How to Choose a Nursing Specialty

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There are many options for nursing career paths you could take, and you may be wondering how to choose a nursing specialty. Learn more about some of the best nursing specialties, how to know which one is right for you, and what it will take.

nurse looking at sonogram with expecting mom

If you are in nursing school or pursuing admission to a nursing program, you might have questions about how to choose a nursing specialty. This is an important decision because there are many diverse specialties within the health care field, and each could be the perfect fit depending on your personality. Some practice areas are high-energy and require a nurse who is good under pressure. Some require nurses who are calm and more patient interaction-oriented.

We at Notre Dame of Maryland University want to help you make this decision and choose the best nursing specialty for your personality and future. Our Accelerated 2nd Degree ABSN program will provide ample opportunity to explore a wide variety of nursing career paths and earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in as few as 15 months.

Why Pursue a Nursing Specialty

Nursing offers a wide variety of paths to follow within the field. This draws many who are interested in the medical field, and nurses with specialties are needed now more than ever. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there will be a workforce increase of 195,400 nurses and 203,200 job openings (due in part to nurses retiring) between 2021 and 2031. For specialties such as nurse practitioners, midwives, and nurse anesthetists, job openings will increase by an astounding 40%.

Be aware that many nursing specialties require education beyond a BSN, including an additional certification or a master’s degree. Any additional education you receive will reflect in your salary since you show distinction from nurses with a BSN. In the ABSN program, you can begin pursuing a specialty more quickly since you will complete your curriculum on an accelerated timeline.

Nursing Specialties in Demand

With such a high demand for knowledgeable nurses, there is no better time than now to pursue a career in nursing. But keep in mind that each of these specialties has a few factors to consider, such as:

  • Personality
  • Plans for the future
  • Additional education and certification
  • Financial goals
  • Work setting

With so many excellent options, here are some nursing specialties that might be a good fit for you.

NDMU student in scrub walking hallway with woman

Pediatric Nurse

If you are passionate about nursing and love working with children, you do not need to pick between the two. Pediatric nurses work exclusively with children from birth through their teen years. This can be in a variety of settings, from a family care clinic to a hospital. These nurses are invested in the well-being of their patients and often get to watch them grow up. Pediatric nursing takes a kind and gentle personality since you work closely with children. It can also be a difficult profession when children experience suffering, so you must be resilient and able to empathize with children and their families. This specialty requires additional certification.

Critical Care Nurse

Patients with life-threatening conditions are placed in the intensive care unit (ICU). Critical care nurses work in these units hoping to ultimately transfer patients to other units to receive more specialized care. Because nearly everything in the ICU is urgent, it can be a high-stress environment with life-or-death decisions. Many ICU nurses thrive in fast-paced environments and have a clear head, even in constant stressful situations. This is often considered one of the most challenging nursing specialties, but it can be highly rewarding to help save lives every day.

NDMU nursing student wearing stethoscope

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Psychiatric Nurse

Psychiatric nurses have a Psychiatric-Mental Health (PMH) certification and specialize in treating patients with mental health issues. They work to educate and promote psychiatric wellness and treat patients needing medical intervention. They might work in a psychiatry or therapy clinic or the psych ward of a hospital. This position requires patience, compassion, and strong personal boundary-setting skills since you will be working so closely with individuals who can have a wide variety of invisible diseases.

Nurse Midwife

Becoming a nurse midwife might be your perfect fit if helping bring new life into the world gets you excited about being a nurse. Nurse midwives work with women and their children during the prenatal, delivery, and postpartum stages to ensure the best possible outcome for the mother and child. They are highly knowledgeable about reproductive health and pregnancy. To become a nurse midwife, you will need additional certification, strong adaptability skills, and a nurturing spirit.

Oncology Nurse

Oncology nurses provide treatment for patients with cancer. They care for patients of all ages, clarifying the diagnosis and treatment plan, supporting the family, and helping treat symptoms. These nurses often build strong relationships with their patients during cancer treatment since their time in the hospital can be highly emotional. You will need to become an Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN), have excellent communication skills, be a good listener, and be emotionally resilient.

Hospice Nurse

Becoming a hospice nurse takes a special type of person, and this can also be a highly rewarding profession. These nurses work with patients receiving end-of-life care. Hospice patients often return to their homes for treatment that will keep them comfortable and reduce pain during their final days. Hospice nurses provide kindness, support, and care for families during this time, monitoring visitor traffic in the home. They may obtain certification after working a certain number of hours in the field. This specialty requires compassion and willingness to see death on a daily basis.

emergency personnel helping someone onto a helicopter

Does working outside of the hospital appeal to you? Learn more about your options for non-bedside nursing jobs.

Choosing What Nursing Career Path is Best for You

If you are still unsure which career path is right for you, don’t worry. When choosing a nursing specialty, it might be difficult to know what you want until you experience it firsthand. You will have an opportunity to explore different avenues during your ABSN clinical rotations. This will be the perfect time to try different nursing settings, ask questions, and discover what works best with your personality and motivations. You might be surprised.

If you want to know more about how to choose a nursing specialty, our admissions team would love to help you plan out your nursing future. Contact an admissions counselor today to get started.