Nursing can be very rewarding, with many potential careers and job opportunities available. The nursing field is also one of the most competitive professions, and it requires great dedication. Nurses work long hours, often without breaks, in shift work with irregular schedules. They are tasked with monitoring patients experiencing trauma, illness, or injury. Nurses may be the only medical professional that has direct contact with a patient during their stay in the hospital.
Since it’s such an intense and intimate position to hold, you’ll want to make sure you find a specialty that interests you. Luckily, nursing has a plethora of options for you to choose from. Here is a look at some of the most popular specialties.
How to become a nurse
To become a nurse, one must enroll in nursing school and earn a degree, which usually takes around three years to complete. To become a nurse, one must first have a high school diploma or equivalent with an average of at least a 2.5 GPA. They also need to have completed the required courses in high school. Finally, they need to meet nursing program requirements depending on their choice of college and state.
The three main types of nurses one can become are a nurse practitioner, registered nurse or licensed practical nurse. Nurse practitioners. are considered a primary provider of healthcare. They perform the role of a doctor but focus on prevention, education, and treatment.
A registered nurse (RN) cares for patients by administering medication, changing bandages, and similar tasks. Their role is more focused on assisting patients with daily activities and helping the medical team.
A licensed practical nurse (LPN), meanwhile, is there to clean patients and assist with their comfort caregiving. This role generally requires less skill and education.
What is a nursing specialty?
Nursing specialties are branches of nursing that focus on meeting the needs of a population with specific healthcare needs. These specialties are often divided into two types: acute care and long-term care.
Acute care nurses focus on providing care to those in need for a short period, usually less than three weeks. Long-term care nurses provide patient-centered, compassionate care over an extended period.
Other nurses may choose to specialize in pediatrics or adult health. These specialties work with patients within the specified age range to provide unique healthcare coverage tailored to their needs.
High paying nursing jobs require a Master of Science in Nursing and specialty certification. With such a degree and certificate, you will have more than enough qualifications to get your foot in the door and help make a difference in healthcare. Moreover, jobs for those in this nursing field are growing at an unprecedented rate. If you are considering earning a post-master’s FNP certificate, Carson-Newman University offers an online program that will boost your options.
Nursing specialties to consider
There are many nursing specialties to choose from, making it difficult to decide what type of nursing would be a good fit for you. Here are some of the most common nursing specialties.
Home health nurse
A home health nurse is a registered nurse who provides care to patients in their homes, as opposed to in the hospital or a nursing home. Home health nurses help patients address their physical and emotional needs when they cannot fully function independently.
They may also help parents care for their children or assist with treatments like chemotherapy. Home health nurses might assist patients with daily tasks such as bathing and dressing, cooking meals and tidying up the house. People also use home health nurses when they are not allowed to leave their homes during pregnancy due to complications or the risk of harm.
Public health nurse
A public health nurse is a municipal or national government professional. They offer resources to the community in an educational, social, or health-related capacity.
They are typically employed by health agencies but often have other responsibilities, such as assisting with referrals from the public. Public health nurses work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, school health services, other government facilities, and non-profit organizations.
Public health nurses are usually educated at the university level and may hold a master’s degree in public health nursing (MPHN). The skills required of nurses vary depending on the location and mode of practice, with many areas requiring ongoing development of skills according to local needs.
Pediatric nurses work in hospitals, clinics, and private practices to care for ill and healthy children during each stage of life. In a hospital setting, they provide one-on-one care and supervise the child’s re-introduction to the hospital environment when necessary.
They facilitate health screenings and follow up with preventive health education in a clinical setting. Pediatric nurses also perform examinations, gather samples for laboratory testing, and administer treatments such as intravenous therapy or medication injections.
A pediatric nurse is responsible for recognizing potential complications that could arise from treating ill children, such as those with asthma or diabetes. They also perform routine health screenings to ensure that they appropriately monitor a child’s health and, if necessary, refer the child to a specialist.
When a child has been diagnosed with a chronic illness that makes them more susceptible to colds, the flu, and other illnesses or they are on any medication requiring a specific protocol in an emergency, a school nurse can help.
As a school nurse, you will be responsible for the health of all students who come to your school during the school day. You will have the opportunity to learn about primary and secondary care. Although your role may be that of a school nurse, your job can involve working with any patient.
You may also work in a school that offers unconventional education services developed and implemented by a specific organization. They cater to students affected by physical and mental drawbacks who need extra support. This education aims to address those individuals’ needs by ensuring they have access to high-quality education regardless of their situation.
A neonatal nurse provides care to infants who are generally less than one week old. Neonatal nurses often work in an intensive care unit or newborn nursery, where they provide care for these vulnerable babies.
Neonatal nurses provide a range of services in the nursery, such as bathing, feeding, and monitoring healthy weight gain for their charges. Sometimes this means helping with treatment procedures if there is a risk to the patient’s life, such as a procedure to avoid infection.
Neonatal nurses also keep track of babies’ weights and temperatures, which is especially important to ensure infants are not developing complications. Some complications require rapid action.
Mental health nurse
Mental health nurses are nurses with specialized training in mental health. They may work in psychiatric hospitals and community mental health centers.
Most mental health nurses care for patients with severe forms of diagnosed mental illness, such as schizophrenia. Others specialize in a wide range of psychiatric disorders and work to prevent these conditions from developing in people who otherwise show no signs of disease.
