Healthcare decisions depend on data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. Nursing informatics leverages these concepts to support the design, development, testing, implementation, adoption, and optimization of digital health tools, which means informatics nurses have a role in many areas of healthcare. These roles may not always include an informatics nurse title in the description, but if a clinical application used by nurses exists, a nurse with informatics experience should work in support of the application’s goals. Nurses’ knowledge and expertise help to ensure digital health tools work to the benefit of patients and provide clinicians with the support they need to work efficiently. No matter their work setting, nurses are critical to healthcare technology innovation.
Hospitals, clinics, and health centers serve as excellent settings for nurses to begin and grow their informatics career. Start by becoming a super user or subject matter expert or join your organization’s informatics or health information technology (IT) council. Over time, you’ll enhance your experience and confidence.
If you’re already an established informatics nurse, seek out opportunities to grow professionally within your organization. For example, pursue an advanced leadership position, such as informatics director, chief nursing informatics officer, or chief nursing officer.
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The rewarding career of nursing informatics
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Health IT vendors
External vendors typically provide electronic health record (EHR) systems and other digital tools. Many vendors employ nurses for their clinical knowledge and workflow expertise to aide in product design and development. Large consumer technology companies (such as Google, Apple, and Amazon) also are growing their healthcare technology sectors and require nursing knowledge. Working at a vendor may not be appropriate for an entry-level informatics nurse, but if you have at least a year of experience or a graduate degree in informatics, you may find working at a vendor a rewarding experience.
Since passage of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009, the United States has seen rapid adoption of EHRs and digital tools. If you’re interested in contributing to national or statewide health IT efforts, consider exploring informatics employment opportunities with a government agency, such as the Office of the National Coordinator, which provides resources for ongoing health IT adoption and adherence to requirements and standards. Several other national and state agencies also manage health IT initiatives.
Be a pioneer
You might find other opportunities for informatics nursing with health insurance companies, consulting agencies, startups, and non-profits. Many insurance companies have health IT platforms used at the patient and population level, which may require nursing informatics expertise. If you have significant informatics experience, you may enjoy consulting with an agency to support new digital health initiatives. You also could develop your own informatics and health IT company to address an unmet need.
Informatics nurses have a rich history of pioneering. Whichever path you choose, remember that nurses are needed wherever healthcare decisions are being made.
Tiffany Kelley is an American Nurse Journal board member; DeLuca Foundation Visiting Professor for Innovation & New Knowledge at UCONN School of Nursing in Storrs, Connecticut; and Founder/CEO of Nightingale Apps & iCare Nursing Solutions in Boston, Massachusetts.
American Nurse Journal. 2023; 18(2). Doi: 10.51256/ANJ022352;
American Nurses Association. Nursing Informatics: Scope and Standards of Practice. 3rd ed. Silver Spring, MD: American Nurses Association; 2022.
Kelley T. Electronic Health Records for Quality Nursing & Health Care. Lancaster, PA: Destech Publications; 2016.
Kelley T. Identify opportunities to improve the EHR experience. Am Nurse J. 2022;17(12):33-5. doi:10.51256/ANJ122233
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HITECH act enforcement interim final rule. 2017. hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/hitech-act-enforcement-interim-final-rule/index.html