Would I Need a Degree in Nursing and Computer Technology to Become an Informatics Specialist?

Informatics is the study of information and an informatics specialist is a professional who knows how to apply this science to a particular field. Within the nursing domain, an informatics specialist studies how clinical practice and technology intersect. Nursing informatics is an attractive and rewarding career because it provides diverse challenges and a wealth of career options. For instance, an informatics nurse specialist (INS) can work at a hospital, for healthcare organizations, governments, insurance companies and many other groups.

For an additional explanation of what nursing informatics is and how the field is changing, read The Evolution of Definitions for Nursing Informatics, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA).

Does Nursing Informatics Require a Degree in Nursing?

In general, a nursing degree is required to work as an INS. In fact, most organizations that require an informatics nurse will want the position filled by a registered nurse (RN). In addition, many companies will want the RN to possess practical experience beyond what was required to attain their degree. Therefore, most informatics nurse specialists will begin their careers as an RN and then work as an informatics nurse in a hospital or similar institution before an employer would consider them for non-traditional INS roles. Moreover, an INS is generally defined as an RN with a graduate level education. An informatics nurse (IN), on the other hand, is an RN without graduate education, and that position could potentially be a stepping-stone for becoming an INS.

Resource: Guide to Nursing Degrees

Does Nursing Informatics Require a Degree in Computer Technology?

When it comes to computer and information technology, the requirements are very specific to the role of the INS, which can vary greatly. The simple answer is no, being an INS does not specifically require a particular degree in computer technology. In fact, many INS study programs only focus on information systems as a minor. Nevertheless, many informatics nurse specialists will have a career goal in mind and will augment their education accordingly. For instance, an INS who serves as a software developer will usually have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

Does an INS-to-Be Require Focused Study?

An INS does not require focus immediately, and if, for instance, they stay working in a hospital, may never need it. There are many different ways to become an INS. Some students will become an IN and enter the workforce before continuing onto graduate school and specialization. Generally, an individual who enters graduate school immediately will emphasize some aspect of the field, but even that emphasis can be broad and leave room for more precise specialization down the line.

Positions Held by Informatics Nursing Specialists

The most common position for an INS is at a hospital, medical center, clinic or similar environment. The INS role is to facilitate and refine the use of technology for the nurses who work there. In other arenas, the INS often serves as a consultant. If, for instance, a software developer is creating a data platform for an insurance company that is to be used by nurses, an on-staff INS is an invaluable resource.

An INS can serve many different roles within the health industry and ancillary industries. The educational needs of an INS will depend heavily on the specifics of the role. As a rule, to work in nursing informatics, you will need a degree in nursing but not necessarily one in computer technology.