to gain real-world experience in nursing informatics. 

  • Location: San Diego, CA 
  • Duration: Varies based on full-time or part-time enrollment
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,640 per credit 

New York University – Rory Meyers College of Nursing

Ranked number 15 in the nation for top nursing master’s programs by US News & World Report, the MSN at New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing is an outstanding program. There are ten concentrations in this program, including one in nursing informatics, during which students will learn how to apply evidence-based protocols and technologies into high-quality patient care systems. There is also a strong emphasis on utilizing data analytics for research. 

To earn this degree, students must complete the four master’s of science in nursing core classes along with six courses for the nursing informatics concentration and three electives. All students will also complete three practicums in database design, nursing informatics integration, and implementation, management, and evaluation of clinical and nursing systems. Because this program is located in New York City, students have the opportunity to complete these hands-on experiences at numerous top clinics and medical facilities nearby.  

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Duration: Two years years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,907 per credit 

Jacksonville University – Keigwin School of Nursing

The classes for the master’s of science in nursing informatics at Jacksonville University Keigwin School of Nursing are offered in a flexible eight-week format that allows students the opportunity to take a term off if needed. By incorporating project-based clinical experiences, this program prepares students to step into roles as nurse informaticists immediately after graduating. For students who have already earned a master’s of science in nursing, this school offers a post-graduate certificate in nursing informatics. 

Students can choose to complete this program in either a full-time or part-time format. If attending full-time, students can complete their degree in as little as 18 months. Required core nursing informatics classes include foundations of nursing informatics, advanced nursing informatics, population health informatics, epidemiology, and evidence-based nursing informatics in a global society. To be considered for admissions applicants must have an active US nursing license, completed an accredited nursing program, and have at least a 3.0 GPA. 

  • Location: Jacksonville, FL
  • Duration: 18 months
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $650 per credit 

Online or Hybrid Nurse Informaticist Degree and Education Programs

The University of Texas at Tyler – School of Nursing

The University of Texas at Tyler School of Nursing offers an online master’s of science in nursing informatics, quality, and safety (MSN-IQS). This is a competency-based program that aims to develop students’ skills in three key areas: quality improvement, data analysis, and information systems selection, implementation, and optimization. All classes are offered with flexible timelines, allowing students to complete their studies when convenient for them. Graduates of this program are prepared to start their career as a nurse informaticist or to continue on to doctoral studies. 

In addition to nursing informatics-specific classes, all students are required to take leadership and health policy classes to help prepare them for management roles. All students will also complete a practicum of up to 200 hours and a comprehensive capstone project that demonstrates the skills and knowledge gained in this program. Since this program is offered online, admissions are offered on a rolling basis and students can enroll at the start of any semester.  

  • Location: Tyler, TX
  • Duration: Two years full-time, three years part-time
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $5,820 to $8,505 per semester

Western Governors University

Nurses who want to use data to help change patient outcomes can complete the online master’s of science in nursing informatics at Western Governors University. This degree is a combination of nursing science with data analysis, leadership, and decision making. Required clinical experiences will ensure students have the hands-on skills they need to excel in this job. Students also have the opportunity to earn a NAHQ (National Association for Healthcare Quality) HQ Principles certificate as part of this program. 

The WGU program is unique in that students need only to complete a set number of courses to earn their degree, regardless of how long it takes. Tuition is a flat rate every six months, so completing classes quickly can result in significant cost savings. Nearly three out of every four students complete this program in 18 months. A program mentor is assigned to each student to help them chart a path that will set them up for success. 

  • Location: Millcreek, UT
  • Duration: 18 months on average
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $4,735 flat fee per six months

Vanderbilt University – School of Nursing

The flexible online master’s of science in nursing informatics at Vanderbilt University School Of Nursing is designed for working students who can’t or don’t want to relocate. Upon completing this program students will be equipped to analyze data into actionable plans, work collaboratively across departments, and help improve patient outcomes. The School Of Nursing at Vanderbilt University is ranked number three in the nation by US News & World Report, so students can rest assured they are at one of the best schools. 