Their nursing responsibilities include helping patients manage their symptoms and maintain recovery. Some mental health nurses specialize in procedural or psychoeducation-based procedures, while others focus on emotional or behavioral problems. Mental health nurses may assist clients with vocational issues and help them resume their everyday life as quickly as possible.
Dialysis nurses help keep patients with end-stage renal disease (kidney failure) alive. They often work in long-term care facilities and hospitals, monitoring the patient’s vital signs including breathing rate, oxygen levels and blood pressure. They also help with everything from cleaning to feeding patients.
A dialysis nurse’s primary duties are ensuring that the patient remains stable on dialysis treatment by monitoring vital signs and providing safety services such as responding to emergency calls. In other words, they’re a first responder for people who are undergoing dialysis treatment. Many people are on dialysis for quite some time. It is not an easy job, but it’s one that many nurses love to do as they provide comfort and reassurance to their patients as they go through this challenging part of life.
Dialysis nurses work with both adults and children seeking kidney treatments. It is a very specialized area of nursing that requires proof of education and experience, but it’s also an important field that many people want to work in, making it very competitive.
Operating room nurse
An operating room nurse is a highly trained professional who works in a surgical environment during or after surgery to prevent postoperative complications and ensure patient safety. Operating room nurses are typically part of a team of healthcare professionals who are responsible for providing safe working conditions and care.
Operating room nurses continuously monitor patients’ vital signs and administer anesthesia, improving surgical outcomes. An individual must be well-trained to be considered an operating room nurse candidate. It involves a long education process, among other requirements, such as being physically fit to work in an intensive care unit.
If you love helping people, you might be interested in pursuing a career as an ER nurse. ER nurses work in some of the busiest, most chaotic environments imaginable, but they are well-equipped to handle the array of situations that could arise.
The job’s demands vary by state and hospital employer. In general, an emergency room nurse must build rapport with patients while remaining calm under pressure and bearing the responsibility of providing medical care during one of their darkest hours.
If you love helping people but are afraid of the intensity of the work, know that there is often at least one other nurse in the room with you to divide responsibilities evenly. You will also have various medical equipment and specialists readily available to assist you with more complicated tasks.
Medical-surgical nurses care for patients in various settings, including hospitals, nursing homes and private practice. They specialize in general medical care for the most seriously ill or injured patient population.
If you’re looking to break into the medical field in some capacity, becoming a medical-surgical nurse is the best way. After all, these nurses care for patients from all backgrounds, from children with leukemia to octogenarians suffering from heart disease. Within this diverse population, they provide high-quality patient care that covers everything from preventive medicine to postoperative rehabilitation.
Nurse midwives are registered nurses with additional graduate-level education in midwifery who practice clinically in labor and delivery.
Nurse-midwives work with a medical doctor to care for pregnant women and new mothers, including prenatal, labor, delivery and postpartum care. Nurse-midwives can also work as part of an interdisciplinary team with other professionals, such as physicians, nurse practitioners, family therapists or nutritionists.
They provide comprehensive, personalized prenatal care to women and their partners. Midwifery is recognized worldwide as the gold standard of maternity care for low-risk pregnancies. Graduates must complete a clinical rotation and a master’s degree program to become board certified before practice.
Family Nurse Practitioner
A Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) is an advanced practice nursing provider in primary care who can provide medical and psychosocial care to the whole family. FNP practices are more prevalent than ever, but the demand is still outstripping availability. This has resulted in a significant number of FNP positions needing more applicants.
Informatics nurses are nurses who possess knowledge and skills in the use of various health informatics systems for patient care. Nurses can provide this care by using computer systems and software applications to store, track, retrieve and organize patient information.
Informatics nurses can work in any area of healthcare where there is a need for knowledge about computerized record keeping. They may be found in hospitals or healthcare offices.
Nurses can help patients with chronic conditions track their health more closely or stay on top of multiple medications. They may work with emergency services personnel to improve the coordination of urgent care services.
Critical care nurse
A critical care nurse is a health professional who is responsible for providing continuous and compassionate care to critically ill patients. It’s an important job requiring knowledge of life-saving techniques to help people survive the most challenging moments.
The skills involved in the profession include basic scientific knowledge, medical terminology and trauma management. Critical care nurses work with a team that includes doctors, physicians’ assistants, other nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists, pharmacists and lab technicians.
The specifics of critical care nursing can vary from hospital to hospital, so you should always inquire about specific qualifications before committing to this career path. Salary ranges can also vary depending on location and experience level.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner is a psychiatric professional who helps individuals manage mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. They are qualified to perform tasks such as physical exams, diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medications.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners (PNPs) often work with mental health clinicians and other medical professionals in hospitals and clinics. They help patients find relief from the symptoms of their illnesses. PNPs often specialize in a particular area of psychiatry, such as addiction, emergency mental health or geriatric psychiatry.
PNPs provide a variety of services to patients who have psychological disorders. These services include psychotherapy, prescription medications and conducting physical exams.
In many states, PNPs can also perform regular medical examinations such as blood work and heart exams. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners often collaborate with psychologists, social workers and therapists to develop treatment plans for their patients.
The bottom line
Nurses are the backbone of the medical field, responsible for ensuring that patients are safe and well-cared for. There are many levels of advanced nursing practice, and many of them offer opportunities for further specialization and expertise.
Determining which specialty is right for you can be intimidating, but studying the main categories before deciding on a particular field can provide valuable guidance. Ultimately, nurses must put patients first as they support all facets of healthcare, including administering life-saving treatment to those in need and caring for those who cannot care for themselves.