Eight nursing specialties that you could go into
As nurses and doctors put their lives at risk every day on the coronavirus frontline, the ongoing pandemic has proven it is just how intrinsic and valuable healthcare professionals are to the successful running of a healthy and happy society. Nursing is one of the most rewarding career paths that you can choose in the healthcare field. It is a hands-on role that enables you to make a real difference in patients' lives and provide important health education to individuals and communities, and influence policies. Suppose you have recently completed online BSN to NP programs and passed your state license to become a registered nurse. In that case, you might be wondering what options for specialization are open to you after you have built up valuable experience in a general nursing role. Read on to find out more about eight nursing specialties that you could go into.
1. Nurse practitioner
If you enjoy working with a variety of patients of all ages and with all conditions that you treat in your registered nurse role but are keen to progress in your career and take on more responsibilities, progressing to a nurse practitioner role would be a great next step for you.
Nurse practitioners hold a similar role to physicians in that they are qualified to prescribe medication, provide treatment, examine patients, and diagnose illnesses. It is a role that values your experience in the nursing field, and nurse practitioners earn on average 60% more than registered nurses. Nurse practitioners are becoming an increasingly more important part of medical teams as more hospitals and healthcare facilities recognize and use their experience and expertise. There are many facilities in which you can work as a nurse practitioner, such as physician offices, home health care organizations, and surgical hospitals; some states, such as Arizona and New Hampshire, even grant nurse practitioners full practice authority so that they can work independently.
To become a nurse practitioner, you will have first to complete a master's of science in nursing. Look for online BSN to NP programs that will provide you with the flexibility to pursue your master's degree whilst also working full-time to gain valuable nursing experience. You could also further specialize as a registered nurse in sub-specialties such as mental health nursing and pediatric care. Again, look for online BSN to NP programs that provide the track you want to go down.
2. Psychiatric mental health nurse
Society has made huge steps towards recognizing the importance of mental health care over recent years. Whereas in the past, the media somewhat sensationalized psychiatric care, people are now beginning to realize that looking after your mental health is just as important as looking after your physical health. Unfortunately, however, some stigma around mental health does remain.
As a psychiatric mental health nurse, you will have an incredible opportunity to contribute to the breaking down of these barriers. You will work with patients to help diagnose and treat mental health conditions and help them find effective strategies to manage their own conditions. The field of mental health is a large one, and you may decide to specialize in providing nursing care for people with specific conditions, such as mood disorders like depression, eating disorders, or addiction to alcohol and drugs. As such, in addition to a traditional psychiatric unit, there are many facilities in which you can work as a mental health nurse. For example, you could work in an assisted living complex to provide care for patients with dementia or even work independently providing essential mental health care in your community.
When looking for online BSN to NP programs with a focus on psychiatric mental health nursing, there are certain things that you should consider to ensure that you get the most from your further education. For instance, how many other students are in each class – small class sizes provide you with the best learning opportunity, especially when learning online. In addition, 20-25 students in each class max will ensure that you develop an individual relationship with your teachers.
3. Pediatric nursing
Pediatric nurses work with children and teenagers to provide preventative and acute care. It is a rewarding nursing career as you will have the satisfaction that you are really making a difference to children's lives by teaching them good healthcare habits that will stick with them throughout their lives.
As a pediatric nurse, you can work in a number of settings, from doctor's offices and community settings to schools and critical care units. Look for accredited online BSN to NP programs that educate you about both primary and acute care in the pediatric nursing field. Primary care services that you might be involved in include carrying out school physicals and delivering immunizations, as well as carrying out routine developmental screenings and diagnosing and treating common childhood illnesses. Acute care services might include caring for acutely, chronically, or critically ill children and carrying out therapeutic treatments.
As a pediatric nurse providing care for poorly children and being involved in making life-saving and life-altering decisions, you are likely to experience high-stress and emotionally charged situations on a regular basis. Therefore, it is important that you consider whether you will be able to deal with this before enrolling in an online BSN to NP programs with a focus on pediatric nursing. If this is a route that you do decide to go down, be sure to establish good techniques to look after your own mental health in this stressful but rewarding role.
4. Geriatric nurse
At the other end of the age spectrum is providing valuable nursing care to older people. As the body ages and wears out, people are likely to require more healthcare and medications to help cope with general wear and tear. Look for online BSN to NP programs with a focus on the specific needs of elderly patients, as well as providing clinical experience dealing with conditions such as dementia.
Geriatric nursing is a growing field that is estimated to continue rising to cope with growing demand over the coming years. This is due to several factors: people are living longer lifespans well into their 70s, 80s, and even 90s; the aging baby boomer population is starting to require an increasing amount of healthcare, and the current generation of geriatric nurses are now approaching retirement age themselves. As a geriatric nurse, you will work in hospitals, assisted living communities, care homes, and in a community context to provide essential medications and treatments to elderly people and to assess any pre-existing conditions. You might also be required to provide much-needed advice and support to families coming to terms with a devastating dementia diagnosis.
Geriatric nursing is about much more than administering medical assistance; however: you will provide a regular source of friendly social contact to an elderly person who might otherwise be isolated in their home.
5. Oncology nurse
Oncology nurses provide care and support to cancer patients. You will monitor your patients' physical conditions, prescribe and administer medications, and work with your patient to create symptom management strategies. In addition to hospitals, you can work in specialist cancer treatment centers, hospices, and in a community setting, providing care to patients in their own homes.
Cancer can affect anyone regardless of age, so you will be providing valuable nursing care to children and adults of all ages. You may also be involved in providing information and support to families who are struggling to deal with a devastating cancer diagnosis. To become an oncology nurse, look for online BSN to NP programs that provide you with a thorough education in cancer care through coursework and clinical practice. As an oncology nurse practitioner, you will require at least 500 hours of supervised clinical practice in oncology, which can be built up either during or after completing your master's program. Only then will you be eligible to take the certification examination to become an advanced oncology certified nurse practitioner. In addition, you will require certain personal qualities to thrive as an oncology nurse: you will need to have a caring, empathetic demeanor and be able to handle witnessing traumatic situations involving patient suffering and death on a regular basis.
However, many oncology nurses are deeply caring individuals who thrive on the meaningful relationships they develop with their patients and their families.
6. ER nurse
ER nurses are often the first healthcare professionals that patients come into contact with when they have arrived at a hospital following a medical emergency. You might be attracted to this fast-paced role, having seen it portrayed on television programs, and while it is certainly the case that working as an ER nurse is exciting and stimulating, you will require certain personal skills to excel in this position. You will need excellent teamwork skills and the ability to think and move fast and react quickly to changing circumstances to ensure that your patients receive the best possible care – and possibly even save their life. ER nurses are truly on the front line of patient care, and you should be prepared to multi-task and deal with whatever medical emergency you are faced with on a day-to-day basis. Daily tasks might include setting broken bones, running diagnostic tests, and performing minor operations. After gaining your bachelor's of science in nursing and becoming licensed as a registered nurse, you will need to earn advanced cardiac life support and pediatric life support certifications.
Furthermore, many hospitals only accept candidates with previous ER experience through internships or clinical rotations, so when considering online BSN to NP programs, be sure to choose one that includes hands-on ER experience as part of the curriculum. Finally, after you have gained at least two years of experience working in ER nursing, you can apply for certified emergency nurse certification, which will give your career an edge in this fast-paced and integral area of the nursing profession.
7. Labor and delivery nurse
As a labor and delivery nurse, you will be involved in some of the most uplifting and joyful situations in the healthcare sector as you assist expectant mothers to give birth. However, it can also be one of the most harrowing if a birth does not go as planned. It is a role with a lot of responsibility, as you will be with the mother throughout the duration of her labor and have to make quick decisions to seek further medical assistance from a doctor if the labor is not going as planned for potentially life-saving intervention for the mother and child. Look for online BSN to NP programs that include modules in maternity and newborn care, and seek clinical experience on a maternity ward through an internship or work experience.
Most hospitals offer labor and delivery internships to recently licensed registered nurses, which provide on-the-job training in topics such as the stages of labor, Caesarean sections, and anesthesia. You can also take additional certificates in topics such as fetal heartbeat monitoring to boost your skillset and job prospects in this rewarding field.
8. Cardiovascular nurse
Cardiovascular nurses specialize in caring for patients with heart disease. You will monitor and treat acutely ill patients with a focus on cardiac rehabilitation by working with patients and their families to create a care plan aimed at affecting lifestyle changes that will prevent the worsening of their condition. Your patients will have experienced different health emergencies related to heart disease; they might be recovering from a heart attack, for instance, or have recently undergone heart bypass surgery or have had a pacemaker fitted.
Following a bachelor's degree, you can go on to take a master's degree specializing in cardiovascular nursing. Look at online BSN to NP programs that enable you to study for your master's while retaining your full-time nursing job, providing you with the essential experience of clinical practice. You may also decide to further your career by taking the cardiac/vascular nurse certification exam.