13 Nursing Specializations
Nurse looking after a baby in an incubator

Different Types of Nurses

Do you know what type of nurse you want to become? There are various specialties, as well as travel nurse options. Many programs and degrees are offered online, so it's important to do research before applying.

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Once you have completed nursing school, you can choose to specialize in different areas of nursing. Many people choose to be a registered nurse, but other options include: ICU nurse, surgical nurse, ER nurse, geriatric nurse, pediatric nurse, and more.

According to nursejournal.org, the different education and certification paths are quite varied:

1. Registered Nurse

RNs can specialize across many departments in a hospital setting. They are highly valued because of their adaptability. RNs can choose to keep themselves available for many departments or they can specialize in one of the areas listed above.

2. Travel Nurse

Many RNs choose to become travel nurses instead of staying employed at one single hospital. They are typically employed by staffing agencies and assigned to jobs to fill in employment shortages when healthcare facilities are short staffed. These positions have become in-demand during the pandemic. To apply to become a travel nurse, you need the following:

  • NCLEX-RN license
  • Other certifications/training as needed, depending on speciality (such as surgical nursing, ICU, ER, etc.).

3. ICU Nurse

In addition to the associates or Bachelor of Science degree required to be a registered nurse, ICU nurses must have advanced training:

  • NCLEX-RN, Pediatric Advanced Life Support and Certification in Advanced Cardiac Life Support.
  • Most employers will require one to two years’ experience.
  • Skills in information retrieval software and medical software.
  • Trained in traction equipment, vascular catheters and imaging systems.

4. Medical/Surgical Nurse (Peri-Operative Nurse)

Being a certified RN is not all that is needed to be what is commonly referred to as a med-surg nurse:

  • Two years of practical experience.
  • Surgery Specialization Certificates.
  • A two-year program for peri-operative nurses or a master’s degree with specialization in surgery.

5. Emergency Room Nurse

Nurses who thrive on the challenge of trauma nursing will have high job satisfaction in the emergency room. They can work in a hospital trauma center or as a ride-along in ambulances. ER nurses require the following:

  • RN license (AS, BSN, MS, or DNP).
  • Two years’ experience prior to examination for Emergency Nursing Certification.
  • Pass the Emergency Nursing Certification exam.

6. Home Health Care Nurse

For those nurses who like a slower pace and giving personal care, home health might be a good fit:

  • Extra training in emergency and life-saving skills.
  • Certification in Home Health (some states).

7. Geriatric Nurse

Our elderly population requires specific treatment for the illness of old age. Geriatric nurses care for these patients and must be well-trained:

  • 200 or more hours of hands-on experience with geriatric patients.
  • Pass the Gerontological Nursing Certification exam.

8. Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Nurse

When babies are premature or born with other health irregularities, they often will spend a significant amount of time in the NICU. These nurses must be educated and trained beyond the RN:

  • Required to be a certified: Advanced Practical Nurse.
  • Two years of practical experience.
  • Courses in neo-natal health assessment, transitions to advanced nursing and pediatric pharmacology.
  • Master of Science in nursing with a thesis.

9. Pediatric Nurses

Children are often difficult to work with when they are ill. Pediatric nurses are often the key individual to help keep the child be calm and cooperative while being treated:

  • Courses in child psychology and children’s health.
  • Years of practical experience (number of years depends on the state).
  • Pediatric Nurse Certification.

10. OB/GYN Nurse

Treating pregnant women can be difficult. There are numerous complications that can occur during pregnancy and they are not all easy to treat. This requires specialized certification on the part of the OB/GYN nurse:

  • 2,000 hours of RN experience.
  • Pass the Inpatient Obstetric Nursing exam.

11. Cardiovascular Nurse

Working with cardiovascular patients is delicate. It requires a RN with strong focus and extra training to ensure the patient is and remains stable:

  • Master of Science in nursing.
  • Examinations after completion of MSN.
  • Non-Acute Cardiology Care Certificate.
  • Acute Cardiology Care Certificate.
  • Catheterization Laboratory Nurses’ Certification.

12. Psychiatric Nurse

Treating psychiatric patients requires not only a great deal of patience and physicality, but it also requires specials skills beyond the RN:

  • Practical training within a psychiatric setting.
  • Secondary training through MSN program.
  • Additional certification and licensing (as required by state).

13. Oncology Nurse

Treating patients with cancer requires delicacy and extreme amounts of compassion. It also requires additional training:

  • One year of experience as a registered nurse.
  • Oncology Nurse Certification.

Becoming a nurse is a great calling. It requires stamina, compassion, focus and a deep understanding of courses of treatment and emergency situation skills. Whatever specialty you choose, know that you will be working toward the goal of saving lives every day.

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