Nursing Specialties – Something for Everyone

Whether you’re dreaming of becoming a nurse, are a recently graduated nurse, or an experienced nurse…there are many different career paths to consider. Nursing can be a long, exciting career journey with many diverse opportunities for growth and advancement along the way.  Looking at what areas of nursing interest you can help you focus on a specific direction that may lead you to a nursing specialty that suits your personality and lifestyle. 

What is a Nursing Specialty?

There are countless nursing specialties. Each specialty defines an area of patient care in which a nurse has expertise and advanced knowledge gained through education, certifications, and/or experience. These specialties require an RN certification which can be obtained by completing at least an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or preferably a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). RNs also need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination® (NCLEX-RN®) to be able to work as an RN. Eligibility and requirements to sit for the NCLEX vary by state. 

Nursing Specialties: 

  • Labor & Delivery Nurse (L&D)

Labor and delivery (L&D) nurses provide care to expectant parents during labor and delivery. They also assist in surgery for c-sections and provide postpartum care. Labor and delivery nurses need to be flexible and be able to act quickly as labor can change rapidly. 

  • Emergency Nurse

Emergency department (ED) nurses must be ready for virtually any situation. They typically work in the emergency department of a hospital providing care to patients. This might include continuously monitoring and assessing critical patients, educating families, and assisting emergency physicians with procedures.

  • Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric nurses provide care for patients under eighteen. A pediatric nurse can work in a pediatrician’s office or in a hospital treating patients. Some of the best pediatric nurses are energetic, optimistic, and friendly. 

  • Surgical/Perioperative Nurse

Surgical and perioperative nurses assist surgeons in the operating room (OR). They might also be asked to care for patients before and after surgery. In the OR, they are sometimes called scrub nurses and one of their main jobs is to pass instruments to the surgeon. 

  • Public Health Nurse

Public health nurses devote much of their time to educating communities and advocating for overall public health. They play a large role in collecting data during disease outbreaks, creating education campaigns for the general public, and influencing the health of a community.

  • Oncology Nurse

Oncology nurses help treat and care for cancer patients. Some daily tasks might include administering chemotherapy, helping to develop a treatment plan, and educating patients and families on their diagnosis and treatment. Oncology nurses need to be extremely compassionate and have excellent bedside manners. 

  • Mental Health/Psychiatric Nurse

Mental health and psychiatric nurses work with patients who are struggling with psychiatric disorders. They are sometimes referred to as behavioral health nurses. Good psychiatric nurses are able to compassionately care for patients while maintaining firm boundaries.  

  • Geriatric Nurse

Geriatric nurses care for patients who are part of the elderly population. Common job duties include monitoring and assessing patients for common health concerns in the older population, organizing and administering medication, and helping the geriatric population age gracefully. Many geriatric nurses work in nursing homes, senior centers, and retirement communities. 

  • Infection Control Nurse

An infection control nurse implements best practices for ensuring prevention of infections throughout the facility and works with the patient care teams to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases. 

  • Nurse Educator

Nurse educators often work for universities and hospitals training new nurses or providing continuing education for current nurses. They will create lesson plans, teach students, and research new developments in healthcare. This is a great specialty for people who want to have an impact on the careers of other nurses. 

  • Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) – requires additional education beyond BSN

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) administer anesthesia and provide pain management. They evaluate medical histories pre-operatively; monitor, assess, and administer medications to patients during procedures; and counsel them on pain control. CRNAs must be detail-oriented and attentive as they monitor anesthesia during surgeries. 

  • Nurse Practitioner (NP) – requires additional education beyond BSN

Nurse Practitioners (NP) often serve as primary caregivers in private practices or hospital settings. They can prescribe medication, make diagnoses, and do minor procedures. Often, NPs work within a specialty, such as women’s health, or mental health, or primary care. NPs need to have strong communication and critical thinking skills, as they are tasked with making many decisions regarding patient care without the need to consult a physician. 


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