Is Nursing Informatics A Specialty For Me?

Is Nursing Informatics For Me?As more electronic clinical applications are being used in clinical settings, nurses and other clinicians might start to wonder, is nursing informatics (or simply informatics if you’re not a nurse), a specialty that I can work in or transition to?

The word informatics alone might make nurses or clinicians think that an informatics position might be for techies or that it might be a boring job because you only deal with computers.

In fact, one of the most popular comments I get from those trying to determine if informatics is a field they might get into is, “I’d like to leave my clinical position and heard about informatics, but I can’t stand the idea of sitting by a computer the whole day!”

No Sitting By A Computer All Day Long

Yes, in the field of informatics we work with computers, but no, we don’t sit in a cubicle typing away in the computer all day long.

“Then what do you do in an informatics job?”  That question alone is another post which I have covered here, but briefly, you participate in all types of meetings about an application (design/configuration/training/support), you meet with users or managers of nursing units to discuss issues/upgrages about an application, you participate in go-lives, you configure/test/support an application, and you might even travel to other locations depending where you work.

Therefore, sitting in a cubicle by a computer all day long is not something that is going to happen daily. Yes, there might be that odd day where you’re testing an issue or configuring an application, and in those days you might be at your desk working on your computer all day long, but even then, it is really strange if you don’t step out and go participate in something else.

And that’s why I’ll say, have no fear, you’re not going to be stuck at a computer all day long all year long.

However, if you’re the nurse that loves to interact with patients, and you actually have the chance to connect with them, then for sure you won’t be doing that in an informatics job because there is zero direct patient interaction in the field.

No Techy? No worries

Another comment I hear often is, “I’m not really a techy person and that’s why I don’t think informatics is for me.”

If you think about your nursing job, the fact that you even deal with an IV pump or even a PCA/Epidural pump is experience enough to be a techy in the clinical world. Ok, maybe I exaggerate, but the answer here is, no, you don’t need to be a computer geek or computer techy to work in this field.

The easiest way to explain this is to think about sending an email. Can you create an email? Can you then send an email? Can you forward an email? Can you delete emails? If you said yes, then you have the intelligence and ability to learn about applications being used in the clinical setting.

Informatics jobs don’t require you to sit there and write an application using a programming language, unless you want to go in a become a programmer, but that’s another story.

Most informatics jobs use applications where you sign in, and you can configure the application using a graphical user interface (GUI) that’s set up in such a way that all you have to do is be trained on how to use this interface to interact with the programs.

Again, think of a common computer application like microsoft word, for example.

Let’s say you want to bold a word and then highlighth it and underline it. You don’t sit there and think, oh lord, let me write a program so i can do this. No, the application already has a functionality that lets you do this and all you have to know is where to click on the application to bold, highlight and underline the word.

And you know that because somehow you learned that in the application. You either trained yourself to learn these commands, or somebody showed you how to do this. And this is how you also learn to use these clinical applications in informatics.

And yes, you do have to have the intelligence to learn the applications and also the logic to solve some problems, but it doesn’t mean you have to be a computer guru to work in informatics.

Are You A Fit For Informatics?

At this point you might be thinking, I don’t have to sit in by the computer all day long, and I don’t have to be a computer guru, so maybe this is a field I can pursue.

But how do I know this field of informatics is for me?

This is a very personanlized question to answer, but the generic response I tell those who approach me about this is, how do you usually react when you have a computer charting problem at work?

Do you immediately think, Let’s see what the problem is, maybe I can figure this out?

Or do you think, oh no, computer is broken, I don’t know what to do, let me get somebody else to help me!

If you tend to try to figure out what the problem might before giving up and calling for help, then most likely you’ll do fine in informatics.

Yes, I know. It is annoying to be trying to go home and you’re trying to chart on the computer on a patient, and suddenly the program doesn’t work. I used to cuss too not only at the computer, but at the idiots who decided it was a good idea to chart electronically instead of doing it on paper.

But every time there was a problem, my response was, “let me see if i can figure this out.”

And usually I think most nurses try to figure out what’s wrong before giving up and calling for help. But again, if as soon as the problem happens you stop cold in your tracks and you cuss the tech world and you then call for help…yea, this field might not be for you.

The best I can tell you is, you can always write to me and tell me your specific concern and I can give you a more specific answer to your specific, personal case.

How About Salaries?

Finally, the universal question I always get is, “does informatics pay beter than (floor/clinical) nursing?”

Yes, usually it does, specially when you have experience.

I have written several posts on this already, but briefly, starting out, you might even take a pay cut, but once you have at least a year of experience in the field, your salary will be definitely higher than what you made as a floor nurse (in the majority of cases).


Chris (55 Posts)

Chris Smith works as a clinical analyst consultant with 9 years of experience working in the nursing informatics field. He started this blog to help others learn more about nursing informatics because he got tired of reading a lot of misinformation about this field on the web. You can connect with Chris on Google+

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge