You are in or did you recently graduate nursing school? There are so many nursing departments and nursing specialties out there. Is there one that sticks out to you? But, what comes next?
You’re unsure of what specialty you want to commit to. You don’t want just any department – you’re looking for one that you will tenure with.
Below are specialties that you will find, along with some details about each department and what makes it different.
- Naturally empathetic
- Must be able to handle combative patients
- Lower starting pay, but the potential for significant growth with experience
Do you prefer watching shows like Psych or Monk? Psychology or “psych” is all about the brain and behaviors and working with patients on behavioral and mental health issues. COVID-19 has thrown a lot of wrenches in individuals’ mental health. They need a nurse like you to empathize with their circumstances, comfort them when they need an extra hand, and wave them goodbye when they are finished with their treatment and ready for discharge.
Before graduating, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a psych nurse residency program. Residency programs train new graduates in-house until they are ready to work on their own. According to ZipRecruiter, the salary range for a psych nurse starts around $48,000 and can go up to $120,000 a year.
Some of your responsibilities would include making nursing diagnoses, delivering appropriate treatment and patient education, consulting with other staff, completing vitals, and proper documentation. This might not be the specialty for you if you cannot handle potentially combative patients and volatile comments being thrown your way.
Psychology work is difficult, but it comes with an abundance of satisfaction, seeing your patients smile around you, and the bittersweet feeling when they graduate from needing care.
Labor and Delivery (L&D)
- You’re comfortable with watching birthing videos and seeing bodily fluids
- You have a passion for continuing your education
- Lower starting pay with room for growth and witnessing the miracle of birth
Do you tear up at birthing videos on Facebook or are you fascinated watching Meredith Gray have her children while munching on popcorn? Labor and delivery nursing might be for you. COVID-19 has changed the way that mothers are giving birth, and they need a supportive hand (or two) like yours to comfort them in a time of extreme pain and discomfort. They could also use a coach, to make sure that they breathe correctly, and a cheerleader, to keep their eyes on the prize.
This specialty might not be for you if you are squeamish at the sight of bodily fluids. Or if you have a hard time dealing with screaming sounds from women in labor anxiously awaiting the arrival of their baby.
For labor and delivery, it is important to want to continue your education beyond RN/BSN. Some go on to become nurse-midwives (master’s degree), while others pursue Obstetrics/Gynecology Nurse Practitioner degrees (doctoral degree).
There are also other undergraduate certifications that can bolster your application to become a labor and delivery nurse. Some hospitals/colleges offer residencies in labor and delivery for RNs to fast-track your start, while some career-pathing programs may offer internships.
The salary range for a labor and delivery nurse is around $46,000 to $87,000 per year, according to RegisteredNursing. Some of the responsibilities for an L&D nurse include preparing the mother for birth, consulting with other medical staff, taking vital signs, and providing medication.
Emergency Department (ED)
- You enjoy the rush and thrill of surprise
- You remain cool under pressure and can think on your feet
- Higher paying
Do you enjoy the thrill and rush of trauma and surprise on shows like Untold Stories of the ER or Night Shift? Emergency department nursing is right up your alley. Patients being rushed into the ER need a nurse like you to be the calming voice in a night full of panic, and to reassure them that you are doing all that you can to repair their injuries – visible and invisible.
This specialty might not be for you if you get anxious quickly or if you can’t think on your feet.
For emergency department nursing, being an EMT would give you a great edge on your application with exposure to emergency situations and critical skills. If not, there are other options as well to help you.
One option if you can get a job in a hospital is to pick up a shift or two and float in the emergency department to see how things operate. According to ZipRecruiter, the salary range for an emergency department nurse is $67,000 to $116,000 per year.
Some of the tasks that you will do as an emergency room nurse include triaging and assessing patients, taking vital signs, treating injuries, and drawing blood for labs.
- You are creative, patient, and understanding
- You are highly flexible and adaptable to different patients and personalities
- High paying
If your go-to shows on Netflix include Brain on Fire or Inside Out, the neurology department is right down your neural pathway. You would be dealing with diseases and conditions that take place within the nervous system including Parkinson’s disease, dementia, seizures, stroke, including other neurological disorders.
Patients need you, a nurse that is understanding, patient, and creative. Nervous system conditions are not one-size-fits-all cases. You could have six patients with the same condition, who all require a different treatment plan and various manners of speaking, in addition to personality differences. This specialty might not be for you if you are impatient, require instant validation, or think rigidly.
For neuro nursing, it is important to get your RN/BSN first. Then focus on developing a well-rounded resume with neuroscience-related work. This can include volunteering at a local facility or working as a research intern. In addition, some hospitals and school programs offer residencies that can bridge the gap in knowledge between you as a nursing student graduate until you are ready to practice on your own.
According to ZipRecruiter, the salary range for a neuro nurse is around $79,500 to $125,000 per year.
Some of the responsibilities of neurological nursing include assessing and monitoring patients, treating neurology symptoms, ensuring timely and appropriate communication, and administering medications.
