Case management, adult health, clinical nurse leader, emergency, family nurse practitioner, infection control, labor and delivery, oncology - the list of potential nursing specializations goes on and on, making it difficult to decide which specialty you’ll focus on in your career.
Today is as good of a time as any to take a step back and think about your professional aspirations and start to engage your fellow nurses in conversations about their specialty paths.
1. Remember Your School Days
The first step in select a nursing specialty is recalling what you were exposed to throughout nursing school and in your career thus far. Focus on the nursing specializations that have interested you most during your classes or externships. When you encounter a nursing specialty or department that you enjoy and that seems like second nature to you, keep track of it. Whatever you end up doing, you want it to be something that feels right.
2. Imagine the Future You
It's important to know where you want to end up in 5, 10, and 20 years in your career. Do you want to be in a management, travel the world working as a general practice nurse, or in a classroom shaping the future generation of nurses? You need to know what your end goal before you can decide on the best path to get you there.
3. Match Your Personality to a Specialization
How well do you handle stress? Are you outgoing? Do you like working with people? In some nursing specialties, for example, you’ll regularly find yourself in fast-moving, high-pressure situations, while in others, such as research, you may be required to be detail-oriented and focus on specific projects for extended periods. It can help to make a list of what you enjoy doing outside of work. If you enjoy interacting with children, perhaps being a family nurse practitioner makes sense, but if you'd rather focus on using technology to optimize care, maybe nurse informatics is more up your alley.
4. Research Demand, Salary and Locations
Some specialties are far more in demand than others, making it much easier for you to find jobs in that area. If you pursue a career in a specialization with lots of competition, you may end up having to go wherever the jobs are—which may be entirely worth it for you to do what you love. However, if you have specific salary or location requirements, conduct research online and talk to fellow nurses to figure out what works best for you.
5. Shadow Other Nurses
If you are certain you're going to love a specialty, talk to a nurse who is already holding your ideal job. You may not be able to get access to shadow them, depending on the type of work that they do, but you should at least be able to talk to them about day to day life in that specialty.