If you are enrolled in online nursing school, you probably have your hands full focusing on learning all you will need to know to earn your coveted RN licensure. That is to be expected. Even if you are pursuing your RN-to-BSN degree, you probably feel as if there is little time to think about anything but your studies.
But have you anticipated what comes afterwards? Have you considered the possibility of specializing, for instance? If you think of yourself as tech savvy, you may wish to consider a career in nursing informatics. What, exactly, is a nurse informaticist?
What Is It All About?
According to the International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA), which is affiliated with the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Health Information Management (IFHIMA), informatics is: “[the] science and practice (that) integrates nursing, its information and knowledge, with management of information and communication technologies to promote the health of people, families, and communities worldwide.”
Nurses who fill these roles tend to have four to six years of higher education, and enjoy an especially robust job outlook. Demand for nurses capable of filling these roles is growing, and is expected to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. Nurse informaticists are nurses with at least a BSN degree. Clearly, earning your BSN opens up a number of opportunities not otherwise available to working nurses.
Nurse informaticists work in many capacities; as educators, researchers, policy developers, programmers/software engineers, and chief information officers. They develop communications and information technologies for the betterment of healthcare delivery.
The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) is a professional scientific association formed way back in 1988, when hospital-based computer systems typically featured dumb terminals and room-size mainframes. Three former organizations merged to become AMIA: the American Association for Medical Systems and Informatics (AAMSI); the American College of Medical Informatics (ACMI); and the Symposium on Computer Applications in Medical Care (SCAMC).
The organization focuses on supporting five areas of medical informatics: translational bioinformatics, clinical research informatics, clinical informatics, consumer health informatics, and public health informatics. AMIA notes that the use of informatics in medicine has grown exponentially in the past few decades, helping to significantly improve healthcare decision making and ultimately, healthcare itself.
Why Does Informatics Matter?
Informatics enables healthcare providers to harness the power of evidence-based practice, research and education. One grand goal of informatics is to focus on data and communication standards in order to build an interoperable national data infrastructure. Informatics is used to define and fine-tune healthcare policies with an eye towards improving public health. Informatics is also used to improve information retrieval and presentation, in support of patient-centered care.
Potential Career Advantages
BSNs who wish to focus on nursing informatics will find that many new doors will swing wide for them. While RNs typically work in clinics, hospitals and doctors’ offices, informatics nurses are needed in a wide range of venues, such as health systems, business, industry and academia. Relatively well paid, these nursing professionals may take responsibility for any number of important tasks, from planning, designing, implementing and evaluating electronic health records systems, to improving nurses’ workflow, to analyzing research data.
The Path to Nurse Informaticist
The first step for a student nurse interested in pursuing this growing area of nursing specialization is to obtain a BSN. While informaticists focus on the virtual, digital world of information, their expertise is informed by their experiences in the real world of healthcare delivery. Many RNs obtain a BSN, then pursue a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) or a related computer/information science discipline. Successful candidates typically possess traits and skills such as advanced critical thinking skills, creativity, and project management.