Since informatics is such a specialized field, this degree is affiliated with the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. This allows nursing students to get the best possible education from two outstanding schools. To further help students succeed, this program provides one-on-one mentorship and career coaching.  

  • Location: Nashville, TN
  • Duration: Two years years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,793 per credit 

University of Pittsburgh – School of Nursing

With a combination of cognitive, information, nursing, and computer science, the online master’s of science in nursing at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing will prepare graduates to start a career in this specialty. While most students study nursing informatics as their major, there are minor and certificate options for students who have already earned a degree or who are focusing on a different discipline. The required clinical practices give students the chance to observe, analyze, practice, and implement techniques they have gleaned through distance learning. 

Admission to this program is competitive, and the faculty of this department will review all applications for nursing informatics. Applicants must already have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, a current RN license, and a 3.0 GPA or higher. All candidates will complete a pre-admission interview as well. 

  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA 
  • Duration: Two years years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $68,140 tuition for the entire program

University of Maryland – School of Nursing

The online master’s of science in nursing informatics at the University of Maryland School of Nursing aims to train students to be the bridge between technology and patient care. Graduates of this program have gone on to work for hospitals, non-profits, and government agencies providing innovative analysis that can impact patient care and improve the quality of facilities. 

This is a 40-credit program that requires students to complete at least 135 practicum hours. There are full-time and part-time options, making this an ideal program for working students. Practicums are arranged for in-state students, while out-of-state students can coordinate with the program to find a suitable practicum site.    

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Duration: Two years years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,490 per credit 

Nova Southeastern University – Ron and Kathy Assaf College of Nursing

Technology and its implementation to help patients is at the center of the online master’s of science in nursing informatics at Nova Southeastern University Ron and Kathy Assaf College of Nursing. In addition to comprehensive courses in nursing and informatics, students engage in hands-on learning in the state-of-the-art high fidelity patient simulation lab. All students complete 12 courses in advanced nursing classes and another 18 in informatics, and three in a mentored practicum. 

This program is open to all licensed nurses, whether they have completed a bachelor’s degree or not. If a candidate has not earned a bachelor’s already they will be required to take some additional coursework before enrolling in the advanced nursing and informatics classes. International applicants may find this program, particularly welcoming as they have a detailed process for evaluating and accepting international nursing degrees. 

  • Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Duration: Two years and a half years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $712 per credit

How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse Informaticist?

Determining how long it takes to become a nurse informaticist is tricky as there are many educational paths that can be pursued. While nurse informaticists must earn a master’s degree at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree is not required for all master’s programs. Therefore, it can take from four to six postsecondary school years to complete the education necessary to become a nurse informaticist.

How To Become a Nurse Informaticist  – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Complete a GED (Four Years)

A career as a nurse informaticist starts with earning a high school diploma or a GED. Students aspiring to enter this field should focus on classes such as science, math, health, and psychology. Volunteer experiences that involve caring for patients can be advantageous when applying to nursing programs. 

Step 2: Complete a Nursing Program (Two to Four Years)

All nurses must complete a nursing program. These can either be a bachelor’s or associate’s level but all include extensive nursing coursework, clinical experiences, and practicums. Admission to these programs can be highly competitive and applicants may be required to complete prerequisite coursework and have either volunteer or work experience.  

Step 3: Apply for State Licensure (Timelines Vary)

Upon completion of a nursing program, graduates must obtain a state license to practice nursing. The requirements to become a registered nurse vary by state so candidates should contact their local board of nursing to ensure they have the necessary qualifications. 

All states require some level of nursing education as well as passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Other requirements such as practicum hours or certifications may vary.

Step 4: Obtain Entry-Level Work (Timelines Vary)

Many nurse informaticists first obtain entry-level work in nursing before completing additional education or on-the-job training. While work in any nursing field can be beneficial to this career path, aspiring nurse informaticists should look for work that has them working extensively with technology and data analytics. 

