Congratulations! The hard decisions are over, right? Not quite. Most RNs eventually end up specializing in a particular type of nursing, and because education and work requirements differ by field, the earlier you know which nursing specialty interests you, the better.
Maybe you want to be a flight nurse, providing emergency care for trauma victims en route to the hospital. Or perhaps you’d enjoy providing medical counsel to the courts by working as a legal nurse consultant. If you love working with infants or children, a career as a neonatal nurse or school nurse could be a perfect fit. There are hundreds of possible career paths within nursing, so how do you choose the one for you?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself that can help point you in the right direction:
- How far do I want to go in my education? Some advanced practice nurses, such as clinical research nurses or nurse-midwives, are required to earn a master’s degree and additional certifications before they can practice in their chosen field.
- Is there a particular type of patient or a certain kind of health problem that interests me? Nurses such as geriatric and pediatric nurses specialize in patients of a particular age and stage in life, while nurses such as HIV nurses or oncology nurses have advanced knowledge of specific diseases and how they affect a wide range of patients.
- What kind of work environment do I tend to thrive in? If you like to think on your feet and prefer the fast pace of a hospital or health clinic, specialties like surgical nursing, emergency nursing, burn nursing or wound care nursing may appeal to you. Some nurses prefer to work with the same patients over an extended period of time in settings other than hospitals, such as corporations, long-term care facilities, correctional facilities or individual patients’ homes.
- What kinds of rewards do I find motivating? While all types of nurses experience the emotional reward of making a difference to their patients, some nursing specialties—particularly advanced practice areas requiring higher levels of education and work experience—can offer significant financial rewards as well. Nurse anesthetists, for example, may earn more than $150,000 a year but must also seek continuous education and recertification to remain at the forefront of their field.
In addition to understanding your own goals and preferences, it’s helpful to talk to a variety of practicing nurses about what they do and what they love most about their jobs. By asking questions, doing your research, and leveraging resources like FindNursingSchools.com and others that discuss nursing career options, you’re sure to find a specialty that sparks your interest and fuels your passion.