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’.

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 (20 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+

16 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!!!!

  • Bow says:

    I am a RN with BSN, with 6 months of SNF experience, 6 months of home health experience, and more than 1 year of information systems analyst experience taking care of facilities totaling more than 600 beds SNF and ICF – I am also a part of the superusers.

    I am wondering if I should get my masters in health informatics – also should I find a hospital analyst job before I enter the master program?

    • admin says:

      I am a RN with BSN, with 6 months of SNF experience, 6 months of home health experience, and more than 1 year of information systems analyst experience taking care of facilities totaling more than 600 beds SNF and ICF – I am also a part of the superusers.

      I am wondering if I should get my masters in health informatics – also should I find a hospital analyst job before I enter the master program?

      As far as getting a master’s degree in health informatics—as I mentioned in another post, you don’t need a master’s degree to get a job in the field.
      You said you already have 1 year of information systems experience, so getting a job for you shouldn’t be a problem.
      But indeed, if you’re going for a master’s, it is better to have experience in the field because most jobs nowadays will want you to have experience in addition to your master’s.
      For example, I’ll get an email once in a while saying, I got my master’s degree, but I can’t find jobs because they are asking me for prior experience. What do I do?
      You don’t want to be in that position and that’s why the number one advice is, get experience in the field anyway you can before you go for your master’s degree.
      The problem nowadays is that so many people are getting their master’s in informatics that hospitals can sit back and do their pickings as they please.
      So a candidate that has experience and a master’s is in a way better position to get a job than somebody that only has a master’s degree.
      But again, if you already have experience in the field, then getting a job shouldn’t be a problem
      As far as wondering if you need your master’s degree—well, that is up to you. Do you have the time and money to spend on a master’s?
      And do you want to go eventually into management.
      I don’t have a master’s degree because for me, it is a waste of time and money as I don’t want to be a manager so at the moment, I don’t care for a master’s degree.
      My experience in the field is enough to get me a job. The only jobs that require a master’s degree are those in management so since I don’t go for those, I don’t have a problem finding jobs.
      The other question would be, well, wouldn’t somebody with a master’s degree have a better advantage than me? Possibly yes, but again, I’ve been on the other side of the hiring equation and many times we don’t care for the master’s degree. We care for the experience the person has.
      However, if your final goal is to become a manager, then indeed, go for a master’s degree.
      Hope that makes sense.

  • Cynthia says:

    I am currently an RN that has worked in the field for 8 years. I am in the process of obtaining my Master’s degree in Nursing Informatics and plan on finishing December 2016. What would you suggest is the best first position to start out with in the field of Informatics? Is a Clinical Informaticist position versus Informatics Nurse a better position to start out with if an Informatics RN position is not available where I am currently imployed? What are some other positions that are popular in the field? Any other advice, resources, etc., are appreciated.
    Thank you.

  • Gowtham says:

    I want to know whether a bachelor in pharmacy from india background person can do ms in health informatics in usa

  • Dori says:

    Hello, I am an LPN with 8yrs exp. I have a bachelors in Healthcare management / Administrator. Is having a masters in clinical informatics or health informatics a good idea? My experience are in nursing home and group homes. Pls your advise will be needed. Thank you

  • Tawanda says:

    I’ve been employed in Nursing Informatics for several years and cover a variety of departments and disciplines, not only nursing. I was hired with my BSN and implementation experience. My institution is mandating a MSN in the next 18 months for Nursing Informatics roles stating this is the industry trend. Note that the want a masters in Nursing, many of my colleagues are pursuing 2nd masters as a result. the exception in the area here is for pharmacy informatics they are pharmacists.

  • Fey says:

    I am an RN and wanted to know does it matter if I pursue an MSN in informatics or is It a bad idea to pursue an MS in ‘ Medical Informatics’. the reason why I’m asking is because the school is a lot cheaper than if I go for the MSN but I assumed ultimately I could land the same kind of job?

  • Saprena Mannings says:

    I have been a Respiratory Therapist since 1995 and have a B.S in Respiratory Therapy. I would like to transition away from bedside care and eventually go into management. I began a Master of Health Informatics Administration program two months ago. I recently learned about the field of Clinical Informatics and wonder if this degree, along with my clinical experience, will make me eligible for Clinical Informatics positions or do I need a separate certificate? Take a look at the excerpt from the program outcomes and tell me what direction you think I should take. Thanks.

    Through your coursework, you will learn how to:

    Apply advanced knowledge of electronic health record systems, medical coding languages, and IT system security and interoperability
    Design, manage, and interpret health classification systems, healthcare databases, data warehouses, healthcare data sets, registries, electronic health records, and other mediums of health information systems
    Design and implement various health informatics and information management policies and procedures (for example, those related to fraud and surveillance, data management, personnel management, data privacy, security and confidentiality, and clinical documentation improvement)
    Interpret and comply with various aspects of state and federal legal and regulatory standards (for example, coding and revenue, privacy, security, federal employee labor laws, confidentiality, release of information, maintenance of health records, licensure, and accreditation)

    • admin says:

      No separate certificate is needed, but experience in the field helps, which you can then add to your resume. I have emailed you more details.

Leave a Reply

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

CommentLuv badge