If you’re considering a career in nursing, you may be wondering how to determine what specialty is right for you. If you already are a nurse, you may be considering your next step. The best specialization for you rests at the intersection of your inspirations, interests, skills, and lifestyle needs.
Identify personal interests when considering a specialty
In general, specialties align with specific physiological, behavioral and/or developmental components of the human being.
For example, you may be interested in how the digestive system works: the specialty area for that would be gastroenterology. Maybe you also have an affinity for children: your specialty area could be pediatric gastroenterology.
Maybe you realize that you’re drawn to a specific element of pediatric gastroenterology, such as eating habits. You may refine your focus to pediatric eating disorders.
Determine a setting that would be satisfying
The setting in which nurses provide patient care is an important consideration. Pace, technology and patient acuity are three key factors to consider.
At one end of the spectrum are fast-paced settings requiring high-technology solutions for patients in need of immediate treatment. If this appeals to you, you may be best suited for working as a nurse in an emergency department, operating room, intensive care unit, or on a trauma team.
On the other end of the spectrum are slower-paced settings using minimal technology with low patient acuity. If this sounds appealing, you should consider environments such as private homes, schools, public health, long-term care facilities, hospices and nursing homes.
In the middle are settings offering a range of pace, with variability between the required technological solutions and patient acuity during any given shift, such as inpatient units, specialty clinics, and outpatient procedure and surgery centers.
Think about the type of role that suits you
There are two types of nursing roles in the healthcare industry: managerial and non-managerial. Each offers positions in both direct patient care or indirect patient care settings.
Some roles provide direct patient care, such as staff nurse, clinical specialist, nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, school nurse, home health nurse, public health nurse or procedural specialist, in areas as diverse as cardiac perfusion, dialysis, IV access and maintenance, and interventional radiology.
Other roles support patient care, such as infection control, case management, utilization review, educator, and researcher.
Identify education and skill requirements
Once you determine a specialty, setting and role to pursue, the last step is gaining the education and skills required for that position. Most specialties and advanced roles require knowledge and training beyond that of basic nursing.
A graduate degree or certification is common criteria for specialized and advanced practice in clinical, non-clinical, managerial and non-managerial roles. Check the professional association in your interest area for guidance.
Most of us become nurses to help patients, so rest assured that no matter what specialty area, setting or role you choose, your efforts will help people get the medical care they need.