- Very detail oriented
- You are compassionate, think critically, and have a ton of patience
- Low starting pay with a lot of potential for growth and advancement
Do you dot your eyes with an accurate diagram of a heart? Are drawn to watching Once Upon A Time for its heart-stopping qualities? If that’s the case, then cardiology might just be your vein. You will be working with patients that have conditions related to the heart. They need you, a nurse that has a heart, critical-thinking skills, and patience.
This specialty might not be for you if you distance yourself from your work, or have shaky hands.
For cardio nursing, it is important to graduate with your RN/BSN and create a meaningful wealth of experience in cardiac nursing. This could mean volunteering at a heart hospital or interning, and it could also consist of a residency program at a local hospital.
Most cardiology nurses go onto getting advanced education as well. According to ZipRecruiter, the expected salary range for a cardio nurse starts around $50,000 to $118,000 per year. Find a cardiology program near and dear to your heart.
Some of the responsibilities required of you include assessing patients and monitoring them for their condition, taking vital signs, administering cardiac stress tests, providing education to patients and families.
- You prefer working with smaller patient populations and get to know your patients
- You are patient, social, and compassionate
- High paying
Do you binge-watch B Positive? It follows a father in search of a kidney donor. This could lead you into a meaningful career working with patients that have nephrological disorders and conditions. Most of the patients you would work with have kidney disease which requires dialysis, and potentially kidney transplants. These patients need a nurse like you that is patient, social, and compassionate. This specialty might not be for you if you like to work with many patients, need to be doing something all of the time, or if you are introverted.
Nephrology nursing is more versatile than other fields; you can start at the LPN/LVN, ASN, or BSN levels. It is important to note that at each level, there will be a different scope of care and list of responsibilities. For nephrology, it is helpful to get experience in a hospital, or other acute care settings to develop practical skills. The salary range for a nephrology nurse ranges from approximately $93,000 to $128,000 per year, according to ZipRecruiter.
Some responsibilities of a nephrology nurse include assisting with dialysis, discussing patient symptoms, assessing and monitoring patients, assisting with kidney transplants, and administering medication.
Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
- Do you find satisfaction in helping those that are most in need?
- You’re a problem-solver, remain calm, and have compassion
- Low starting pay, but a lot of room for growth
Do you take pride in helping those that are most in need, and watch Netflix selections like Nurse Jackie and Gray’s Anatomy? You might be asking yourself what the difference is between the ICU and the ER? The ER is meant for a quick stay. That type of care only focuses on getting a patient stable and well enough to be transferred over to an ICU for a long-term visit. They work in tandem with each other but serve different roles in patient care. Patients need a nurse like you, that will help to calm them in a moment of crisis and put your best foot forward in problem-solving their care.
This specialty might not be for you if you have difficulties in problem-solving, quick thinking, or have a hard time dealing with pressure.
For ICU nursing, you can start at the RN or BSN level. It is important to obtain experience that focuses on intensive care and critical care. You might also find success in a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), as a NICU nurse if you prefer working with young children. According to Nurse.org, once you have two years of experience you can obtain ICU certification once you meet the proper criteria.
The average salary range for an ICU nurse is $50,000 to $145,000, according to ZipRecruiter.
Some responsibilities that you will have as a critical care nurse include patient assessments and monitoring, preparing patients before and after treatment, performing tests, and administer medication. You may also need to work in other specialty departments for certain situations.
Medical-Surgical (Med Surg)
- Do you cheer on your friends and like to be that powerhouse of energy?
- Are you a fan of working with a variety of patients?
- Low pay, but a lot of room for growth
Do you like to be a source of motivation to your friends, and enjoy working with a variety of patients? Medical-Surgical nursing might be the route for you. Med Surge nurses act as the before, during, and aftercare for a patient going through an operation. You help patients prepare for operations, assist in their operations and recovery, and witness wonderful transformations. Patients need a nurse like you that is poised, reassuring, and confident.
This specialty might not be for you if you have difficulties remaining calm, struggle to maintain your composure, or doubt your abilities and skills.
When wanting to specialize in med surge nursing, you can start at the RN or BSN level. To develop more experience, while you are in nursing schools, medical-surgical CNAs are in high demand. In addition, most jobs will require two years of nursing experience. It is important to find a place that will give you experience with medical-surgical skills and patients. Many schools and hospitals offer residency programs and pair you with a preceptor to help you develop and perfect your skills.
The salary range for a med surge nurse is $46,000 to $114,000 per year, according to ZipRecruiter.
Some of the responsibilities in medsurg nursing include administering medications, assessing and monitoring patients, assisting in operations, changing dressings, and monitoring vital signs.
This article explained various types of specialties that you can select before or upon graduation from nursing school, and we hope that you are able to use this as a resource to pick your specialty.
Build up a resume chockful of clinical experiences, and positive reviews from clinical and nursing instructors to set yourself up for your next step. Good luck with the rest of your studies, and congratulations on making it this far!