Step 5: Complete a Master’s of Science in Nursing Informatics (Optional, 18 Months to Three Years)

A master’s degree is typically required to work as a nurse informaticist. In many cases, these programs can be completed in as little as 18 months, and most programs are offered online to accommodate working nurses. The top programs will require students to complete practicums as well as capstone projects that demonstrate the competencies gained. 

Step 6: Earn Additional Certification (Optional, Timeline Varies)

Nurse informaticists who wish to demonstrate competency in the field can earn additional voluntary certification. The most common certification earned is the Informatics Nursing Certification (RN-BC) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). More details on this certification can be found below in the certification and licensure section. 

What Do Nurse Informaticists Do?

Nurse informaticists fill a high-level technical role in hospitals, clinics, and healthcare systems. Duties will vary based on the place of employment but will generally include:

  • Assessing workflows for nurses 
  • Researching new technologies to implement 
  • Evaluating patient outcome data
  • Determining data quality to ensure the correct information is being tracked
  • Tracking data trends 
  • Suggesting cost-saving measures based on data gathered
  • Interfacing with patients and nursing staff to spot possible improvements
  • Working with senior and executive staff to implement new technologies and procedures that will benefit patients and staff

Nurse Informaticist Certifications & Licensure

All nurse informaticists must be licensed registered nurses. Nursing licenses are issued on a state-by-state basis, which means requirements can vary. All states require that candidates have completed a nursing education program as well as passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). 

Other requirements frequently include a background check, completing a required number of practicum or clinical hours, and passing a drug test. Nursing students should contact their local board to ensure they have the necessary qualifications. 

Certification as a nurse informaticist, however, is optional. Earning a certification can demonstrate to employers and patients that the nurse informaticist has a strong grasp of the key skills and knowledge to perform this job.  The most common certification earned is the Informatics Nursing Certification (RN-BC)  through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Eligibility requirements for the RN-BC include:

  • Have a current RN license
  • Hold a bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Two years of work experience as a nurse
  • Complete at least 30 hours of nursing informatic continuing education in the last three years
  • Have either 2,000 hours of practice in nursing informatics in the past three years or 1,000 hours of practice in nursing informatics in the past three years and 12 semester-hours of nursing informatics coursework or a graduate-level degree in nursing informatics

How Much Do Nurse Informaticists Make?

Salaries for nurses published by the Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS May 2021) are not differentiated by specialty. Presently there are approximately 3,047,530 registered nurses in the US. On average, they earn $82,750 per year. The percentiles for wages are:

  • 10th percentile: $59,450 
  • 25th percentile: $61,790
  • 50th  percentile (median): $77,600
  • 75th percentile: $97,580
  • 90th percentile: $120,250

PayScale.com (2022), a salary aggregate website, notes that on average nurse informaticists earn $83,000 per year. They also note that the top 90 percent of earners make more than $116,000 per year while the bottom 10 percent earn $61,000.

Nurse Informaticist Career Alternatives

Here are a few alternatives to a career as a nurse informaticist. 

Become a Health Information Manager

Health information managers are senior-level staff that lead teams of professionals who are responsible for all things data-related in a healthcare facility or hospital. This technical role requires a high level of understanding of data systems, analytics, and informatics. While this is a very similar role to a nurse informaticist, this career does not require any direct patient healthcare experience. 

  • Typical Education: Master’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)

Become a Health Data Analyst

Health data analysts work in hospitals, clinics, and healthcare facilities gathering, synthesizing, analyzing, and managing patient and center data. Their final reports are typically distilled into actionable data-driven recommendations that will save money, improve patient outcomes, mitigate risk, and even increase staff retention.  

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) 

Become a Healthcare Risk Manager

Healthcare delivery inherently comes with risk. However, facilities and executive staff do their best to mitigate it as best as possible. To do so, they hire healthcare risk managers who have the skills and education to evaluate risks and make evidence-based recommendations to reduce risk. 

  • Typical Education: Master’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Hospital Association
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

Kimmy is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.

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