Specialty Nurse: Clinical Informatics Specialist

Specialty Nurse: Clinical Informatics Specialist


Brittany3The Clinical Informatics Specialist (CIS) is responsible for participating in the planning, development, training, implementation, evaluation, and maintenance of assigned Clinical Information Systems across the system.

The CIS functions as a liaison for additional Clinical Informatics Systems as requested. The CIS is responsible for facilitating communication from the clinical end users across the patient care departments while working collaboratively and directly with the vendors and technical experts. The CIS works to optimize the clinical design to meet the needs of a large group of interdisciplinary end users, including physicians, nurses, respiratory care practitioners, ancillary, clinical and administrative staff. The CIS participates on the Clinical Informatics Team, establishing teamwork through appropriate deployment of process, technical, and human resources in collaboration with the Director of Clinical Informatics and the assigned Project managers.  http://www.informaticsnurse.com

Name: Brittney, RN BSN aka The Nerdy Nurse
Job Title: Clinical Informatics Specialist
List your education/certifications:
Registered Nurse,  BSN
Where do you work: Hospital IT Department
How long have you worked this Specialty?  1 year
How/Why did you get involved? Was there someone/something that inspired you to choose this specialty? 
I started working towards becoming an informatics nurse when I realize that I could combine my passion for nursing and technology into one profession. I really like having the ability to make a difference behind the scenes for nurses and other healthcare workers. I really enjoy helping nurses see the benefit of technology and how it can help improve the patient care they are able to provide.

What do you do in a typical day?
My day is filled with a large amount of analyzing. I work to solve issues within the issues within the existing software as well as offer solutions involving technology to solve issues that impact healthcare.  For example, I may be given a task of fixing a bug within a medical record. I would troubleshoot the issues and see if it was user-created or software-created. If the problem was user error, I would educate the user on how to properly complete the task in the EMR. If the problem is related to a software error, I would work with the software company to remedy the immediate problem as well as put in safeguards to prevent the bug from occurring in the future.

What frustrates you about your job?
The tediousness  of regulatory requirements. Often times a software fix takes a very long time because of all the regulatory requirements that they have to check and double-check they are complying with. It’s frustrating to know that Facebook can have an all night code session and build something as powerful as  Facebook messaging, but it takes 12 months to change the way something appears on a pre-printed form in an EMR software.

What about your job makes you proud to be a nurse? Is there a specific situation that stands out to you as a gratifying moment?
I really appreciate being able to help nurses behind the scenes. I am fortunate to have a relationship with the nurses I support and they are appreciative of the role I play behind the scenes to make their software work efficiently. Knowing that I am helping them to provide care for all the patients they see if very rewarding.

I really appreciate being able to help nurses behind the scenes. 

Do you feel you receive adequate support for your responsibilities?
Yes. My manager is incredibly supportive and motivating. I have a large amount of freedom to work on solving issues when and how I would like to.  The freedom I have as an informatics nurses is empowering and leaves me with a smile on my face most days.

What (if anything) do you get called about on your off-hours?
We rotate a call schedule in my IT department. So there are times when I can be called for something as simple as a document not filing to the EMR. I could also be called to be told the entire EMR is down across one or multiple hospitals.  Being on call is not one of my favorite aspects of the job. There is a great amount of responsibility placed on your shoulders during the off-hours of the IT department when you are the “lucky one” on call.

What is something a nurse who does not work in your particular field might find surprising about your job?
A nurse that doesn’t work as a clinical informatics nurse might find it surprising that nurses work in IT at all.  In the past it was less prevalent to find nurses in healthcare IT departments, but it has become apparent that nurses who have actually provided patient care are needed to build EMRs that are relevant to nurses. The nerds that know how to code don’t always get what nurses actually need.

Does your position involve teamwork, or is it more of an individual job?
My job as an informatics nurse involves a mixture of team work and individual work.  For example, I may research a bug within a patient’s chart by myself, but in order to make a change that affects the entire chart I would have to bring this before my colleagues to discuss the pros and cons of this change.

