Nursing is one of the most popular careers in the country, with more than 2.7 million people employed in the profession. Part of the reason for this popularity is the fact that nurses can specialize in so many different areas. Nursing jobs can vary widely, from assisting doctors at a family practice to working in emergency rooms with trauma patients and so much more.
As technology has changed over the years, so has the job. With a federal mandate now in place that requires healthcare facilities to begin using electronic healthcare records by 2014, nurses with an interest in technology may want to consider a move into the job of nursing informatics specialist. The role of nursing informatics specialist is still so relatively new that the exact job definition may differ depending on where the job is located and the nature of the healthcare facility.
In general, however, the American Nurses Association defines the position as overseeing the integration of data, information and knowledge to support decision-making by patients and their healthcare providers.
Doing this requires keeping information technology systems as up-to-date as possible, and ensuring all information is accessible to doctors, nurses, specialists and the patients themselves. For nurses with an interest in technology and its applications for improving patient care plans, a career in nursing informatics may prove a good fit.
Seeing the need for education in this discipline, universities now offer both online and on-campus graduate degree and certificate programs in health informatics. Many schools now offer graduate level health informatics courses via distance learning or in traditional on-campus settings. The University of South Florida, for example, offers both a Master’s degree in Health Informatics and a Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics through online courses.
The paper records systems used by healthcare providers for over a century – and the system most nurses have been trained in - are quickly coming to an end. Congress passed a stimulus bill in 2009 that aimed to bolster an economy that was faltering. Part of that bill called upon medical providers to switch their healthcare records from paper to electronic data collection and storage by 2014 if the facility was to continue receiving Medicaid and Medicare payments.
The benefits of electronic healthcare records are many. It will make patient information more quickly accessible by medical personnel, for example, and will streamline payment systems and transactions with insurance companies and government agencies. Since 2009, when the law was passed, the number of doctors using electronic healthcare records has risen to 57%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The salary of a nursing informatics specialist will vary based on a number of factors such as physical location, education, the type of healthcare facility and the exact scope of the job, for example. As this is an emerging field, the U.S. Department of Labor has not yet published salary data for this profession.
In the HIMSS 2011 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, conducted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, the median salary reported for Nurse Informaticists was $88,000.
While the survey was done in all regions of the U.S., personal research in your local market for the most accurate, up-to-date and complete information should be done.
To enter the field of health informatics, nurses will typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing and experience working with electronic healthcare records. However, the job is so specialized and focused that many employers prefer job applicants who have earned a Master’s degree in Health Informatics, Healthcare Management or Quality Management. Nurses who attain a degree in nursing administration with an emphasis on health informatics may also qualify for many jobs.
Courses in the USF programs include Integrated Electronic Health Records, Medicine Business Models, Managerial Communication, Basis Statistics and Clinical Systems Applications and Project Management.
Because of their knowledge of the medical profession, many employers prefer nurses for health informatics jobs. It can be easier to train nurses on the technologic aspects of the job rather than teaching someone with the technical skills all the details of the healthcare system, which are typically already known by most RNs.