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What Is Nursing Informatics?

In “Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century,” the Institute of Medicine (renamed National Academy of Medicine in 2015) addressed the need to restructure our nation’s rapidly changing healthcare system. One of the recommendations was to better utilize technology to keep pace with the changes.

Because nurses play a key role within our nation’s health system and have intimate knowledge of patients’ needs, they are in a prime position to effect change in the use of medical technology in healthcare. Nursing informatics, a specialty combining nursing science with information technology, is an essential aspect of health system redesign. Nurses who want to pursue this specialty will need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Definition of Nursing Informatics

When the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) issued its report in 2007, nursing informatics had been in the healthcare mainstream for just over a decade. Since then, it has burgeoned into an essential part of healthcare delivery.

HIMSS defines the nursing informatics specialty as one that “integrates nursing science with multiple information management and analytical sciences to identify, define, manage, and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice.” Its implementation supports healthcare providers, patients and stakeholders, helping them make more informed decisions.

Per the American Medical Informatics Association, nurse informaticists may assume a variety of roles, including those of chief information officer, software engineer, policy developer, chief nursing officer, educator, informational technology developer and researcher. According to DiscoverNursing, nurse informaticists work in a variety of settings, including universities, hospitals, other healthcare settings and information technology companies.

Computer automation is one example of how informatics can improve the system. According to “Crossing the Quality Chasm,” poorly dispersed, disorganized patient-specific data makes it extremely difficult to manage illnesses, especially chronic ones. Automation can improve patient-to-clinician communication. It can make ordering medications easier and remind patients of upcoming appointments.

In a Discover Nursing article, Charlotte Weaver, RN, says nursing informatics empowers patients to become active participants in their own care. For instance, one role of a nurse informaticist is to teach patients and other professionals how to use mobile technologies and other health tools, with the goal of promoting better communication.

The Demand for Nurse Informaticists and How to Prepare for This Career

HIMSS reported a significant increase in the nationwide demand for informatics nurses. Per DiscoverNursing, nurses who pursue this specialty typically need to earn at least a BSN or bachelor’s degree in a related field. By design, the online RN to BSN program at Purdue University Northwest helps nurses develop critical thinking and decision-making skills, which are necessary for success in this specialty. Nursing Informatics (NUR 45100) is a core course of the program. Students learn to apply technology in the workplace by identifying, collecting, processing and managing health information.

Nurses have the option of getting certified by American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). To qualify, a nurse would need to hold an active RN license, a bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing or in a relevant field, have practiced the equivalent of two full-time years as a registered nurse, have completed 30 hours of continuing education in informatics within the last three years, plus meet one of three practice hour requirements.

Many nurse informaticists get their starts by acquiring on-the-job training or volunteering for special projects. A nurse informaticist should know and understand Microsoft Office, relational databases, and evidence-based care and research.

Per the 2014 HIMSS survey, the number of nurses with a postgraduate degree in nursing or other informatics increased by 24 percent from 2011.

Technology is an integral component of healthcare system redesign, with nurses playing an important role. Nursing informatics is a relatively new, in-demand specialty that makes the use of healthcare data more efficient and effective. The result is better patient outcomes. Nurses who would like to work as nurse informaticists are advised to earn at least a BSN.

Learn more about the Purdue Northwest online RN to BSN program.


National Academy of Sciences

Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society

American Medical Informatics Association


American Nurses Credentialing Center

Advance Healthcare Network for Nurses

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