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Nursing Informatics: Definition and Careers

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Mar 25, 2024
Nursing Informatics Professionals Looking at Data on a Tablet.

Nursing Informatics: Definition and Careers

The primary objective of health care facilities is to provide effective and efficient patient care. To accomplish this, they must be adaptable to the ever-changing health care landscape, and integrate information technology to store, access, and optimize patient data. 

However, this technology deals with much more than a patient’s medical chart. Informaticists can analyze and extract critical information from this stored data to uncover health trends, improved treatment options, emerging health crises such as pandemics, and more. Those with a background in health care and informatics are well equipped to decipher and leverage this information. Nurses who work in informatics primarily work with health data, but also fill a role crucial in a patient’s care as registered nurses.

Nurses who want to learn more about the definition of nursing informatics — as well as the benefits of entering this career path, its leadership roles, and why it’s so important to patient care — should further their nursing education with an MSN.

What Is Informatics in Health Care?

Medical professionals gather patient data and use information technology (IT) systems to store it for later retrieval. Informatics is a field that takes this data and extracts insights that could help nurses and other medical staff improve patient care.

Health informatics is also a key tool for updating treatment plans, ensuring that outdated practices are identified and replaced with more efficient treatments. Additionally, health informatics highlights patterns within stored data that identify emerging trends, such as possible public health outbreaks and ways to contain them.

Nursing Informatics Definition: An Overview

Nursing informatics is a unique discipline that combines nursing, data management, and information technology. Although this field heavily relies on information technology, it is still considered a nursing specialty, since nurse informaticists must be registered nurses (RNs).

The specific nursing informatics definition can vary because each position in this field has different responsibilities. However, regardless of the position, nursing informatics professionals obtain and analyze data to implement in their facilities. This data can help improve operations, lead to better patient outcomes, reduce overall costs, and improve decision making.

There are three main components of nursing informatics. It is a fast-growing field, and nurses in this discipline may have numerous responsibilities within the following three core components.

  • Data: Data is uninterpreted and unorganized information. Nursing informaticists who work with data decide what data needs to be collected (such as a patient’s age, weight, or health history) or design systems to collect it.
  • Information: Once data is interpreted, it becomes information. Nurse informaticists process and analyze raw data to extrapolate information that could help the organization or the patient.
  • Knowledge: Once a nurse informaticist analyzes information that is extracted from the raw data, they can design new protocols that maximize the organization’s efficiency and improve patient outcomes.

Why Informatics in Nursing Matters

Informatics in nursing can lead to a healthier population and more efficient health care systems by reducing medical errors, improving patient data storage, and improving information flow. 

Nursing informaticists work to make health care delivery more efficient by collecting, interpreting, and implementing vital data. Essentially, the more insights they extract from raw data, the more they learn about various patient populations and how best to treat them.

The end goal is to take the guesswork out of nursing and provide concrete data that addresses the needs of the patients and staff members.

Nurse Informatics Career Opportunities

The definition of nursing informatics is broad, and there are several roles open to nurses who have informatics skills. Moreover, the field is constantly changing, so there are always new job titles and opportunities for advancement.

The following are the most sought-after positions in nursing informatics.

Chief Nursing Informatics Officer

This is the highest position a nurse professional can achieve in informatics.

Chief nursing informatics officers work onsite at a health care facility to oversee a nursing informatics department. They also:

  • Manage all informatics projects
  • Plan out new systems
  • Oversee the implementation of new systems

This leadership position often requires a professional degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

Nurse Informatics Specialist

Nurse informatics specialists work in health care facilities, assisting with various informatics tasks.

These include:

  • Training staff to use new information systems
  • Evaluating established information systems
  • Working as a go-between for the facility’s IT department and clinical staff

Perioperative Informatics Nurse

Perioperative informatics nurses are RNs who work in the operating room and in health care informatics. This position requires managing perioperative data, which includes gathering and examining it. A perioperative informatics nurse must also collaborate with staff members to identify areas that need improvement within perioperative care to enhance patient safety.

Additional tasks include:

  • Training staff to use information systems and providing ongoing training to keep everyone up-to-date with system changes
  • Planning, developing, and implementing a perioperative information system that meets the department’s needs
  • Participating in research programs to keep up with developments in perioperative informatics

Informatics Consultant

An informatics consultant works with multiple health care facilities to resolve specific issues. They usually work on a contractual basis that ends once the problem is resolved.

Their daily tasks include:

  • Advising clients on how to utilize health care information systems
  • Assisting the facility in locating new technologies to run their operations more efficiently

Begin Your Journey to a Career in Nursing Informatics

Becoming a nursing informaticist is highly rewarding and requires a combination of very specialized skills. Those in nursing informatics, whether in entry-level or leadership roles, can positively impact the health of  patients and even entire populations beyond their health care facilities.

If you are looking to elevate your skills and pursue a career in informatics, you are invited to explore the online MSN program offered at The University of Tulsa. This program includes an Informatics and Analytics track that guides nurses in informatics, data and information management, and more.

Come explore how TU can help you achieve your goal of being the next leader in nursing informatics.

Recommended Readings:

MSN vs DPN: Differences Between the Degrees

What Can You Do with an MSN?

How to Become a Chief Nursing Officer


Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, “Nursing Informatics 101”

Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, What Is Nursing Informatics?

HealthTech, “What Is a Chief Nursing Informatics Officer?”

The Nerdy Nurse, “What Is Nursing Informatics, and Why Is It So Important?”

Nursing Lines, Perioperative Informatics Nurse

Nursing Now, “What Is Nursing Informatics and Why Is It So Important?”

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, “Calling Nursing Informatics Leaders: Opportunities for Personal and Professional Growth”

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