As patients present increasingly complex healthcare needs and technology and treatments continue to advance, nurses must have the expertise and knowledge to meet those challenges. This applies to both nurses providing bedside care and those who are or want to be in leadership, advocacy and research roles. Nurses will need to expand their skillsets in a way that keeps pace with the trajectory of modern healthcare.
Specializing in one area of nursing and becoming certified demonstrates proficiency to employers and colleagues and typically opens additional career pathways. Nurses may continue to acquire specialty certifications in any number of areas, especially as market demand dictates, thereby maintaining an almost endless array of career opportunities.
What Types of Nursing Specializations Are Available?
One of the most appealing aspects of nursing specialization is the ever-widening scope of certifications that are available. As you develop your nursing career, your interests might evolve. With dozens of specializations to choose from, you can pursue education on topics that fit their personality, interests and life stage.
Specializations are roughly broken down into six different nursing categories, which are listed below, along with a few examples of each:
- Surgical: Nurses are involved in patient surgical procedures, including pre- and post-op care. Roles in this area include: cardiac cath lab nurse, transplant nurse and plastic surgery nurse.
- Emergency: This certification is a great option for nurses who enjoy a fast-paced work environment. Roles include a toxicology nurse, burn care nurse and emergency room nurse.
- Management: This specialization is perfect for nurses interested in leadership, healthcare structure, quality and efficiency. Potential roles include an informatics nurse, quality improvement nurse and case management nurse.
- Family: Ideal for those who wish to interact with individuals trying to conceive, expectant mothers or the elderly, you can be the following with this specialization: genetics nurse, obstetrics nurse and a geriatric nurse.
- Community: In this specialization, nurses focus on the well-being of people residing in a certain area, often with a special emphasis on education and acute care. Roles include a transcultural nurse, a wound, ostomy and continence nurse and a school nurse.
- Long-term: With this specialization, nurses provide support and care for patients with chronic conditions and diseases. Potential jobs include a nephrology nurse, a neuroscience nurse and an infusion nurse.
What Are the Benefits of Specializing?
Specializing allows nurses to acquire skills above and beyond their primary nursing education. For example, a nurse who has completed a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program has a foundational understanding of evidence-based nursing, culturally appropriate care strategies, leadership and research. However, if you are interested in learning more about a particular topic or subspecialty, specializations can be a great alternative.
Specializations bolster your marketable skill sets, setting you apart from your colleagues and leading to diverse career opportunities and enhanced earning potential. For example, the average annual salary for a certified emergency room nurse is more than $86K, according to PayScale (March 2021), while PayScale data from the same timeframe indicates that a noncertified RN's average annual salary is just $65K.
What Are the Requirements to Pursue Specializations?
Although eligibility requirements vary by specialization type, there are some basic qualifications that all interested nurses must meet. In order to pursue a specialization, you must:
- Hold an active and unencumbered RN license
- Complete a degree program, such as a BSN
- Complete a minimum number of active clinical hours related to the specialization
Otherwise, there are not many restrictions and nurses have the freedom to acquire numerous specializations over the span of their careers.
Set Yourself Apart
Nursing specializations are a way to stand out among your peers, focus on your evolving interests and collect marketable, in-demand skill sets. A subspecialty certification may lead to more lucrative job offers and advancement opportunities as well as command a boosted income. With dozens of options to choose from, and likely new specializations emerging as research and technology advances, nurses who specialize can benefit from nearly endless career pathways.
Learn more about La Salle University's online RN to BSN program.
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