Published Feb 13, 2014
Ok, so there are a million posts out there on how to get into nursing informatics, and most of them suggest trying to take on some informatics-related projects at your organization, like being a Super User. What if, hypothetically, your boss and/or organization was not being super supportive of you trying to get more involved and you had to go outside the hospital to get more experience and education?
Things I'm looking into:
1. Volunteering in the community in computer-related volunteer roles (to demonstrate basic computer experience/skills)
2. Learning about computer programming, databases, and general informatics concepts with online CEU courses or MOOCs (through Lynda, Coursera, etc.)- can I put this on a resume?!! Is education in programs like Excel and Access worthwhile, or do employers mostly want to see experience with the big EHRs?
3. Joining HIMSS or ANIA-CARING and going to events and/or conferences (expensive, is it worth it if you're new to the field?)
4. Doing a formal education program like a master's (expensive, and seems that this isn't that useful unless you have experience).
Anything I'm missing? Any thoughts on what types of courses or skills would be most transferrable to NI (Excel, SQL, programming)?
Most employers are looking for experience with the big EHR's. Having a degree in computer info systems and a RN will get you looked at but hospital based informatics tends to rely a lot on having worked with IS staff at the hospital in a super user role. My suggestion would be to try to gain experience with the EHR at your hospital - you are right, it is tough but you may be able to volunteer for doing chart audits but I'm sure your current manager wants you on the floor in staffing and so getting in the superuser role can be challenging. I wouldn't expect support in your dept - it is of no advantage to them to encourage your growth in another position. Like most positions, you want to network - joining local chapters of informatics groups might be helpful if you live in an area large enough to have an active chapter.
I have a degree in info systems as well as nursing and happened to apply for an opening at my hospital at the right time when the IS dept was specifically looking for a nurse. I didn't have any EHR experience but a lot of nursing and management but I was quite fortunate. I would recommend getting a degree in information or computer systems and not informatics specifically. Like you said, a master in informatics is not particularly useful without experience however a general computer degree demonstrates that you have learned a wide variety of platforms and can demonstrate an understanding of information systems plus it is useful in other fields besides healthcare. I would suggest trying to get on with a consulting firm to gain experience with EHR - obviously that's travel and they want experience too but you may at the minimum get on somebody's radar.
From a former IS nurse- Project Management skills are very helpful too. Good Luck!
Mydesgyn- Thanks so much for your thoughts on this! I had never thought to get a more general degree in information systems that might be useful for transitioning into other fields as well. Can you think of any examples of other fields or positions a nurse with an IS degree could transition into? Do you think nursing informaticists generally develop the technical skills to transition to other IT jobs, or are they mostly valuable in a healthcare setting because of their clinical experience?
gollybabbler- Thanks! I will definitely take a project management course or two. Just out of curiosity, why did you leave IS nursing and what are you doing now?
Thanks so much for the responses, they are very helpful!
In general, our facilty has over 120 staff in the IS dept which is pretty good for a large metropolitan area. Of the staff - not one has a degree specifically in informatics. The two nurses hired with the title of informaticist both came from Education and have a BSN. As a pure informaticist, you actually don't do the high volume of technical work (ie server support, databases, interfaces etc..) this type of work is typically performed by the technical staff.
I am not an informaticist nor are the 4 other nurses working with me - we are systems analysts . This is the distinction. As a systems analyst, you are not limited to purely clinical projects involving nursing and providers. I have worked on various software implementations for our dietary dept, bed management dept, ehr upgrades, rehab, respiratory, lab, meaningful use etc.. None of which utilized my nursing patient care background specifically; however my knowledge of the healthcare systems and the workflows is what is valued not so much my patient care experience. The informaticist tend to focus more on nursing and provider workflows (documentation, order entry etc..)
My issue with focusing nursing informatics as opposed to healthcare information systems is eventually most facilities will have implemented documentation, barcoding, cpoe etc.. There is a pretty good market now. I have seen many institutions bring on consultant for 6 mos stints with these implementations but not necessarily hire for informaticists. They tend to hire for analysts with technical skills such as interfaces, report writing, sql, etc..
nice way to see what is available is to search the job postings of various hospitals filtering for information systems - there are very few postings specifically for informatics. Your informatics posting are usually posted in the Education dept as technical trainers.
