Choosing a nursing specialty can be an exciting yet overwhelming task.

One of the awesome things about nursing is that as a nurse, there are countless nursing specialties to choose from based on your interests and strengths.

However, this abundance of choice can make it nerve-racking to pick the right one.

In this article, I’m going to give you some food for thought to help you choose the nursing specialty that’s right for you.

If nothing else, by the end of this, I hope to help you either narrow down your choices or at least point you in the right direction.

Quick Points

Let’s go over a few quick house-cleaning things before we get started.

1. Where to Look for Nursing Jobs

First, if you’re looking for nursing jobs, you can check out the nursing job board on the site.

2. You’re Not Stuck in Your First Specialty

My second quick point is that you don’t have to feel stuck with the first specialty you choose.

Nursing offers a lot of options, and you can always switch if you find that your initial choice isn’t working out.

Or you get tired of a particular specialty after a while. You don’t need to feel like you’re married to your first specialty because you’re not.

Find Your Next Job
Use the NurseMoneyTalk job board to start looking for and applying to jobs near you.

3. It’s Okay If You Don’t Know

My last quick point is that it’s perfectly fine if you don’t know what specialty you want to pursue.

Some nursing students come into nursing school knowing exactly what they want, like becoming a CRNA or working in pediatrics, while others figure it out during their clinical rotations.

And for those who complete nursing school without a clear career path in mind, med-surg nursing can be a great starting point. This is due to the exposure to a variety of disease processes in med-surg.

What to Consider When Deciding a Nursing Specialty

Let’s now focus on the main part of this article, which is to help you figure out which nursing specialty is right for you.

When considering this, it’s important to take a close look at your preferences, interests, and non-negotiables.

By identifying these factors, you can search for nursing specialties that align with your established framework.

Even if a particular specialty doesn’t perfectly match your preferences, it’s still valuable to see if it meets enough of your criteria.

This is true even if the nursing specialty you choose is not the one you stick with long-term.

Here are some of the points of consideration:

1. How Much People Interaction Do You Want?

nurse counsel patient

One example to consider is whether you even want to deal with patients. This might seem like a strange question, but it’s a legitimate one.

There are nursing jobs where you have minimal direct contact with patients, yet you still use your nursing education.

For instance, if you’re very introverted and want to help people without being overwhelmed by constant interaction, there are several options.

For example, you could consider becoming a nurse case manager. In this role, you coordinate care for patients, often over the phone or via email rather than in person.

Another option is utilization review, where you assess the necessity and efficiency of healthcare services, typically in an office setting.

Nursing informatics is another field to explore, where you work with healthcare data and technology to improve patient care without much direct patient contact.

Now, of course, if you want direct patient contact, then the jobs I just mentioned might not be the best option for you.

2. Is the Job Schedule Important to You?

Something else to think about is the kind of schedule you want. Maybe it’s important to you to have a 9-to-5 job.

Maybe you prefer 12-hour or 16-hour shifts. Maybe you want the option to work nights, or maybe you want to avoid certain shifts altogether.

For example, most inpatient nursing jobs involve 12-hour shifts, and since hospitals are open during holidays, you’ll likely be required to work some holiday hours.

Night shifts might also be part of the deal.

If you prefer a more traditional Monday-to-Friday, 8-to-5 schedule, look into clinic or specialty clinic jobs.

For instance, when I worked in GI as an endoscopy nurse, it was a Monday-to-Friday job, typically 8 to 4, with no holidays or weekends.

However, that job did involve being on call occasionally, with a rotating call list.

3. Is There a Specific Patient Population You Like?

nurse with old woman

Another consideration is whether there’s a specific patient population you prefer.

Many new nurses quickly decide if they want to work with adults only, pediatrics only, or a mix of both.

In hospital settings, specialties are often divided between adult and pediatric units. In some cases, you might float between different specialty units in a large hospital.

Additionally, consider if you want to work with geriatrics, focusing on older adults. This often involves settings like nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

4. Is There a Specific Disease Process You Like or Don’t Like?

Think about whether there’s a specific disease process that interests you more than others or one you definitely don’t want to deal with.

For example, if you’re interested in heart-related conditions, working in a Cath Lab, cardiac ICU, or cardiac step-down unit might be appealing.

If mental health fascinates you, consider working in an inpatient or outpatient mental health unit.

Alternatively, consider if you have a strong interest in women’s health or OB-related areas, or if you prefer urology, there are specialties for those as well.

5. What Pace Do You Want to Work in?

nurse wheeling intubation equipment into emergnecy room

Consider the pace at which you want to work. Do you want a fast-paced environment where you’re constantly moving?

If so, emergency room nursing or endoscopy clinics might be a good fit. These settings involve rapid patient turnover and constant activity.

Conversely, if you prefer a slower pace where you can take your time and think through your actions, look for specialties that offer that environment.

Find Your Next Job
Use the NurseMoneyTalk job board to start looking for and applying to jobs near you.

6. Do You Want Something More High Stress or Low Stress?

This point is similar to the pace of work but also different. Do you want a high-stress or low-stress job?

You might have a nursing job where the pace is slower, but the stress level is high because your decisions carry significant weight, possibly involving life-and-death situations.

For example, working in an ICU, particularly in post-transplant recovery, involves high-stress decision-making.

Conversely, you might work in a faster-paced environment that is lower in stress.

For instance, endoscopy nursing can be very fast-paced. When I worked in GI, we prepped patients, assisted with procedures, and quickly turned over rooms for the next patient.

Most procedures, such as colonoscopies or EGDs, go according to plan, making it less stressful despite the quick pace.

7. Are There Parts of Patient Care That Make You Squeamish?

woman slightly squeamish holding her nose

Consider if there are aspects of patient care that make you squeamish.

For example, does blood make you uncomfortable? Or perhaps you find sputum or fecal material particularly off-putting.

If so, be aware that many direct inpatient care positions will involve dealing with these substances.

If you’re certain you want to avoid specific bodily fluids or types of care, this can help narrow down your specialty options.

8. How Much Money Do You Want to Make?

Something to ask yourself is how much do you want to make. Many aspiring nurses don’t want to think about this and will say it’s all about helping people.

While I do think you have to be about helping people, that doesn’t mean you need to forget that healthcare is a business, and we live in a capitalist society where you need money to take care of yourself and your loved ones.

With that said, certain nursing specialties can be more lucrative than others, especially depending on the demand where you live.

If this is important to you, ask around to more seasoned nurses or check on sites like Payscale or to get an idea of salary ranges for different specialties.

You Can Mix and Match Specialties

pediatric nurse smiling at a young patient

I’ve talked about various questions you can ask yourself regarding patient population, shifts, and disease processes.

As you figure out your interests and priorities, remember that each point doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

What I mean is you can mix and match your preferences to figure out what specialty works for you.

For example, maybe you only want to deal with adults, but you want to work Monday through Friday with “banker’s hours.” And you also don’t want to work holidays or weekends.

In that case, endoscopy nursing might be a specialty to consider.

Alternatively, if you prefer working with children but want a similar schedule, you could consider looking for endoscopy clinics that perform GI procedures on kids.

The key is to identify your preferences and then find specialties that match those interests as closely as possible.

My Personal Example

From my personal experience, you’re not stuck with whichever option you choose first.

I’ve worked in various specialties ranging from transplant ICU, mental health, and nursing leadership, just to name a few.

This variety has allowed me to explore different aspects of nursing and find what truly interests me.

Get started today and go to the nursing job board to start looking for nursing jobs.

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