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What to Consider Before Choosing a Nursing Specialty

What to Consider Before Choosing a Nursing Specialty

What's your nursing specialty?

Jennifer LeClaire | Monster Contributing Writer

From emergency-room and operating-room nursing to pediatric and orthopedic nursing and beyond, there’s no shortage of specialties for today’s ambitious nurse.

Besides the traditional specialties – OB/GYN, nurse anesthetist and nurse practitioners – there are lesser-known subfields such as telephone-triage nursing, forensic nursing (the application of nursing science to public or legal proceedings) and correctional nursing (nursing in prison settings).

While health care settings across the nation continue to experience nursing shortages, nurses are in particularly high demand in some subfields, including critical care (where the American Organization of Nurse Executives reports a 20 percent vacancy rate), emergency room and telemetry. Since these areas typically require nurses with higher levels of training, skills and certification, there are fewer candidates who fit the bill.

How can you zero in on the nursing specialty that will fulfill your career goals?

Nursing and Stress

One factor is your definition of stress. Some nurses find it more stressful to work in an operating room, where they are almost always on call. Others may find it stressful to work in the recovery room, which requires honed technical skills. Still others may find it stressful to work one-on-one with physicians on a medical/surgical floor.

Where do you feel comfortable? Do you enjoy independence, or do you crave the camaraderie of fellow nurses and staff? “You have to compare your personality with the working environment,” says Bill Morris, president of Beitler Staffing in Chicago. “People who can deal with high stress and juggling lots of balls in the air at the same time are well-suited to the emergency department. If you want a slower pace, then try a community hospital.”

You should also think about what you most enjoyed during training. If you have an affinity for children, you may want to specialize in pediatrics or maternity. If serving senior citizens satisfies you, then geriatrics would be a logical choice.


Continuing Education

You also need to consider any special certifications and qualifications you need to enter into a particular subfield.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation certification may be enough on a medical/surgical floor, for example, but to advance to the emergency room, you will need Advanced Cardiac Life Support training. And if you want to work with cancer patients, then you may need special chemotherapy training from the Oncology Nursing Society.

“Are you willing to continue education and further your skills?” asks Kathy Murphy, clinical director for Nursefinders, a health care staffing service in Arlington, Texas. “If you are, then you may be a candidate for intensive-care units and oncology units.”

Next: New Programs Narrow the Field >>

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