Five nurses standing next to each other and smiling

How Do I Choose a Nursing Specialty? Here are Some Tips from an Expert

By: Donnie Hypolite, FNP-C

Choosing a nursing specialty is an important decision that can affect your job satisfaction and career trajectory. There are many factors to consider, such as your interests, personality, skills and values.


Tips on How to Choose a Nursing Specialty
  • Start by reflecting on your own interests and values. What aspects of nursing are you most drawn to? What populations do you find most rewarding to work with? What are your career goals?


  • Research different nursing specialties. Learn about the types of patients and conditions you would work with, the work environment, and the educational and certification requirements.


  • Talk to nurses who work in different specialties. Get their insights on the pros and cons of each specialty and what a typical day might look like.


  • Consider your personality and skills. Some specialties, such as emergency room nursing, require quick thinking and the ability to work under pressure. Others, such as oncology nursing, require patience and compassion.


  • Shadow nurses in different specialties. This can give you a firsthand look at what the job entails and whether it’s a good fit for you.


Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Nursing Specialty
  • What kind of work environment do I prefer? Do I want to work in a hospital, clinic, school, or other setting?


  • What kind of work schedule am I willing to work? Some specialties, such as critical care nursing, often require night and weekend shifts.


  • How much travel am I willing to do? Some specialties, such as travel nursing, require frequent travel.


  • How much education and training am I willing to pursue? Some specialties, such as nurse anesthesia, require a master’s degree.


  • What is my salary range? Some specialties, such as nurse practitioners, have higher salaries than others.


Once you have considered all of these factors, you can start to narrow down your choices. It’s important to choose a specialty that you are passionate about and that you feel well-suited for.


Popular Nursing Specialties
  • Medical-surgical nursing: Medical-surgical nurses provide care to patients with a wide range of conditions, from minor illnesses to major surgeries.


  • Critical care nursing: Critical care nurses care for patients who are critically ill or injured. They work in intensive care units (ICUs) and other critical care settings.


  • Pediatric nursing: Pediatric nurses care for children and adolescents from birth to age 18.


  • Obstetrics and gynecology nursing: Obstetrics and gynecology nurses care for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum recovery. They also provide care for women with gynecological conditions.


  • Psychiatric nursing: Psychiatric nurses care for patients with mental health conditions. They work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices.


  • Oncology nursing: Oncology nurses care for patients with cancer. They work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and cancer centers.


  • Emergency room nursing: Emergency room nurses care for patients with a wide range of emergencies, from minor injuries to life-threatening illnesses. They work in emergency rooms and other urgent care settings.


  • School nursing: School nurses provide care to students in schools and universities. They work to promote the health and well-being of students and to manage any health problems that arise.


  • Occupational health nursing: Occupational health nurses work in businesses and industries to promote the health and safety of workers. They assess workplace hazards, educate workers about health and safety, and provide care to injured or ill workers.


  • Nurse practitioner (NP): NPs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have a master’s degree in nursing and have completed specialized training in a particular area of practice. NPs can diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medications, and order and interpret tests.


  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA): CRNAs are APRNs who have specialized training in anesthesia. They administer anesthesia to patients before surgery and monitor them during and after surgery.


These are just a few of the many nursing specialties available. With so many options to choose from, there is a specialty out there that is perfect for everyone.


About the author: Donnie Hypolite has been a nurse for 10 years. She has a wide array of knowledge on nursing from her experience in med/surg and emergency room nursing as an RN and urgent care, emergency response, wound care and leadership as a family nurse practitioner. Donnie is currently the Director of Clinical Operations for Krucial Rapid Response and is responsible for the coordination of care from a clinical perspective in the planning and execution phases of responding to emergencies. She also holds several licenses to ensure her organization is compliant with various state mandates. In her free time she enjoys traveling the world and exploring national and state parks.

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