As you start your career, you’re likely wondering, “What kind of nurse should I be?” The most common answer is an empathetic, attentive one. While you’ll surely strive to be a compassionate professional, you’ve to choose the perfect specialty for yourself in an ocean of more than 100 different ones.
This leads us to the next question you should ask: “Which nursing specialty is for me?” To answer this one, you’ll need to assess your skills and preferences to find the nursing field and specialty that’s the perfect fit for you.
So do you want the good news or the better news? The good news is, with so many different nursing specialties to choose from, you’re almost guaranteed to find the perfect fit. The better news? No matter what specialty you choose, you’ll have a bright career ahead of you, be it as a registered nurse or any kind of nurse, filled with countless possibilities for healthy growth.
How to choose a nursing specialty
Get out a pen and paper; it’s time to explore how your personality, preferences and particular needs influence the types of nursing specialties that would suit you best. It’s time for some self-reflection as you consider the following internal and external factors. It’s the one sure way to find the best nursing specialties for you.
- Personality: Do you like to always be on the move? Are you deeply empathetic? Do you love connecting with people? Are you reliable in an emergency? If so, how do these key factors of your personality align with potential career options? Consider what type of patients you want to treat and what pace suits you.
- Interests: Is there a particular field of medicine that fascinates you? Let this interest guide you. Becoming a nurse means signing on to lifelong learning in your field and specialty, so be sure to pick an area that piques your interest.
- Job pace: Every healthcare setting runs at a different speed. If you like taking it slow, consider specialties that you can perform in private practices, home environments and even online through telehealth careers. Conversely, if you thrive under pressure, you could become an essential member of an ER or acute care team, like in an intensive care unit.
- Engagement with patients: Most nursing careers require you to directly interact with patients, but if this type of work isn’t for you, there are other options. Consider working in an informatics or research role or choose a specialty that is not patient-facing, as you would as a nurse anesthetist.
- Stress management: As a healthcare professional, it’s important to seriously consider your boundaries. What types of stressful situations can you cope with? Be honest with yourself because your mental health is essential to your well-being (and that of your patients too!). If working around sick infants seems too emotionally draining, a career as a neonatal nurse probably isn’t for you. If providing hospice or palliative care would bring you down, opt for specialties other than fields like oncology or gerontology and positions in the ICU.
- Salary: We all need to make a buck, and nurses are no exception. Be sure to research the average salary for registered nurses in your desired specialty and location and compare that with your income expectations.
- Location: Not everyone is in a position to relocate for work, so if staying close to home is important to you, be sure to research local job opportunities in your field.
- Job setting: Remember, pace and stress are important factors to consider. Your work environment can influence both, and it can affect how much freedom you have, what type of team you work in and how long you’re at the office.
- Shifts: If you work in a hospital setting, you may be assigned rotating or night shifts. Meanwhile, working in a private practice in a primary care position can provide more regular hours. Consider what hours work best with your personal and family life before diving into a career.
- Nursing education and certification requirements: Have a specific budget for nursing school? Hoping to complete your education in a certain number of years? Look at how long it takes to specialize in your field of interest and the price tag on the nursing degree you’ll need. Some specialties require earning your Doctor of Science in Nursing (DSN) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, which implies a much greater financial and time investment, while others require only a Bachelor of Science of Nursing (BSN) or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). You may also need to get additional certifications depending on your desired specialty or advanced practice.
What kind of nursing specialties are there?
A better question is: What kind of nursing specialties aren’t there? With more than 100 ways to specialize as a nurse, there’s literally something for everyone. Here are a few popular choices:
In this field, you’ll work with children and their guardians. A rewarding career as a pediatric nurse allows you to make an impact on future generations. You’ll examine patients, take vital signs and lab samples and perform other tests. You’ll also help implement treatment plans formed alongside your supervising pediatrician.
Critical care nurse
In critical care nursing, you’ll work with patients in acute need. It’s one of the more common specialties, with more than a third of nurses in the United States working in this field. As this is an advanced role, you’ll need to depend on your unique knowledge to care for severely ill patients.
This specialization is an entry-level position for a registered nurse that allows you to work with elderly patients. These nurses work to help individuals with chronic illnesses and pain management, providing comprehensive patient care and implementing the treatment plan formed by a team of doctors. One of the rewarding parts of this career is being able to bond with your patients and improve their quality of life.
Emergency room nurse
ER nurses work with patients experiencing moments of acute illness or injury. You’ll need to think on your feet to help patients survive these crises. The work is fast-paced, meaning ER teams must think accurately and quickly to save lives.
School nursing is a diverse specialty as it includes care in various educational settings, from kindergartens to colleges. Each student body has its own needs and challenges as students progress through their education, and school nurses work to keep them healthy, happy and learning as best as possible. They also train staff on best practices regarding public health.
In this exciting field, you’ll lend a helping hand wherever it’s needed. This means your workplace and team will constantly be changing. You may find yourself working in an understaffed hospital for a couple of weeks and then as a family nurse practitioner the following week. As a reward for your flexibility, you may receive special perks like bonuses, a high salary, free housing, insurance coverage and other benefits. Plus, if you love to travel, that’s a perk in and of itself.
Whatever career path you choose, we have the perfect comfortable scrubs that will help get you through the day in any specialty. If your department requires a specific color, we’ve got you covered there, too, with many of our popular varieties coming in a range of hospital hues.