Many people are under the misconception that Covid caused the nursing shortage that has been plaguing hospitals all over the country for the last several years. Which makes sense. It’s the big bad boogyman that can be blamed for everything from the state of the housing market to the increasingly fraught political scene playing out all across the country.
And while the coronavirus did certainly accelerate resignations in the healthcare industry, reducing the staffing shortages we see today to a casualty of the pandemic ignores the true source of the problem.
Nursing is hard.
So hard, that for decades, more people have been leaving the profession than entering it. And when most nurses quit, they don’t pivot into a different aspect of healthcare. They leave for different waters entirely.
It doesn’t have to be that way. There are many different types of specialties in nursing, each with a unique set of requirements and rewards. In this article, we provide a sweeping primer on the different types of nursing specializations.
Despite a fairly quick education for nurses, there a certain set of skills that are required to specialize in a specific nursing field? There are certainly a wide range of concepts that may be unique to each field. However, the skills required to be an effective nurse are largely consistent among the various fields.
- Empathy: Nurses need to be able to understand and sympathize with their patients’ situations. This quality empowers them to be effective advocates for people who are going through the most vulnerable moments of their lives.
- Patience: Most people agree that the healthcare industry is frustrating. Just imagine how frustrating it is for people who are completely entrenched in it. Nurses need to have the patience to deal with the stresses of the job and the complications of the industry if they are going to be effective.
- Adaptability: Nursing requires a significant amount of flexibility every day. As a nurse, you may have long periods of tedium followed by extremely intense and abrupt situations that require your full attention. You will also be expected to adapt to new regulations, expectations, and ways of doing things. School is never completely out for nurses so be prepared for a life of learning.
These skills will help you prepare for a life in nursing, regardless of what specialization you choose. Below, we take a look at how to specialize, and what jobs will be waiting for you when you do.
How to Specialize
All specialized nurses start by going through a four-year degree program, or an accelerated equivalent that is licensed in their state. During that time, they are able to choose specialties that qualify them to work in a unique setting.
However, some specializations may require additional schooling, or training programs. Highly competitive jobs may even only accept applicants who have years of clinical or bedside experience.
Each job is a little bit different in its requirements, but all of them favor professionals who are willing to work hard and put in the time to learn the ropes.
Below we feature five prominent examples of nursing specializations. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are literally dozens of potential jobs.
Diabetes is hard to manage. Even healthcare workers with diabetes struggle to get the right balance of glucose-related needs, and often experience sleepless nights as they try to regulate their blood sugar and stay safe.
Imagine how it feels to be on the outside of the healthcare system and find out very abruptly that diabetes has just changed your life forever.
Diabetes nurses are there to help make the transition more manageable. They meet regularly with newly diagnosed diabetics, answering their questions and helping them understand what to expect. Typically, they will work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, and diabetes management centers.
In certain situations, they may even help people develop a strategy for transitioning out of diabetes (as is sometimes possible with Type 2 diabetes).
It’s important work that literally helps save lives. However, it also tends to have more relaxed hours than traditional bedside nursing. Most diabetes nurses don’t have to work holidays or night shifts, making this an ideal position for people that enjoy being a nurse but are interested in getting a better work-life balance.
If you like the little kiddos, pediatric nursing might be for you. Pediatric nurses work with infants all the way up to eighteen-year-olds, assisting with a broad range of early health needs. Pediatric nurses can be found in a wide range of settings, including hospitals, clinics, schools, and doctors’ offices.
While they certainly are there to help with the physical needs of their patients, they also receive training to deal with the complex and ever-evolving emotional needs of young patients, making them an important aspect of their patient’s lives.
Critical Care Nursing
Critical care nursing isn’t for the faint of heart. These nurses work with patients in some of their most desperate moments, usually in the ICU, or other high-acuity settings in which the outcome of a procedure could quite literally mean life or death for the patient.
These nurses are specifically trained to work with people who have experienced life-threatening injuries or other deadly health events. Responsibilities can range from assisting in surgery to administering important medications and monitoring vital signs.
As is surely clear, this isn’t a good fit for people who are looking for lower-stakes nursing. However, if you appreciate a fast-paced work environment and you thrive under pressure, this may be right for you.
Obstetric and Gynecological Nursing
Gynecological and obstetric nursing specializes in providing care to women during and after pregnancy. It’s very much a women’s health position, focusing particularly on the reproductive stage of life. It can be an exciting job, helping families grow, but there are also many pressures to be aware of.
Gynecological nurses working in the hospital setting will assist with childbirth, which in and of itself is a daunting process. There are also many very significant complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth, adding a degree of pressure to this job.
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing
Psychiatric nursing sees the nurse working directly with patients who are suffering from mental and emotional disorders. These responsibilities play out in psychiatric hospitals, clinics, and even community health centers.
The role of a nurse may be to help manage medications or even administer therapeutic interventions that help the patient cope with mental and emotional distress.
It’s challenging work, certainly not for the faint of heart, but it can make a significant difference in the lives of the patients who are impacted.
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With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.
Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.