Beyond the Bedside: Nursing Career Specialties to Consider

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When someone asks you to imagine a nurse, your mind probably jumps to a stereotypical image. If you picture a person in scrubs, working in a hospital, like an episode of ER or Scrubs—you aren’t wrong, but nurses can do so much more. There are various types of nurses, each with their own distinct focus and requirements.

If you’re looking for reasons to become a nurse practitioner or researching to further your career—it’s important to understand all the different nursing specialties. Nursing specialties can range from pediatrics to oncology, camp nurses, dermatology, and everything in between.

Each type of nurse requires specialized training and education to get into their respective field. This could mean anywhere from studying for a few extra months to years, depending on the degree requirements to work in the specialty. This post is going to explore the different nursing career specialties, especially the options if you want to work beyond the bedside.

Registered Nurse

A registered nurse, also known as an RN, is a healthcare professional who has been licensed by a state board of nursing to provide patient care. These are the nurses that you’ll see in hospitals or clinics, long-term care facilities, and even nursing homes.

Becoming a registered nurse is the starting point for anyone looking to begin a career in nursing. After you become a registered nurse, it can be used as a launching point for further studies, for example, graduate qualifications in areas such as pediatrics, or becoming a family nurse practitioner.

Family Nurse Practitioner

A family nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with specialized training and advanced education. They have an essential role in our healthcare system and can provide advanced care in situations where a registered nurse cannot. For instance, they can take on primary care positions, diagnose and treat patients, as well as prescribe medication similarly to a physician.

Family nurse practitioners fall under the categorization of an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). They have the skills and knowledge to care for patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly.

If employability is important to you, family nurse practitioners are currently in high demand due to the recent lack of family care doctors. The projected field growth for the job is also expected to grow 44.5% in the next 10 years.

Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses are advanced practice registered nurses who have received specialized training and education. They provide care for patients who are experiencing acute and long-term health consequences associated with victimization or violence.

Forensic nurses can work in a variety of fields and settings. For instance, they can work in sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, corrections, and elderly mistreatment. They commonly work in hospitals, community anti-violence programs, coroner’s and medical examiner’s offices, and correctional institutions.

Nurse Educator

If you’re looking to go beyond the bedside, it might be a good time to consider becoming a nurse educator. Instead of being on the front lines in a patient-facing role, you’ll be behind a desk, teaching the next generation of nurses.

Becoming a nurse educator requires advanced nursing degrees and clinical experience. Nurse educators are registered nurses who have received further education that allows them to teach nursing curricula at colleges and universities. It’s a great option if you’re burnt out or want to move from working in hospitals or clinics dealing with patients, but still want to make a difference through healthcare.

Mental Health Nurse

If you’re interested in mental health, you should consider the psychiatric nursing career pathway. They receive advanced education to work alongside physicians and psychiatrists to assess, care, and treat mental health conditions and disorders in patients.

Working as a psychiatric-mental health nurse also opens the doors to new opportunities. It can also be used as a launching point if you’re interested in becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner. This would allow you to perform advanced assessments, prescribe medication, and provide psychotherapy or counseling.

Midwife

If you’ve got a passion for babies and women’s health, becoming a nurse-midwife might be a career specialty to consider. A nurse-midwife assists people with childbirth, as well as provides holistic care to women through the stages of their pregnancy.

A nurse-midwife typically works in hospitals, OB/GYN clinics, health clinics, birthing centers, and midwifery practices. They can conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat medical conditions, and provide advice/counsel for mothers-to-be.

Infection Control Nurses

Infection control nurses, sometimes also known as infection prevention and control nurses (IPCN), is a nurse specialization that focuses specifically on preventing and managing infections. They play a crucial role in hospitals and other healthcare facilities in preventing infections from occurring when a patient is receiving treatment.

The role and tasks of an infection prevention and control nurse would depend on the facility. For example, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, IPCN nurses would visit high-risk patients and areas, implement and monitor infection control programs, and provide education to staff and patients.

If you have an interest in pathology and microbiology, infection control nursing is a career specialty to consider. Especially with the pandemic, it was eye-opening for how important infection control nurses and infection prevention and control organizations are.

Which nursing specialty is right for you?

When considering which nursing specialty or career path is right for you—there are a few factors to consider. It’s important to think about advanced studies, your passions and interests, job opportunities in your area, and the salary.

This list only covers a few of the nursing career specialties available. There are even options in fields you’ve probably never even thought about. For instance, travel nurses, school nurses, and even camping nurses. Who wouldn’t want to be a nurse out in the wild, working specifically at campsites and retreats?

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