As far as other positions, it's tricky without demonstrated experience - some of the nurses I have worked with tended to work within hospitals, case management, research etc..
Research (in addition to Education) is also a good place to transition from if you can.
Oh, long story short I did not have the skills at the time to deal with the "difficult" people I worked with in IS, but did not realize it at the time, so I was extremely stressed. Now doing acute dialysis, and regretting my stupidity almost every day.
You know, sometimes, even when you are in an informatics position, you have to try to gain experience without any support. So, you're doing alright, and if you keep trying, you'll get to your goal. Don't worry!
Once you get to where you want to be, though, remember your experience, and always strive to help others along to the best of your ability. Whenever you can, even go out of your way to help someone!
The payoff may not be immediate, but let me tell you that goodness will always have its rewards :)
All the best!
Mydesigyn, Thanks again for the detailed information! From your description, I can see the difference between the two paths and I think the role of systems analyst is what I'm looking for.
Most of the jobs I've looked at specifically request a BS or MS in computer science or a related field AND clinical experience, which seems like it must be pretty rare, but maybe not? I have a Master's in Nursing, which I'm still paying off, so I'm a little reluctant to jump back into the huge time and money investment that may not actually raise my earning potential much. Do you think something like a post-baccalaureate or post-grad certificate or some extra classes taken at a community college will make me more marketable in the IT department, or will I need that formal degree?
I have done case management before, so I might look into that as a bridge, and research also intrigues me. Do you mean research as in being a research nurse for clinical trials at an academic institution? Enrolling patients, etc?
I am getting an MSN in Nursing Informatics. I just accepted a job offer as Epic Clinical Analyst/Builder. The position required a BSN but not necessarily experience in informatics. Just basic computer skills and desire to move into the field. But, the MSN is what caught their eye and pushed me ahead of the many other applicants. I am a CCU nurse moving into this field, so this is my first informatics position. I feel so thankful to have a chance to get Epic training and certifications before I even graduate. So, you can get a job without prior informatics experience. And yes, a formal degree will boost your chances of being considered tremendously.
I think having a Masters in Nursing is helpful - it demonstrates that you have some advanced education. That does help a lot cause it separates you from the pack. I can certainly see not wanting to jump into another degree program. I'm not sure if I would either but I think trying to look into bridge positions where you can gain some IT experience might be helpful and you may also get lucky and happen to apply for a position where they are willing to take a chance. You never know until that happens so I would keep looking for opportunities, beef up your resumes and just apply - won't hurt.
Also, look for bridge positions , don't rule out positions just because they are not specifically informatics - a technical trainer in Education or a Research Data Analyst or a Clinical Documentation Auditor can often get you exposure, experience and networking to get you where you want to be. Management is also helpful.
I am getting an MSN in Nursing Informatics. I just accepted a job offer as Epic Clinical Analyst/Builder. The position required a BSN but not necessarily experience in informatics. Just basic computer skills and desire to move into the field. But, the MSN is what caught their eye and pushed me ahead of the many other applicants.
Just wanted to add that I have seen a couple of candidates with no masters being chosen over candidates with masters degrees, mainly because the non master's candidate had used a specific system before, even though both candidates had no real formal informatics experience.
And there is also the concept of a budget. Some hospitals will choose over a candidate with no master's because they can pay them less, since a master's degree candidate will many times ask for more money.
Anything is possible out there so the main theme is, if you're interested in the field, there is always a way to get in, and sometimes you don't necessarily need a master's degree to get a job.
I agree - at the end of the day - there is no magic formula - sometimes it's just having some skills and applying for the job at the right time. Most employers will overlook lack of education for experience, sometimes a little experience with a little education may put you ahead.
I can say there is nothing worse than a bad hire on a team - we've hired staff with years of technical experience to only realize that they have little self motivation or intellectual curiosity and have to be told what to do and how to do it. They barely understand the customers they serve and don't actively seek to learn the healthcare business. Staff like that are dead weight on a team. Yet Having years of clinical nursing in no way assumes that you have the technical curiosity and intelligence to test and troubleshoot clinical systems. How can you be effective if you barely understand the system any better than the clinical staff the use it. I think informatics like other specialized professional occupations don't have a clean route of entry.
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