Pursuing a health informatics training and education online has some obvious benefits, such as setting your own pace, tailoring classwork time into your schedule and bringing the school you want to your doorstep, even if it’s in another state.
With so many accredited universities offering online health informatics education, it is not difficult to find a high-quality program from a school employers recognize.
Since students interested in earning a Master of Science degree in health informatics often work in healthcare, they can be especially busy. Here’s why pursuing an education online may be a better option for working professionals:
By their nature, online courses rely upon technology. Students use tools such as webcams, videos and presentation software to participate in webinars and other online classroom activities. Students also communicate with instructors and classmates and take part in class discussions online.
Enrolling in an online graduate program is an opportunity to utilize various tools and technologies. This familiarity is especially helpful for students interested in health informatics, an area with technology at its core. While participating in online classes, every class activity gives you a chance to practice a new technological skill.
The breakneck speed of technological advances in healthcare means employers are demanding professionals who are at ease with the latest programs, gadgets and applications. Online classes are a perfect training ground to develop these skills.
Viewing lectures, completing assignments and taking tests around your own schedule are prime benefits to an online degree. You aren’t bound to be in class at a particular time and don’t have to worry about spending time commuting to school, searching for parking or trekking to class.
For a healthcare professional with a demanding schedule and/or nontraditional hours, this flexibility is especially important.
Online courses are there when you are ready, even if the only time available is when the family is asleep. A flexible schedule means you can work in the day and study at night, work at night and study during the day or fit in a few hours of study at a time throughout the workweek.
There are often limited options for pursuing a graduate degree while enriching your career path. You may be able to take classes at night and weekends, if you don’t work during those hours. You can try to beg for time off during the week, if possible. If you can afford it, you can switch to part-time work or take a leave of absence from working.
However, if you want to continue working full-time, an online degree makes it much easier to stay employed while obtaining the degree you need to advance. Earning an MS in health informatics can be a step for a career change or to leapfrog into a better position where you already work, and doing it online can allow you to continue earning a paycheck.
As you complete courses and gain expertise in the field, being employed lets you put those lessons to work even before you get the degree. You can apply your new knowledge right away.
As the nation’s hospitals continue to convert to electronic medical records, employers are in need of people familiar with the technology. Taking graduate courses in health informatics while working demonstrates to your employer you can fill the need as you continue to learn.
Doctors and nurses have a distinct advantage when it comes to health informatics. They have a well-developed understanding of healthcare systems and the work flow involved in delivering quality patient care. They also understand medical terminology and the roles that different clinical staff and allied health professionals play in today’s healthcare settings. In addition, they have experience working directly with patients, so they know how to listen, interpret what they hear and turn it into appropriate action.
In facilities or departments where electronic health records have not yet been implemented, doctors and nurses are often the best resources to manage implementation projects. In settings where electronic health records are already in use, they are typically the biggest users of those records systems and are often the most qualified to guide the continued use of EHRs on a day-to-day basis. By using their clinical knowledge and experience, they are in a distinctive position to make computer applications and EHRs user-friendly for the practicing nurse or doctor as well as to identify and mitigate functional gaps or data issues before and after systems go live.
Doctors and nurses with additional training and education in health informatics can serve as a bridge between clinical staff and information technology staff since they will be well-versed in both patient care and technology. By filling this crucial role, they have the opportunity to move into other positions such as chief medical information officer, health informatics director, healthcare IT project manager or nursing informatics specialist.
Because hiring for health informatics positions has already ramped up significantly, doctors and nurses who are interested in transitioning to this field should pursue the training and certificates they need to take advantage of career opportunities now. Degree and certificate programs have appeared at a variety of schools, so prospective participants should carefully evaluate the curriculum and the school to determine which program is right for them.
In many schools, health informatics programs are part of computer or information science departments. For practicing doctors and nurses, health informatics programs that have the unique advantage of being housed at a medical school are often a more natural and effective fit. The University of South Florida’s prestigious Morsani College of Medicine is the only medical school in the country offering graduate programs in health informatics 100% online. Programs include a Master’s degree in Health Informatics or Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics.
By gaining the additional education and training needed to supplement their respected clinical knowledge and expertise, doctors and nurses can transition smoothly into a growing career field that is free of many of the stresses involved in providing direct patient care, particularly in settings that operate on a 24/7 basis. By moving into the health informatics field today, they can be in a position to take advantage of the exponential growth of this field and be considered for senior level positions as health informatics continues to change the landscape of healthcare delivery.