A Registered Nurse (RN) can specialize in one or more of the patient care specialties as per job requirements or personal preferences. The most common specialties have been divided into four main categories, on basis of:
Work setting or types of care provided,
Disease for which care is provided,
Body organ or the system for which care is provided, and
the section of population for which care is provided.
RNs may look towards specializing in any of the following popular specialties, with major emphasis on work settings and types of care they plan to provide.
Ambulatory Care Nurses provide health needs of individuals and families in diverse settings on outpatient basis. Emerging trend is “Telehealth” where care is provided by means of Internet or other communications in media. Stress involved is lesser than inpatient settings. Certified by “American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)”, employers are usually ambulatory providers such as Primary Care Offices, HMOs, clinics, mobile health units etc.
Burn Care Nurses are employed in hospitals with burn departments or clinics providing such services. It can be physically and psychologically draining.
Critical Care Nurses are one of the in-demand health care professionals due to their ability to make quick decisions and stay calm, when lives are at stake. They provide care to patients with cardiovascular, respiratory or pulmonary failure, in intensive care hospital units.
Emergency/Trauma Nurses are in demand for their ability to make quick decisions about patients’ condition and stay clam while dealing with potential life-threatening conditions caused by accidents, strokes, and heart attacks. Stress and grief pose challenge, while role autonomy, and team work are the characteristics. Certified by “Board Of Certification For Emergency Nurses”, employers are acute-care and specialty hospitals, and emergency medical systems. In addition, they may become Flight nurses providing medical care to patients who are air-lifted for transportation to nearest the medical facility.
Holistic Nurses attend to all aspects of wellness and health of a holistic nature, where connection between mind, body and spirit is acknowledged and whole person is treated, rather than caring for just a disease or a symptom. Acupressure, Acupuncture, Massage, Aroma therapy, Yoga, and Biofeedback are performed by a Holistic Nurse.
Home Healthcare Nurses provide at-home care to patients in post-operative, post-partum stages or when recovering from accidents.
Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses provide care for terminally ill patients outside of hospitals with objective to ease their pain and suffering. They care for physical and emotional needs of dying patients and their family with interventions like pain management, palliative care, symptom management and emotional support. Certified by “National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses”, employers are usually hospices, home health, hospitals and long-term care facilities. Dealing with deaths of all your patients is a big challenge in itself but the feeling of taking care of a dying patient and the opportunity to practice holistic nursing are motivational factors for many.
Infusion Nurses provide intravascular medications, fluids, blood products and assess their impact on the condition of patients. Certified by “Intravenous Nurses Certification Corporation”, they are employed by hospitals, home health agencies and in physician offices. Irregular schedules, excessive paper work, and stress are the challenges. While role autonomy in addition to technical mastery are a few of the plus points.
Long-term Care Nurses provide nursing, psychosocial and personal care services on a recurring basis to patients with chronic physical or mental disorders. Increasing patient acuity can be a drawback for some but the lesser pressure and chaos is a plus.
Medical-Surgical Nurses provide basic health care to patients in all health settings.
Occupational Health Nurses work towards Primary Prevention and keeping the workforce healthy by combining concepts of public health and nursing, besides working towards realizing standards set by Occupational Safety and Health Act, maintaining records, providing care to the ill or injured employees. Certified by “”American Board for Occupational Health Nurses””, employers are usually in business establishments, factories, or mills.
PeriAnesthesia Nurses prepare patients for a surgical experience, support safe transition out of anesthetized state and provide intensive care to patients until they are ready to be discharged from the perianesthesia care unit. Certification is done by”American Board Of PeriAnesthesia Nursing Certification”
Peri-Operative Nurses provide preoperative, intraoperative and postoperative care to patients and assist surgeons in the operation room by handling instruments, controlling bleeding and suturing incisions. Learning opportunities and teamwork are a plus, while frequent emergencies and exposure to human suffering may be a drawback for some. Certified by “CNOR and CRNFA Certification Board Perioperative Nursing”, employers are usually in hospital surgical departments, ambulatory surgical centers, clinics, or a physician’s offices.
Psychiatric Nurses care for patients with personality and mental disorders. Uncooperative or dangerous patients may be one of the drawbacks besides restrictive patient-care policies, excessive paper work and a conflict from misconceptions and mental illness. Certification is done by ANCC.
Radiologic Nurses provide care to patients undergoing radiation procedures (like Ultrasonography or MRI) for diagnosis or treatment, as in a case of cancers.
