Large group of nurses representing different nursing specialties

A Guide to Select Nursing Specialties

Looking for some change in your job without leaving nursing? Read this!

By Erin Coursey, iHire

If you want spice up your career without leaving nursing, focusing your work in one arena may be the perfect solution. Specializing enables you to concentrate solely on the work that most excites you and may even represent an opportunity to expand your skillset. As a subordinate organization of the American Nurses Association (ANA), the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is one of the most highly recognized authorities for nursing specialty certification. Below are just a few areas in which they are currently credentialing.

Ambulatory Care nurses provide outpatient services across the continuum of care. They are frequently engaged to help patients manage chronic or acute disease/disability, but may also practice end-of-life and/or general wellness support. Their most critical responsibilities include continuously assessing patients for any changes in status, recognizing when patients are in crisis situations, and, when necessary, managing patient transfers to institutions that offer the appropriate level of care. More info: American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN)

Most Common Work Environments

Type of Practice

% Participants Reported

  1. Academic medical center
  2. Community-based outpatient health system
  3. Hospital (non-academic)
  4. Telehealth/call center

47.47%
28.57%
13.59%
12.44%


Forensic nurses treat victims of violence and/or abuse. They are trained and prepared not only to address the trauma associated with such circumstances, but also to collect evidence and provide court testimony. Some may choose to focus in one area of this specialty, such as sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse/neglect, or elder mistreatment. The most essential duties of a forensic nurse include consulting with detectives/lawyers, examining and evaluating injuries/illnesses tied to illegal activity, and investigating/confirming cause of death in instances of violent crime. More info: International Association of Forensic Nurses

Though there is no official study or statistic for top work environments in this field, hospital emergency rooms are generally considered to be the most common (TheForensicNurse.com and CriminalJusticeDegreeSchools.com). Other frequently named sites include pediatric facilities and schools, tissue/organ donation departments, and prisons.


Informatics nurses serve as a link between information technology (i.e. computers, databases, etc.) and professionals providing direct patient care. They assess and enhance current data programs to ensure accuracy and protect patient confidentiality. They also create and maintain systems to present new research findings and methodologies clearly and effectively. Top responsibilities for these personnel include advocating for patient safety in clinical information systems, demonstrating ethical behavior/standards of practice (particularly patient confidentiality), identifying/resolving problems in software as appropriate, and facilitating all stages of the clinical information system life cycle. More info: Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS)

Most Common Work Environments

Type of Practice

% Participants Reported

  1. Health system
  2. Single hospital
  3. Multi-hospital
  4. Vendor

34.1%
20.5%
18.6%
6.9%


Pain Management nurses work to support patients’ ability to cope with severe pain caused by chronic conditions, terminal illness, or surgical intervention. They aim to improve quality of life during treatment of the underlying problem and assist patients in returning to their regular lives when possible. Essential duties for this field include assessing side effects/issues stemming from a surgical intervention or medical condition, managing these problems with opioid analgesics, and educating the patient and his/her family regarding the care plan. More info: American Society for Pain Management Nursing (ASPMN)

Most Common Work Environments (Pain Management Nursing National Role Delineation Study— 2012)

Type of Practice

% Participants Reported

  1. Inpatient hospital
  2. Outpatient practice
  3. Hospice
  4. Academic

51.72%
34.02%
2.41%
2.06%


Pediatric nurses treat infants, children, and adolescents. They are knowledgeable in numerous growth and developmental stages associated with different age ranges. They may also focus on various chronic or acute conditions, such as cancer or mental illness. Vital obligations for these nurses include evaluating and responding to changes in patient condition, administering care/medications as appropriate for the child’s age and level of development, and documenting all assessment findings and treatment outcomes. More info: Society of Pediatric Nurses

Most Common Work Environments

Type of Practice

% Participants Reported

  1. Pediatric
  2. Outpatient clinic
  3. Medical/surgical
  4. Pediatric ICU

47.29%
6.59%
5.18%
4.94%


Psychiatric–Mental Health nurses work with patients regarding psychiatric disorders. They may assess currently existing issues or patients’ risk of developing particular conditions. They also assist in the implementation and evaluation of patient care plans. Some of the most significant responsibilities for this position include administering medications/treatment regimens, maintaining appropriate physical/emotional boundaries, evaluating/documenting patient reactions to interventions, and creating a safe/therapeutic/developmentally suitable environment. More info: American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA)

Most Common Work Environments

Type of Practice

% Participants Reported

  1. Psychiatric/Mental health facility
  2. Outpatient clinic
  3. Home care/home health
  4. Emergency department

66.52%
6.79%
2.71%
2.26%


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