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What Is a Nurse Informaticist and How Do I Become One?

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With the twin forces of technological integration and the pernicious creep of COVID-19, life is changing faster than the numbers on a Las Vegas slot machine.

There’s a lot of healthcare data to process these days, and sometimes it may seem like too much to keep up with if you’re a nurse. As a result, the industry is trying to find new ways to streamline work processes within the nursing practice. But who does the job of marrying data collection with patient care?

Nurse informaticists, that’s who.

What is nurse informatics?

The nurse informatics job may sound like a bit of a buzzword, mixed in with a dash of corporate-speak, but really, it’s anything but.

Nurse informaticists act as a bridge between information technology (IT) and patient care, combining frontline clinical nurse skills with an understanding of workflow processes. They use this clinical informatics combo to collect, develop, implement and optimize new strategies. 

Examples of nursing informatics include overseeing electronic health records, point-of-care decisions for patient safety and clinical documentation for better patient outcomes. Of course, streamlining clinicians’ duties is a good thing, which is why the practice of clinical analysis has been around for some time. 

However, the need for streamlined processes has become especially important during the pandemic. We’re all stretched thin because of COVID-19, and sometimes the best gift for nurses is a better workplace process that cuts back on the stress.

What does a nurse informaticist do?

Man with white scrubsNurse informaticists liaise between different departments, relaying instructions from top-down decision-makers to those on the front lines and vice versa. They’re often involved in implementing new nursing programs for patient care procedures. Some take the lead on health initiatives for the general public.

Nurse informaticists’ tendency to act as conduits often puts them in leadership roles; one simply has to look at the increasing need for chief nursing informatics officers and the data-driven flair they bring. 

On top of these leadership skills, informatics nurses have shouldered additional responsibilities during the pandemic. Specifically, they’ve been assisting hospitals in a time of severe staffing shortages, supply chain hiccups and direly overcrowded ICUs. 

 

What are nursing informatics’ responsibilities and requirements? 

Man with white scrubsWoman wearing grey nursing scrubIf all the nursing informatics roles and responsibilities that we’ve listed so far sound surface-level, keep reading, especially if you’re a student pursuing a nursing education and you’re considering following this career path yourself. Before you say, “This one’s for me,” make sure you consider a few points:

For day-to-day duties, you’ll be,

  • Managing resource allocation.
  • Monitoring the implementation of new systems, database programs and patient care initiatives. You’ll be looking to see what works and what doesn’t, and make improvements based on data.
  • Training nursing staff on new technologies and procedures.
  • Explaining “why” those new procedures are better in an easily understandable way.

For the soft skills you’ll need, 

  • A knack for learning new tech.
  • A good head on your shoulders for creatively analyzing data.
  • Excellent interpersonal communication skills.
  • Project management skills.

For how to become a nurse informatics contender,

  • Some prior leadership experience is required.
  • Look for experience in a clinical healthcare setting.
  • A bachelor’s degree or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) is necessary.
  • Suppose you want a more leadership-focused role with a higher average salary, such as a chief nursing informatics officer. In that case, you’ll need a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

Is informaticist nursing for me?

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Well, that really depends on what kind of nursing career you’re looking for.

Are you the kind of person who doesn’t mind working from home with a cup of coffee in hand? Do you prefer remote conditions? Would you like to report your findings to the IT department or healthcare admin, instead of your fellow nursing staff?

How about doing desk work or sitting down to crunch numbers? Do you enjoy using new technology 24/7? Do you want to learn new tech? If you said yes to most of these questions, the chances are high that an informaticist’s position may appeal to you.

Keep in mind, if you’re looking for a more traditional role where you’re providing hands-on patient care, or you have your heart set on wearing scrubs to work, you may want to avoid this career path. Working directly with patients in a clinical setting is the exception here, not the norm.

What jobs can you hold as a nurse informaticist?

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Of course, this is not to say that you can’t find some variation within this role. We’ll quickly run through some of the most common job titles.

Clinical analysts

The originator of nursing informatics, clinical analysts have been around for a while. You’ll find them in hospitals and large medical offices, analyzing new workflow systems and teaching staff how to use them. You’ll have to manage computer systems that will be used on-site.

Communication skills and a tech-savvy mindset are key.

Nursing informatics specialists

This modern iteration of the clinical analyst is the most common job you can find in the informatics field. For this position, you’ll build out healthcare systems, train nursing staff on those systems and act as a liaison between departments.

Chief nursing informatics officers

Remember us mentioning this one earlier? Yep, it’s a significant leadership role. 

Once again, you’ll be working with a team to build out a streamlined patient care system. Only this time, you’ll be the boss, and you’ll want to look like a healthcare leader, too. All project management will fall under your purview. 

Nurse educators

Nurse educators require an advanced degree and clinical experience prerequisites, just like a chief nursing informatics officer. You’ll be in charge of teaching student nurses how to incorporate technology into their patient care. Your common workplace scenario will be a college or university.

Collect that data to find the nursing career that’s right for you

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Nursing informatics is a forward-thinking, technology-intensive career. It’s for detail-oriented nurses who not only want to work with people but machines too. However, informatics is not the only non-traditional job path. Nor is it the only one with a tech-focused element, so do some thinking before you commit.

In the meantime—if you’re a stressed-out medical student strapped for a time—here’s a handy link to some nursing student discounts. You can shop for some brand-new scrubs, too.

Let us know if we can provide you with any additional information. Wishing you the best as you navigate nurse informatics!

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