Rehabilitation Nurses care for patients with temporary, progressive or permanent disabilities which alter normal functions and affect the quality of life. Motivating patients and producing will lead to a fruitful life and is a challenge. Certification is done by ” Rehabilitation Nurses Certification Board”.
Transplant Nurses provide care for transplant recipients and living-donors thorughout the process ofthe transplantation. Organ resource allocation and other ethical issues besides loss and grief could be drawbacks towards joining this specialty.
RNs may also consider specializing in the following specialties, with major emphasis on the disease, which they plan to provide care for:
Addiction Nurses provide care to patients who seek help with alcohol, drug, and marijuana addictions.
Developmental Disabilities Nurses help physically,and mentally disabled patients with feeding, controlling bodily functions, and tosit/ stand with the least assistance.
Diabetes Management Nurses assist diabetics in disease management by educating them about proper nutrition, blood sugar testing, and insulin self-injection.
Genetics Nurses provide screening, early detection, and treatment of patients with genetic disorders including Cystic Fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, Hereditary Brest Cancer, etc. Major challenges are informed decision-making, consent, confidentiality, and dealing with negative outcomes. The certification is done by “International Society Of Nurses in Genetics”.
HIV/AIDS Nurses provide care for physical, psychological, spiritual and social suffering of patients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Safety hazards are a major drawback. Certified by “HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board”, employers usually are in hospices, hospitals, home health care, and long-term care agencies.
Oncology Nurses are empathic and caring towards patients diagnosed with cancers. They also administer chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Certification is done by “Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation”.
Enterostomal Therapy Nurses, specialized in prevention of pressure ulcers, also provide care to patients with wounds caused by trauma and ulcers; provide post-operative care for patients with alternative methods of bodily waste elimination; and treat patients with urinary and fecal incontinence.
RNs can opt for any of the following specialties with emphasis on body organ or system for which they plan to provide care:
Cardiac and Vascular Nurses provide care for patients suffering from Coronary heart Disease and post-operative rehabilitation of patients who have undergone cardiac surgery. Patient resistance, noncompliance and emergencies may be problem for few nurses. Certification is done by ANCC.
Dermatology Nurses provide education, care for patients with various types of skin ailments, like skin cancers, psoriasis, etc.
Gastroenterology Nurses provide care for patients with digestive and intestinal disorders, including ulcers, acid reflux disease, and more. They may be specialized in endoscopic procedures as well. Certification is done by “Certifying Board of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates, Inc.”
Gynecology Nurses provide care to females with disorders of reproductive system, including endometriosis, cancers and sexually transmitted diseases.
Nephrology Nurses provide care for patients with kidney disease and work to preserve renal function. Dealing with emotional impact of renal disease and multi system failures could be problematic for few nurses.
Neuroscience Nurses care for patients with nervous system dysfunctions, including brain and spinal cord injuries, seizures, alterations in cognition, communication, sexuality, etc.
Ophthalmic Nurses provide care to patients with disorders of the eyes, including cataract and glaucoma. They assist surgeons and may make pre and post-operative home visits. Certified by “National Certifying Board for Ophthalmic Registered Nurses”, employers specialty are hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, HMOs, and home-care agencies.
Orthopedic Nurses provide care to patients with muscular and skeletal problems, like arthritis, bone fractures, muscular dystrophy, etc. Certified by “Orthopedic Nursing Certification Board”, employers specialty is hospitals and HMOs.
Otorhinolaryngology Nurses care for patients with disorders of the ear,nose and throat, including cleft palate, allergies, and sinus disorders.
Respiratory Nurses provide preventive, acute or critical and rehabilitative support to patients with respiratory ailments like asthma, tuberculosis, etc.
Urology Nurses provide care for patients with disorders of kidney, urinary tract and male reproductive organs, including infections, stones and cancers.
RNs may specialize in any of the following specialties with focus on providing care to a particular section of population:
Neonatology Nurses care for neonates.
Pediatrics Nurses care for infants, toddlers, children and adolescents.
Geriatrics Nurses provide care to the elderly population.
Correctional Facilities Nurses provide basic health care to patients in reformatory centers.
School Nurses’ role in providing basic health care to patients in schools is well known.
Summer Camps Nurses provide basic health care to patients in summer camps, trekking camps and similar.
Military Nurses focus on providing basic health care to military personnel and their family.
In a nutshell, diversification and specialization options in nursing are worth appreciation. Great prospects in addition, make nursing one of the most sought