Brittney Wilson, BSN, RN, is a passionate nursing informatics practitioner who not only adores her work, but loves helping other people learn about it. To that end, she’s the voice behind the popular website The Nerdy Nurse, and she’s also the author of the book The Nerdy Nurse’s Guide to Technology.
The nursing informatics field is still new enough that Wilson gets lots of questions about it. She shares the top five she hears, and how she answers them.
Q. What is nursing informatics?
A. It’s a lot of things. Informatics may live in the IT department, but it also may be in education or administration, or it may straddle various departments. It may entail a nursing department administrator building software and assessments, documentation, and trouble-shooting. Or it may be a computer analyst in IT acting as a liaison to nursing.
It can include database management, product management, documentation of processes, or software methodologies. At times it might involve hardware, although that’s rare, and usually only in smaller organizations. Bottom line: this work involves using technology to advance the work of nursing.
Q. Is getting into informatics a good way to move off the [nursing] floor?
A. Here’s the thing: you need to be passionate about informatics. Without that passion, you’re going to be miserable in informatics, and you’ll make other people miserable. If you have the passion and the skillset to do the job well, then yes, this is a good way to move off the floor.
But people need to understand that this is work requires different skills than nurses use on the floor, so it’s not for everyone.
Q. How much money can I make?
A. Salaries vary widely based on the actual assignment, experience level, geography, and education (because a master’s will likely increase your pay). But for people who think that they can earn the same amount of money or more in informatics than in nursing, the answer is usually no. Again, someone going into this field should be passionate about using informatics to advance nursing.
It’s a new enough field that there isn’t much solid information about salaries online. [EDITOR’S NOTE: According to PayScale, the salary range is $50,000-90,000, with a median around $68,000.
Q. How did you get into informatics? What education or background do you need?
A. I got into the field while studying for my BSN. I had been a nurse for three years and was looking through specialties trying to decide where to go next. I saw a description of informatics labeling it as using emerging technologies and being a facilitator and a collaborator, and I thought, “Someone made this job just for me!” By that point, I had already launched my blog and had done a lot of technical stuff on my own. It was perfect for me.
In general, most positions require people to have about five years of nursing before moving into informatics. I had only three, but it was early, and I was able to talk my way into it. The average age to enter this field is 40-50. You can do it younger, but you’ll have to work a little harder to prove yourself. I have a bachelor’s, but many people have a master’s, and you’ll earn more if you do.
The biggest thing is, while in nursing, take advantage of opportunities to learn about technology. I’ve found that nurses tend to have a poor take on how to use tech in the workforce. They’re not well-trained, they don’t know why they should use it. They need to understand why. Those who do may end up with the passion to go into informatics.
Q. What should I put on my resume when I apply for an informatics position?
A. A nursing resume is different than the executive or technology resume that’s required for informatics. Detailing all of your medical or clinical specialties is not necessary in this case. You need to create a technical/executive resume with an executive statement. (Leave off the “objective”.)
Here’s the thing: nursing resumes tend to be one-size-fits-all. Informatics resumes need to be very specific. It takes me two or three hours to update my resume. Remember, you’re competing against people who are technical. Highlight accomplishments versus skills—that means pointing out ways you’ve saved money for a department or project, or implemented software, or led a project. Have one or two bullets on nursing itself, then the rest of the resume needs to be technical.
If you’re not sure how that looks, search online for technical resumes to find examples (such as this).
Capella University offers three nursing informatics programs: