Earning a nursing degree is only the beginning. After graduating from your nursing program, you’ll be starting on a rewarding career path filled with growth and development opportunities. You’ll also have the chance to choose a nursing specialty that allows you to work in the healthcare sector you find most interesting or rewarding.
As a registered nurse (RN), you can work in the emergency department, labor and delivery, the intensive care unit (ICU), pediatrics … the list goes on and on. With so many different specialties to choose from, finding the one that’s right for you can be tricky. Some folks know what specialty they would like to pursue as soon as they put on a pair of medical scrubs for the first time. Others have a much harder time deciding.
If you are unsure what steps to take next as you embark on your career, here are a few things to consider when choosing a nurse specialty:
1. Your Preferred Job Setting
Nurses don’t just work in hospitals and physicians’ offices. They also work in research labs, public health departments, schools, industrial job sites and corrections facilities. You could even specialize in home healthcare and deliver skilled nursing to people’s homes. Think about whether you would prefer working in a traditional hospital setting or if you would be happier working outside of this type of facility.
2. Your Personality and Interests
If you aren’t fond of kids, specializing in pediatrics probably isn’t your best bet. If you thrive on excitement and new challenges, you’d probably be happier working in the emergency room than in a nursing home. Each nursing specialty has unique challenges, perks and drawbacks. Choosing one that complements your interests and personality allows you to perform at your peak and makes the job more enjoyable.
3. How Much You Enjoy Working with People
Just because you became a nurse to help people doesn’t necessarily mean that you love working directly with the public, and that’s perfectly fine. Whether you are an extrovert or more of an introvert, there are nursing specialties that are right for you.
If you don’t think of yourself as much of a “people person,” you might enjoy working as a forensics nurse, nurse researcher, informatics specialist or legal nurse consultant. Working as an emergency nurse, ICU nurse, medical-surgery nurse or pediatrics nurse is a better choice if you are an extrovert who loves meeting new people and interacting with patients and their families.
4. Daily Job Responsibilities
No matter what specialty you choose, being a nurse comes with a lot of responsibilities. However, depending on your personality type, you’ll likely find some responsibilities more appealing than others. If you enjoy taking on leadership roles, you might want to work toward becoming a nurse manager or nursing executive. If you’d rather spend your days close to the bedside, though, roles like nursing education, case management, geriatrics or critical care may be more suited to you.
5. Desired Salary
How much are you hoping to earn as a nurse? If your goal is to earn considerably more than the average RN, you will need to choose a specialty with a high earning potential or pursue leadership or management positions. You may also need to pursue a higher degree, such as a BSN, MSN or DNP. Travel nursing could be another good option if you are looking for greater income potential.