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Most Popular Nursing Specializations

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While all nurses go through the same thorough basic training during the degree program, you can also choose to specialize in a specific area. Here, you will have advanced training, more practice, and particular expertise. Whether you love working with infants, are interested in psychology, or enjoy the fast-paced life of an emergency room nurse, there are a range of specializations relevant to you. Below are descriptions of some of the most popular specialty areas in the field of nursing.

  • Critical care nurses are responsible for giving one-on-one care to critically ill patients and their families. Their work life tends to be complex and intense, requiring a high level of vigilance and advocacy.
  • Cardiac nurses help patients who have heart problems. They have advanced knowledge about how the heart works and how specialized treatment is given to a client, such as transplantation, heart pumps, and mechanical-assist devices.
  • Medical/surgical nurses stay at the cutting edge of complex care and treatment for patients who have a serious illness and aid them in the transitions from surgery to recovery to full health.
  • Oncology nurses help patients who have or are at risk for cancer. They administer health care, and educate and counsel people about screening, prevention, and detection.
  • Orthopaedic nurses specialize in treating musculoskeletal issues in patients. They work in a wide variety of settings and help with education, treatment, and rehabilitation.
  • Primary care nurses provide the first line of contact for patients with the medical system. They typically administer routine care for common health problems on an outpatient basis.
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  • