Nursing Informatics Or Clinical Informatics – What’s The Difference?

One topic that seems to come up often is understanding the difference between clinical informatics and nursing informatics. What’s the difference between the two?

Short answer: Nursing informatics jobs SPECIFICALLY require a nursing degree, while clinical informatics jobs may or may not. Thus, you don’t have to be a registered nurse to get a job as a clinical informatics analyst!

From my personal experience, the jobs in both fields are almost similar with the only difference, as mentioned before is that a nursing informatics person has a nursing degree, whereas a clinical informatics person can have a either a nursing degree or any other degree, which may not just be in the healthcare field.

The key to this conundrum is understanding the definition of “informatics” and the University of California at Irvine does a good job defining it as “the interdisciplinary study of the design, application, use and impact of information technology and the relationship between the technology and its use in real-world settings”

Also, check out my clinical informatics vs nursing informatics nurse post.

Clinical Informatics Vs. Nursing Informatics

Using this definition, we can specifically say that nursing informatics integrates nursing science in the study/application of technology, while clinical informatics is a broader term that integrates medical science, including nursing science, and sometimes even other fields.

Therefore, nursing informatics jobs might be specifically geared towards somebody who has a nursing clinical experience, while clinical informatics jobs could be performed by anybody in the healthcare field, such as a doctor, a pharmacist, a lab person, a radiology tech, a nurse, rehab therapists, etc.

Also, by defining the job title as clinical analyst, the employer may be looking to hire somebody who could be working in different departments of the hospital, not just nursing.

Nursing Informatics as part of Clinical Informatics
Clinical Analyst Vs. Nursing Informatics

And what does a clinical analyst do?

Essentially, they could work analyzing, configuring, training, testing, or troublueshooting any application within the hospital.

A clinical analyst could, for example, be hired to configure the radiology application of a hospital or vendor; or it could well be the ambulatory application used at Doctor’s offices; or they could be hired to train all the applications in the hospital; they could even be the project manager in the clinical informatics department; or they could be out setting up applications used in doctors’ offices.

The number of roles out there are plentyful.

A person in a nursing informatics position could be doing the same; the only difference might be that hospitals and vendors like to hire registered nurses to specifically work with applications that interact with nurses, but that doesn’t mean they cannot get a job configuring other applications that are not directly involved with nurses, such as a lab application or a patient registration application.

It is obvious that employers prefer to hire people with the relevant experience for a particular position.

As an example, it would be easier for a lab person to understand the workflow of a lab than a registered nurse who has never worked inside a lab.

What’s interesting to note though is that many jobs get advertised with the title of clinical analyst, and even clinical nursing analyst, and it is better to look for those titles when searching for a job, than just to simply look for ‘nursing informatics’.

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Searching For Jobs

I have a nursing degree and I’m yet to hold a job with the word title of ‘nursing informatics’ or nursing informaticist.

Most of my job roles have been as clinical analyst, application analyst, application consultant, and some more.

My point is that many hospitals out there might actually have a clinical informatics department and when they list their jobs, they typically list them as clinical analyst jobs, but within those jobs, there could be jobs specifically requiring a nursing license, and the job title might be clinical analyst, instead of nursing analyst or nursing informaticist.

Of course, many hospitals do have nursing informatics departments, and within that department you’ll find specific nursing informatics jobs such as a nursing informatics trainer, or nursing analyst, or nursing application analyst, etc.

Therefore, it is essential to bear in mind is that when searching for jobs, you may find more jobs listed under clinical analyst, than under nursing informatics.

What Pays More?

After all these explanations, it goes without saying that the next question will be: so what pays more, nursing informatics or clinical informatics?

This is certainly difficult to determine. You could be a pharmacist with the title of clinical analyst and because of your pharmacy experience, your salary could easily be higher than somebody in a nursing informatics role.

However, you could be a nursing informatics person experienced configuring different applications, and because of your ‘diverse experience’ your salary might be higher.

There are simply too many factors which determine salary, but the good news is that there are many roles out in the field to choose from.

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+

6 Responses to Nursing Informatics Or Clinical Informatics – What’s The Difference?

  • Maria says:

    Awesome explanation!

  • Shena says:

    I am a Registered Nurse of 18 years presently seeking a BSIT at University of Phoenix online. I have a year to go. I have a few questions on the matter. After receiving BSIT, would it even be practical to persue the MSN in Nurse informatic? My next question is if it is not practical, is it safe to assume that I could seek positions as clinical analyst/nurse informatics with a BSIT and background in Nursing? Last, is this profession propular in the state of Illinois, particularly in Chicago?


    • admin says:

      Nursing informatics doesn’t require anything else than a nursing degree. You can enter the field without a master’s degree or without any other type of certificate or degree.

      I always say…get experience in the field first. Participate as a superuser. Volunteer to help other nurses when they have problems with online documentation. Participate in user meetings with your informatics department. This is the type of experience that will get you a job. I’ll even dare and say that if have this experience and you don’t have a master’s, you’re better off than having a master’s and not having this experience. because employers always prefer candidates with experience.

      If you already have experience in the field and you want to move up or get a management position, then, indeed, get a master’s degree. If you don’t have the experience, but you have the time and money, by all means get a master’s as it does give you a chance to interview for jobs, but you can do that without a master’s too.

      Getting a master’s with no experience in the field, is the most expensive way to enter the field. I just want to make it very clear that many join this field without spending money on a master’s degree.

      You can always apply for analyst positions just with your nursing experience and degree.

      And yes, the profession is popular in any location where you find a hospital with an EMR, and Chicago is no exception.

  • Delia says:

    I have been an LPN for 15 years and recently begun taking courses online towards a degree in Computer information Systems with a major in Healthcare Information System. Although I do not have an RN will following this path still pay off in the end or am I going in the wrong direction? I do not have an associates so the CIS bachelor will be my first degree and I am wondering if just being an LPN will lock me out of the medical aspect of informatics.

    • admin says:

      I have met plenty of LPN’s working in informatics with an LPN license and they are working just fine in this field.

      As an LPN, what really matters is your clinical experience. I wouldn’t be worried about not having an RN after your name. However, right now the field is very competitive, and that’s why I tell people to get involved with informatics as soon as they can because that’s the type of experience that gives you a big boost when applying for informatics jobs, and if anything, this is what might qualify you better for a job.

      I know that when we have opened positions for entry level candidates, we don’t really say, only RN’s with BSN’s need apply. However, HR might stick a generic requirements section that only mentions RN’s, but truly, when we review candidates, we are looking at, 1, do they have clinical experience, 2, do they have any previous informatics experience, 3, what else on their resume sells their relevant skills to the job?

      Thus, having the LPN is not going to lock you out of a job. By the way, I had sent you a longer email, but looks like you typed in the wrong email address. 🙂

  • Liz says:

    I am aiming to re-enter the workforce after years as a stay-home parent. I was in technical documentation for 12 years and software interface design for 4. I have a bachelor’s degree in tech writing and 1/2 a masters in Human-Computer-Interaction. I would like to go into the healthcare field and have been thinking of nursing school but now am wondering if informatics would be something I could return to faster. I have taken Human Bio, A & P 1 and 2 in the past few years. What do you suggest? If I can make myself marketable in the field without nursing school, I can get back to work faster–maybe an LPN? Surgical tech? I’m 52 and not sure I should spend two more years in full-time school as it might not pay off as I compete with younger candidates when I get out. Any advice?? Thank you!!!!

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