Written by Alyssa Walker

Nursing is not for the faint of heart--it requires intensive study, tough hours, and quick, critical decision-making. Of the 100+ nursing specialties from which to choose, it can feel hard to decide where to focus.

Having trouble? Start with the basics. Think about why you studied nursing in the first place, and where you most enjoy your work. LIke working with babies, or prefer to work with older patients? Better suited for the lab? Do you like managing people? How well do you handle life-threatening situations and emergencies?

Think about the kind of work you love to do and how you work best and you'll have your answer.

From patient-centric to managerial positions and research roles, let's take a closer look at these seven nursing specialties in the vast world of nursing

1. Anesthesia

Nurse anesthetists are responsible for keeping your body happy, healthy, and comfortable while under anesthesia, and you'll likely work closely with an anesthetist and surgeon.

Becoming a certified nurse anesthetist offers you incredible flexibility and the opportunity to earn in one of the top paying nursing specialties in the current market. As an anesthetist, you can work in a hospital, surgery center, dental practice, pain management center, the military, and a myriad of other possibilities. 

Key qualities? A calm, clear communicator who can think fast. 

2. Gerontology

As the general population ages with longer life spans, the need for nurses who specialize in caring for older patients will also grow. 

Geriatric nurses not only provide daily care for older patients, they also develop lasting relationships as they foster high qualities of life. 

What will you do? Help your patients recover from illness and injuries, develop rehabilitation plans and conduct check-ups, assist with pain management and preventative care, and help patients age gracefully.

Key qualities? Kindness, compassion, and the ability to think critically about a multitude of problems that present differently in older patients than they do in younger populations. 

3. Neonatal

Love babies? Among the most difficult specialties, neonatal nursing requires you to work with some of the world's most fragile patients: premature infants. Not only are they premature, they usually have a host of other health issues. You'll work primarily in research hospitals, and will work with a team of other highly trained healthcare professionals.  This is a high-demand specialty that requires non-traditional hours. 

Key requirements? Rapid critical thinking, kindness, compassion, and an extensive knowledge of pediatric and neonatal nursing. 

4. Pain management

Millions of people live with chronic pain daily. Others must manage pain post-surgery. Those who suffer from chronic pain find it uncomfortable if not downright impossible to live, work, and do the daily tasks that many of us take for granted. Pain management nurses help these patients manage their pain in healthy ways so that they can live their lives to the fullest. 

Pain management nurses work with physicians and other professionals to educate patients about pain management, help them lead comfortable lives, and teach them how to avoid addiction and dependence on prescribed medication.

Pain management nurses work in a variety of healthcare settings, from hospitals to clinics, rehabilitation centers to nursing homes--and the demand is big. 

5. Dialysis

If you want to work with patients who suffer from kidney problems, becoming a dialysis nurse may be the right path for you. 

Dialysis nurses help patients whose kidneys can no longer flush out human waste. These nurses are experts in kidney function and kidney disease and often work with transplant patients. 

Typically, dialysis happens at a hospital or freestanding dialysis clinic and work hours are regular because many patients receive services during the day at scheduled times. For emergency dialysis services, dialysis nurses may opt to work at a research hospital serving patients with life-threatening kidney disease.

There's a growing demand for dialysis nurses--and the field pays well.  

6. Midwifery

If you're interested in maternal health and well-being, consider going into midwifery. Midwives work hard to ensure the health of new mothers and their babies during pregnancy, childbirth, labor, delivery, and post-partum.

Becoming a nurse midwife allows you to make a strong impact in the way births happen, especially in the US. Midwives focus on the physical, social, and psychological health of their patients from pain to weight gain and weight loss, sexuality, and management of many diseases.

As a nurse midwife, you can work in a hospital, birthing center, or open your own practice.

The demand is high as the US grapples with high mortality rates.

7. Administration

If you love nursing and are into the backstage of it all, consider becoming an administrator, where you'll deal with budgeting staff management, professional development, and human resources. You'll probably need a master's degree in addition to a license. 

As the demand for nurses grows, so does the demand for someone who understands what they do, how they do it, and what they need to serve patients to the best of their ability. 

Learn more about nursing. 


ArticleStudent Tips
Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.
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