Nursing school offers students the unique ability to experience different areas of the nursing profession. You can experience being a psych RN, L+D (labor and delivery) RN, or even a critical care nurse. Each experience will help you decide which area of nursing you want to specialize in. Different specializations will have different salaries, environments, workload, stress levels, and many other differences. It’s important to choose the right specialty for the type of person you are. A strong nurse will be able to adapt to any nursing unit, but specializing in a specific area allows you to master the nursing care of the unit you are working on. This leads us to the main question: How do you figure out what area fits you best? Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding which nursing specialty area is best suited for you.
Floor nurses make a great salary, and that’s not including the overtime. If you’re really looking to earn a high salary as a nurse, then choosing a specialty that is in demand such as a CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetist) is a good place to be. The higher salary leads to more responsibility, more demanding work hours, and more schooling to help further your career.
Think about what your interests are and what kind of a person you are outside of your scrubs. Do you enjoy working with children? Have you had experience with working with infants and toddlers, maybe babysitting your little cousin? Specializing in pediatrics might be your calling. Are you a thrill seeker always looking for something new and exciting to do? Then perhaps the ER or trauma unit is a great option. Do you have experience teaching? Do you enjoy showing others how to do things? Then a nurse educator sounds right up your alley. Not every unit is for every nurse. Some nurses prefer the hustle and bustle of the emergency room whereas other nurses prefer long-term care in which they can build on the nurse-patient relationship during the extensive duration of care. It all comes down to where you feel comfortable and where you can provide the best possible care for your patients.
Certain areas of nursing require specific certifications and additional training, such as oncology nurses in terms of administering chemotherapy. This may mean that if you are not certified, or have little experience, you may not be asked to float to a heavy oncology floor. In addition to a salary increase, you may be required to attend certification refresher courses to maintain your certification.
It’s no secret that nursing, regardless of what unit you are on, comes with some level of stress. Units like the emergency department, trauma, or the intensive care unit have extreme levels of high stress. This is where you see and experience all kinds of patients and patient care, and you never know what is going to come through those ER doors. Most specialized areas of nursing require long hours, little to no breaks, and extreme high levels of stress. If you have a lot of responsibilities at home, these units may not be ideal for you in terms of managing a stressful career and home life. Other alternatives such as working as a school nurse or in a doctor’s office would be ideal if your home life is extremely busy.
If you want to specialize in a certain area of nursing, be prepared to go back to school. Masters degrees are often required for many specialties. Hospitals often offer programs where they help to fund your education, so it’s important when considering where to work to research these hospitals to see if this is an option for you. RN to MSN programs are easy to find, and many of them are offered online which will help with your busy nursing work schedule.
So, have you made up your mind yet?! It may seem overwhelming when deciding what area to specialize in and where to work, but trust in yourself that you will make the right decision. The only way to truly know what works for you and what doesn’t is by experience.