HIMSS has been tracking the nursing informatics workforce since 2004 to gain a better understanding of the background of nurse informaticists, the duration of their careers, current job responsibilities and barriers to success. This year’s survey shows that in all categories, this nursing specialty is on the rise.
The most recent survey, 2011 HIMSS Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, builds on research that HIMSS released in 2004 and in 2007. Nurse informaticists received a series of electronic invitations in December 2010 and January 2011 resulting in 660 usable responses from the web-based survey.
Marking a positive trend that this specialty increasingly attracts highly qualified, formally educated professionals, more than half of the 2011 respondents reported having a post-graduate degree (56 percent), which includes a Masters or PhD in nursing or other specialty, up from 52% in 2007. And job titles are beginning to standardize. Twenty percent of respondents claimed the title of nursing informatics specialist, while a decreasing number (10 percent) reported the more generic title of clinical specialist. More than one-third (37 percent) had a title that specifically identifies an informatics position, an increase from the 2007 survey.
Of course, the best news is that salaries are substantially higher in the 2011 survey, with the average salary reported at $98,703, a 16% increase since 2007 and a 42% increase since 2004. Also, we are beginning to see a salary differentiation for certified individuals. Respondents with a certification in nursing informatics reported higher average salaries ($119,644) than their non-certified colleagues ($93,787). And those individuals with supervisory responsibilities (having one or more persons reporting to them) have higher average salaries than those who do not.
For the first time, the 2011 nurse informaticist respondents identified EMR/EHRs as one of the top three applications they are implementing. This statistic correlates with results from the 2011 HIMSS Leadership Survey, which tracks the opinions of healthcare senior IT executives, who identified their primary clinical IT focus as ensuring their organization has a fully operational EHR. While the highest percentage (77 percent) of the Nursing Informatics Workforce survey respondents identified nursing/clinical documentation as the number one application they are currently implementing, their focus seems to be shifting to applications that also impact other stakeholders. For example, computerized practitioner order entry (CPOE) was listed in the top three IT priorities of both the nursing and healthcare IT executive surveys.
For the first time, the number one barrier to success identified by the nurse informaticist respondents was not financial resources. In 2011, almost one-third of respondents mentioned lack of integration/interoperability as one of the top two barriers, followed by lack of financial resources (26 percent) and lack of administrative support (23 percent).
Finally, there appears to be a slight shift in reporting structure. The top departments to which respondents identified that they report to are Information Technology (52 percent), Nursing (32 percent) and Administration (22 percent). In 2007, Nursing was mentioned by 38 percent of respondents (compared to 32 percent in 2011) and Administration was mentioned by 17 percent (compared to 22 percent in 2011).
It is gratifying to see the nursing informatics specialty mature and its value be recognized by the healthcare industry. Senior IT executives are acutely aware of the importance of informatics nurses as they have recently identified clinical application support and clinical informaticists as their top two IT staffing needs.
To me, these survey results demonstrate that the role of the nurse informaticist is increasingly being leveraged as organizations are making additional investments to position themselves to qualify for the incentives associated with achieving meaningful use.
Please share your comments on the role of nurse informaticists in your organization.