Nursing Specialties – Choosing the Right One

Choosing the Nursing Specialty That’s Right For You

Depending on whether you purse an RN to MSN program, BSN to MSN program or different type of masters in nursing, you will be opening yourself to a world where many nursing specialties exist. Nursing specialties cover oncology, pediatrics, cardiac, neonatal, obstetric/gynecological, neurological and psychiatric nursing, among others. And depending on what your career interest is, you will want to pursue the specialty that best prepares you for your future.

So, what are some of these nursing specialties?

Clinical Nurse Leaders
The first new nursing role in 35 years, the Clinical Nurse Leader oversees care coordination for patients, assesses risks, develops quality improvement strategies, facilitates inter-professional communication and implements evidence-based solutions at the point of care.

This growing profession is being implemented throughout the nursing field nationwide as many practice sites restructure their systems to accommodate Clinical Nurse Leaders. The role has already been implemented through education and practice partnerships encompassing more than 210 practice settings and 110 nursing schools in 39 states and in Puerto Rico.

  • Educational Requirements – RN licensure and certification by passing the Clinical Nurse Leader exam, or graduation from a Clinical Nurse Leader education program and certification by passing the Clinical Nurse Leader exam.
  • Job Descriptions – Relying on evidence-based practice, the Clinical Nurse Leader oversees clinical care and actively provides direct patient care in complex situations.
  • Career Tracks – Nurse Managers, Nurse Directors, Nurse Educators and Nurse Recruiters
  • Patient Responsibilities – Clinical Nurse Leaders are challenged to improve patient outcomes by helping organizations to reduce length of stay, decrease patient fall and injury rates, improve patient satisfaction and prevent readmissions.

Certified Nurse Midwife
A Certified Nurse Midwife is a primary health care provider to women throughout the lifespan. Nurse Midwives are certified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), which was founded in 1955. They seek to improve the quality of health for women and their families, at state, national and international levels.

  • Educational Requirements – Two-year graduate program for RNs or accelerated programs for full-time students who complete their undergraduate nursing education as well as graduate education in midwifery in three years. Certification obtained through exam. Must be recertified every five years.
  • Job Descriptions – Certified Nurse Midwives perform physical exams, prescribe medications, order lab tests, provide prenatal care, gynecological care, labor and birth care, health education and counseling to women of all ages.
  • Career Tracks – Primary Care, Comprehensive Gynecologic Care, Maternity Care
  • Patient Responsibilities – Midwives are responsible for providing initial and ongoing comprehensive patient assessment, diagnosis and treatment.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
Dating back to the 1800s, Nurse Anesthetists were the first health care providers dedicated to the specialty of anesthesia. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists are masters prepared advanced practice nurses who provide anesthetics to patients in every practice setting, for every type of surgery or procedure. They are the main provider of anesthesia to men and women serving the U.S. Armed Forces and the sole anesthesia providers in nearly all rural hospitals.

  • Educational Requirements – Bachelors degree in nursing (or other appropriate baccalaureate degree), RN licensure, minimum of one year acute care experience and successful completion of an accredited nurse anesthesia educational program and the national certification exam.
  • Job Descriptions – Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists provide care in four general categories: preanesthetic preparation and evaluation; anesthesia induction, maintenance and emergence; postanesthesia care; and perianesthetic and clinical support functions.
  • Career Tracks – Clinical Practice, Clinical Support Services, Administrative Roles, Research
  • Patient Responsibilities – Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists are challenged with providing anesthesia care in a safe manner. This includes patient assessment and evaluation, developing and implementing a plan, administering anesthesia, managing recovery, discharging patients, order pain relief therapy and responding to emergency situations.

Certified Nurse Educator
A Nurse Educator teaches and prepares LPNs and RNs for entry into practice positions, teach in various patient care settings and teach in graduate programs at masters and doctoral levels.

  • Educational Requirements – Associates degree or bachelors of science in nursing, earn RN certification, complete and MSN degree in Nurse Education and obtain certification.
  • Job Descriptions – Prepares LPNs and RNs for entrance into the medical field by developing and revising curriculum and other training materials. Certified Nurse Educators ensure quality patient care by assessing, coaching and mentoring nursing staff, and they also conduct medical research and participate in professional organizations.
  • Career Tracks – Education, Training, Mention Staff, Research
  • Patient Responsibilities – Certified Nurse Educators are responsible for helping nurses better relate to and take care of patients.

Clinical Nurse Specialist
Clinical Nurse Specialists are advanced practice RNs who integrate care across the continuum and through three spheres of influence: patient, nurse and system. The primary goal of their position is to improve both patient and outcome and nursing care.

  • Educational Requirements – Associates or bachelors of science in nursing degree, RN certification, MSN degree with a concentration in clinical care, and obtain certification and proper licensure.
  • Job Descriptions – Clinical Nurse Specialists typically examine patients then develop specific care based on assessment. Working closely with doctors, they review patient files and aid in patient diagnosis.
  • Career Tracks – Neurology, Oncology, Rehabilitation, Trauma Nursing, Women’s Health, Adolescent Health, Neonatal, Pediatric Oncology, Pediatric Pulmonary, School Health Nursing, Anesthesiology, Community Health, Home Health Care, Hospice Nursing, Occupational Health
  • Patient Responsibilities – Clinical Nurse Specialists are responsible for providing educational and therapeutic support to patients on how to best manage symptoms.

Regardless of which nursing specialties you pursue, you will probably want to look into either RN to MSN or BSN to MSN programs, as most of these specialties require a masters in nursing.


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