Interested in training to become a nurse? If you earn your Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) and your nursing license, you can look forward to entering the job market with in-demand clinical skills. You can also look forward to making a difference in the lives of patients and their families every day.
Another attractive feature of nursing career is the opportunity for specialization. There is plenty of scope within the profession to move into a specific area of healthcare or work with a certain type of patient population. Through specialization, nurses can develop deep clinical expertise, build relationships with patients and practitioners, and grow as professionals.
To become specialists, ASN-qualified nurses usually need to gain entry-level work experience in a specific department, take professional development courses within the related specialty, and then pursue additional certification. Certification may be issued by national bodies, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or by specialized credentialing organizations.
If you decide to pursue a nursing degree and you are interested in a particular specialization, make sure you ask your instructors or clinical supervisor if they can help you find out whether there are additional training or qualifications required beyond what you learn in your ASN program.
You may also want to research whether there are extracurricular volunteering opportunities related to the specialty that interests you. Volunteering may offer you the opportunity to observe nurses at work, allowing you to understand more about what they do.
Five Common Nursing Specialty Options to Consider
We have listed specialties that ASN-qualified nurses can generally pursue after gaining work experience and some non-degree professional development. However, job qualifications for specialty positions will vary by employer. State regulations may also require additional certification or licensure for some nursing specialties. If you have an interest in a particular nursing specialty, it is always worth checking with your state board of nursing so you understand what education or qualifications may be required.
Critical Care Nursing
Nurses in critical care units work with the most challenging cases in a wide variety of settings. The two most common settings are the emergency room (ER) and intensive care unit (ICU). Critical care nurses must have exceptional stamina, emotional stability, and ability to work well under extreme pressure.
The difference between the two settings is generally one of pace: ER nurses must be prepared to respond rapidly to life-threatening situations, while ICU nurses will monitor and treat patients who have been stabilized but are still critically ill.[i] Nurses who gain work experience in an ER or ICU setting can pursue specialized certification from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses as their careers advance.
Patients struggling with kidney failure need artificial assistance to filter their blood—a process known as dialysis. Dialysis nurses help support patients through this process. They work as part of a team alongside dialysis technicians, nephrologists (doctors who specialize in treating kidney disease), and other practitioners, such as dieticians.
Nurses who enjoy developing long-term relationships with patients may choose this specialty, because patients with chronic kidney disease will need to have regular dialysis for years.[ii] While it is possible to pursue entry-level work in dialysis units as an ASN-qualified nurse, some employers may prefer applicants who have obtained certification from the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC).
Orthopedic (sometimes spelled “orthopaedic”) nurses support patients suffering from musculoskeletal disorders or injuries. This specialty covers everything from broken bones to osteoporosis (thinning and weakening of the bones). Nurses in this specialty will know a lot about pain management, casts, splints, mobility aids, and helping patients recover from surgery. Orthopedic nurses may work on inpatient hospital wards, outpatient clinics, care homes, or rehabilitation clinics.[iii]
Certification is usually not required to pursue entry-level work as an orthopaedic nurse. Experienced orthopedic nurses who want to advance their careers may pursue certification from the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board.
Oncology nurses care for patients being treated for cancer. They will assist patients during treatments such as chemotherapy and radiology, support them following surgeries, and act as an advocate and communication channel between patients, their families, and their cancer care teams. Oncology nurses may also help with coordinating treatment.[iv]
It’s common for oncology nurses to specialize in treating particular types of cancer patients as their careers progress—for example, blood and bone marrow cancers, breast cancer, or gynecological cancers.[v] While new nurses do not usually need specialized certification to pursue entry-level work in oncology nursing, experienced nurses can pursue certification from the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation.
A geriatric or gerontological nurse specializes in the care of older adults. They are experienced treating issues common to old age, including impaired mobility, injuries from falls, dementia/Alzheimer’s disease, incontinence, and cardiovascular problems. In addition, they also monitor their patients’ mental and social health, ensuring that patients are not depressed or experiencing elder abuse or neglect. Nurses in this specialty may work in hospitals, home care services, long-term care homes, outpatient clinics, and other settings.
Geriatric nurses often work closely with patients’ families. They may help to coordinate procedures or referrals, provide caregivers with advice and education about treating conditions at home, and more.
As the baby boom generation continues to age, demand for nurses with gerontological experience is likely to grow. This is especially true in Florida, where Altierus Career College’s ASN program is based. The Florida Department of Elder Affairs estimated that 5.3 million Florida residents were age 60 or older in 2016, accounting for 26% of the total state population.[vi] According to a 2015 analysis by the Pew Research Center, Florida’s population has the highest percentage of senior citizens (age 65+) in the nation.[vii]
Nurses who want to work in geriatric care do not usually need to pursue specialist certification to qualify for entry-level roles. Experienced geriatric nurses can pursue Gerontological Nursing Certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
Find Out How to Start Your Nursing Journey with Altierus Career College
No matter what nursing specialty interests you, the journey toward a nursing career starts with the right training. Learn more about the Associate of Science in Nursing program at Altierus Career College in Tampa today!