In today's world, the healthcare industry relies more and more on technological systems that collect, analyze, and share data in order to provide efficient, quality patient care; at the same time, these systems are constantly being updated and innovated.

As such, specialized workers who understand both healthcare technology and individual care are constantly in need. Nursing informaticists aid in managing, interpreting, communicating, and streamlining vital medical and data in and between hospitals, doctor offices, clinics non-governmental organizations, and other medical workplaces.

While the exact responsibilities of a qualified nursing informaticist will vary, they generally entail the following:

  • Monitoring hospital information systems to identify and reduce medical risks, threats, and errors
  • Creating and testing new information and data solutions
  • Educating staff members, professionals, and other healthcare providers in order to improve daily operations
  • Incorporating information technology in clinical settings
  • Provide support in clinical research
  • Writing healthcare policies to improve public health

If you are passionate about nursing science, computer science, and information science (the processing and studying of data), then now may be the time for you to pursue a career in this ever-growing field: according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), nurse informaticists, “… will continue to be instrumental players in the analysis, implementation, and optimization of advanced information systems and emerging technologies that aim to improve the quality of patient care, while reducing costs.”

Do I Need a Masters of Science in Nursing to Work as a Nursing Informaticist?

Since this is an emerging and highly specialized field, employers tend to prefer candidates with higher levels of education – i.e. a Master’s degree as opposed to an associate’s degree. At the same time, a candidate with nursing experience may be preferred over an individual with a strict background in, say, Healthcare Management. As such, this field may be particularly well-fitted to those candidates who have worked as registered nurses and that then go on to obtain a Master’s of Science in Nursing, with a specialization in Healthcare Informatics.

While it is true that a Master’s degree is not absolutely necessary to become a Nursing Informaticist, a Master’s degree in combination with practical experience can prove to be an important plus to your resume. Obtaining your Master’s degree can also lead to higher salaries: according to the HIMSS, over 50 percent of Informaticists with a Master’s degree or higher earned more than 100,000 dollars in 2017.

What Does an MSN Specialization in Healthcare Informatics Entail?

As with any accredited MSN program, an MSN with a specialization Healthcare Informatics will generally comprise three parts: general topics in nursing, specialization in a nursing pathway (in this case, Informatics), and clinical practicums. The MSN specialization in Healthcare Informatics curriculum also prepares students for the ANCC Nursing Informatics examination (more below).

Generally, an MSN program will last two years. Since Healthcare Informatics is a field which relies heavily on the manipulation and analysis of health-related data, the ability to understand and interact with healthcare systems is a key part of the curriculum. Below, we have detailed some standard courses you can expect to find in MSN in Healthcare Informatics curriculum.

Foundations in Nursing Informatics

Students in this course learn the basics and history of the field of Nursing Informatics, as well as the core tenets of data management within a healthcare environment. Students are generally introduced to the different information systems that they might typically encounter in the nursing field.

Data Modeling and Database Management Systems

This course goes into greater detail concerning the management of different sets of data, as well as data manipulation. This and similar courses provide students with a first look at the functions and variety of the different hardware, software, and peripherals used in today’s healthcare environment.

Informatics System Analysis and Design

Once familiar with the basics of data manipulation and processing, students tend to become acquainted with the analysis and design of information systems: in essence, students learn how to create and use these systems in such a way that they efficiently and correctly perform their necessary functions. The main goal of systems analysis and design is to improve organizational systems, typically through applying software that can help practitioners complete key tasks in an easier manner.

Legal and Ethical Issues in Healthcare Informatics

In addition to understanding the different data systems that compose the field of Nursing Informatics, students must be able to keep up with the evolving legal and ethical issues in this quickly growing field. The need to balance a patient’s privacy with the need to improve a healthcare system is a delicate balance, perhaps more important now than ever before. Potential Nursing Informaticists must be able to understand the theory and precedent involved in the ethical and legal issues that are involved in the profession.

What Do I Need to Get Into an MSN of Healthcare Informatics Program?

The requirements for an MSN program will vary according to the school, but generally, include the following:

  • A Registered Nurse license
  • A Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Minimum GPA and GRE* test scores
  • Clinical experience

*As with most graduate programs, in order to gain entry to an MSN program, you must first take the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) test. Each school has its own baseline GRE scores to meet.

How Much is Tuition for an Online MSN in Healthcare Informatics?

The costs of an MSN in Healthcare Informatics will vary depending on the establishment, and on the time necessary for a student to obtain their degree – some schools will charge more per credit hour after the third or fourth semester.

The following three universities were rated among the top five Online MSN in Healthcare Informatics programs in the nation:

  • American Sentinel University – $495 per credit hour – Minimum 36 credit hour commitment
  • Chamberlain College of Nursing – $650 per credit hour – Minimum 36 credit hour commitment
  • Kaplan University – $368 per credit hour – Minimum 65 credit hour commitment

Different options exist for lowering the amount you spend on tuition, including corporate tuition reductions via your employer, academic grants, and reductions for veterans and military spouses. Be sure to investigate the different financial aid packages offered by the institutions that interest you.

Will I Need Additional Accreditation?

Different options exist for lowering the amount you spend on tuition, including corporate tuition reductions via your employer, academic grants, and reductions for veterans and military spouses. Be sure to investigate the different financial aid packages offered by the institutions that interest you.

  • Hold a current, active RN license.
  • Hold a Bachelor’s or higher degree in nursing.
  • Have practiced the equivalent of 2 years full-time as a registered nurse.
  • Have completed 30 hours of continuing education in nursing informatics within the last 3 years.
  • Have completed a graduate program in nursing informatics containing a minimum of 200 hours of faculty-supervised practicum in informatics nursing. Or, meet a practice hour requirements ranging from 1000 to 2,000 hours in nursing informatics over three years, in addition to academic credit in informatics courses.

What is the Average Salary for a Nurse Informaticist?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not list average salaries for the field of nursing informatics. However, nurses who obtained a Master’s Degree and worked in the related fields of Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, or Nurse Practitioners earned an average of $110,930 in 2017.

While salaries will vary depending on location and experience, this is a reasonable estimate for a registered nurse who has obtained a Master’s in Science of Nursing and is working in the field of Nursing Informatics.

According to the HIMSS, 46 percent of Nursing Informatics professionals earned over $100,000 in 2017.

What is certain is that the profession of Nursing Informaticists represents a quickly-growing field: according to the Bureau of Labor, the field of Health Information is expected to experience 15 percent job growth throughout 2024.

What Can I Do With My MSN in Healthcare Informatics?

An MSN in Nursing Informatics can prepare you for a surprisingly wide variety of tasks and responsibilities within the healthcare industry. With the skill-set obtained in your education, you may serve first and foremost as a liaison between clinical end-users (i.e., patients and practitioners) and information technology, applying your knowledge to properly use the latter in aid of the former.

A nurse informaticist contributes knowledge from a comprehensive understanding of nursing/clinical processes and practice standards, clinical informatics systems, patient flow, and operational processes to contribute to the use of data as a foundation for accurate, reliable and clinically meaningful measurements.

A qualified nurse informaticist provides expertise related to the use of “big data” for analysis and prediction, organizational and clinical integration, and interoperability, in order to improve costs, outcomes, and quality.

In addition, an experienced nurse informaticist promotes the use of evidence-based clinical practice, and actively participates in initiatives related to the identification of emerging information technologies and applications, in order to optimize clinical effectiveness and efficiency.

If you are interested in these and similar responsibilities, and are passionate about improving the efficiency of patient care in a modern healthcare environment, this career may be a good choice for you.