Did you position require any extra training besides on-the-job training that you were required to complete?
Many nurses who work in informatics are masters prepared, however, this is not a requirement.  Personally I had software experience and a generalized understanding of the abilities and limitations in software.  Having excellent research skills and a vetted ability to “Google” was also a huge help.

After I was on the job, I was mainly self-taught on the software I support since there were really not user manuals or training on how to support the software.

One of the biggest complaints given by hospital unit-based nurses is that they rarely have time to eat or go to the bathroom.  Do you find that to be the case with your job as well?
As an informatics nurse I work in an office setting. My bathroom breaks are limited by my own ability to break away from the computer screen. So admittedly, there are times when I am busy that I put off a bathroom break or two. My lunch breaks are limited only by any meetings that may be around lunch time. I do not have to have any sort of relief to go to lunch or a break.

What is your definition of “poop hitting the fan?”
In nursing informatics “poop hitting the fan” would be an EMR downtime effecting at least on facility.  This is where everyone is logging into servers, resetting computers, and on the phone with management and the EMR vendor. It’s stressful and hundreds (if not thousands) are depending on you to make it right as quickly as possible.

Are there travel opportunities in your specialty?
There is some travel involved in nursing informatics. You will often travel to the EMR facility for training or conferences. If you work a consultant you will often travel 4 days a week and be home on the weekends.

Is there any specific advice you would give a nurse pursuing your specialty?
Learn about software and how to support it.  Research the role and pursue a certification program if you find it difficult to break into the field without an MSN degree.

Clinical Informatics Specialist“It was helpful to me to blog (http://thenerdynurse.com) and interact on twitter (http://twitter.com/thenerdynurse) about my passion for technology in nursing. Working behind the scenes on a blog helped me to better understand what is required to work behind the scenes on EMR software.

Are you a Specialty Nurse?  Would you like to share your story?  Contact me via the ‘Submit a Specialty Interview” button below.  I would love to hear about your specialty.



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  1. Hi Brittney. I received my MSN in informatics July 2012 and finding it very difficult to get started in the field. I, like you, have always wanted to combine my passion of technology and nursing into one. My background before coming to nursing was in Management Information Systems (MIS) and a quality analyst–behind the scenes–in the banking industry. I enjoyed my job. However, I also liked healthcare. I am a travel dialysis nurse presently and traveling has given me the opportunity to conduct my own personal research into nursing and use of new and applied technology in the work place. This has shown me, by listening to the nurses and personal use of workplace technology, where improvements or changes can be made to increase care delivery at the bedside and decrease fear or intimidation of use.

    Any advice or suggestions you can offer would be very much appreciated.

    Thank you,

    • Hi Rachael,

      Have you tried reaching out to software companies? Any companies that you’ve had experience documenting on are a great place to start. They are always looking for nurse consultants and trainers/implementation specialist.
      I do know that informatics nurses can have trouble getting their foot in the door. Sometimes it can be a matter of contacting the right people. If you’ve applied for a particular role at a hospital you can usually call around and find out who manages that department. Give them a cold call and convince them to pull your resume from the pile.
      Also, does your resume focus on informatics? Many nurses often make the mistake of having a nursing resume when they are applying for a technical role. Are you highlighting your informatics skills or your nursing background? They both can’t be the center of attention and if you are looking for a job in nursing informatics then you need to let your informatics skills take the stage. Feel free to email me. I’d be happy to give you some coaching to get a job in informatics. 🙂

      • Any advice that you could share would be helpful. I work for a Gov. agency Medical center and I just received my MSN in Nursing Informatics, and I have not had any success even locating a job that would take with no informatics experience. The Gov. has jobs but they are all located in places that I can not consider relocation. I began to study for my certification, but put it on hold while it looks as though there nay not be a position in informatics without experience. thank you in advance for reading this. J Hall

        • Janice, If you are interested in IT nursing, I recommend connecting with The Nerdy Nurse on Facebook. She is a wealth of information on the topic!