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Types of Nurses: Find the Right Specialty for You

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Are you in nursing school and on the hunt for a specialty that both piques your interests and fulfills your dream of providing direct patient care? There are more than 100 specialties across the healthcare landscape, so if you’re feeling confused or overwhelmed, we totally understand. But we’re glad and honored you turned to us for the advice! The nursing field has a wealth of opportunities for everyone, and we’re here to share a little bit of that wealth with you

Besides administering medicines, nurses are the navigators of patients’ treatment plans. It’s a fulfilling career path that boasts high-level clinical positions held by professionals who work everywhere from camps to airlifts and provide legal, academic and consulting services.  

Here, we’ll help prep you to better answer the next time someone asks, “Exactly what does a nurse do?” The perfect career is waiting for you, and you’re about to find it. Buckle up for an informative journey!  

Levels of nursing

For as many specialties as there are in nursing, there are acronyms. So it may help to know that a few of the letters in them—like RN and NP—don’t stand for specialty areas but levels of nursing. Let’s break down the nurse ranks.

  • Registered nurse: Registered nurses (RNs) are clinical professionals with an Associate Degree of Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN).  
  • Advanced practice registered nurses: Advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) is an umbrella term for four types of high-level nurses: certified nurse midwives (CNMs), nurse practitioners (NPs), clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). These medical professionals must hold at least a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and often need to earn a certification specific to their specialty area. Some may even hold a doctorate.
  • Nurse practitioner: Nurse practitioners, a type of APRN, perform some of the tasks physicians usually do, like prescribing medication or diagnosing patients. NPs can specialize in family care, adult-gerontology acute care, adult-gerontology primary care, neonatal care, pediatric care, psychiatric mental health and women’s health.

10 nursing specialties 

At this point, you’re already aware of a few types of nurses. The following 10 specialties will provide you an idea about how nurse categories are segmented on the basis of their specific work, besides educational requirements. Let’s go through each to understand them better. 

  1. Camp nurse: These nurses provide care in remote areas, as camps and retreats are often far from hospitals. 
  2. Cardiac cath lab nurse: In this ultra-specialized work, nurses insert catheters into cardiac patients’ hearts. 
  3. Emergency nurse: ER nurses work with patients who’ve come to the emergency room seeking urgent treatment for anything from a minor injury to a severe illness or trauma.
  4. Forensic nurse: These healthcare professionals work with victims of violent crime and assist law enforcement on cases. 
  5. Health policy nurse: These nurses focus on changing the world. They perform research and work to shift healthcare policy and amplify access for patients. 
  6. Informatics nurse: These medical workers are clinical professionals and IT buffs who work to implement technology that can improve patient care. 
  7. Neuroscience nurse: These brainiacs (and we mean that as a compliment!) work with patients suffering from nervous system conditions like strokes, brain injuries or Alzheimer’s.
  8. Nurse educator: These teachers educate aspiring nurses, often in college settings. 
  9. Oncology nurse: Oncology nurses work with patients suffering from cancer and must show lots of empathy in their bedside care
  10. Telehealth nurse: These medical professionals work from home to provide remote healthcare services to those who need quick consults or wouldn’t usually have easy access to care. 

Nursing workplaces

After reading the preceding section and seeing the variety of roles the nursing practice offers, you might be starting to shift your vision of a nurse’s work. Toss out that idea you had of nurses only working in hospitals. If someone asks you where nurses work, you can tell them almost everywhere. Here are a few common places you can find them: 

  • Private practices/physician’s offices
  • Hospitals
  • Schools and universities
  • Rehab centers
  • Prisons
  • Private homes 
  • Army bases 
  • Legal settings 
  • Adult care facilities/nursing homes 
  • Clinics 
  • Public health organizations 
  • Insurance companies 
  • Patients’ homes

When we say nurses work everywhere, we also mean geographically. Nurses can sign up with a travel nursing agency and fulfill assignments where they’re most needed. This role comes with plenty of perks like subsidized housing, a high salary and even help with visas or passports for international work. These nurses fill a gap in the healthcare system, bringing essential care to patients in high-demand or underserved areas. Understaffed care settings are at risk of decreased quality of care and higher patient mortality rates, so travel nurses jump into demanding and vital work.  


Find the right nursing job for you

If you follow your passion, you’ll definitely find your ideal career. That’s exactly how we found our dream job, crafting quality scrubs for hardworking healthcare professionals. But no matter where your heart takes you as you consider the many paths in the field of nursing, you should also think about the following few factors to make the best decision for you. 

  1. Time and cost of your nursing degree: Be honest about the time and resources you have right now. After all, let’s be honest—nursing programs can be costly. If you’re already working part- or full-time, you may want to try a more entry-level nursing role like a licensed practical nurse/licensed vocational nurse (LPN/LVN). If money’s on your mind, research the available financial aid and scholarship options before setting your heart on a dream school. 
  2. Standing commitments: Some nursing positions require longer shifts than others, and if you need to be home with little ones or simply like a bit more time for yourself, don’t leave these factors out of your projections. Private practice and school nursing work tend to have shorter shifts and more regular hours, while careers in acute or emergency care environments may have you working a long night shift a few times a week. 
  3. Mental health: You may be inclined to care for others, but you must also take care of yourself. Nurses are often at risk of burnout, depression and compassion fatigue, and some roles, like intensive care unit (ICU) or oncology care, are tougher on the heart. Be honest about your capacity to deal with difficult situations. There’s no shame in putting self-care first. All specialties are in demand. 

Whichever way your career path takes you, we’ll send you our best, and count on us for new scrubs whenever you need them. We’re proud of you for being here and taking the first step toward a rewarding nursing career

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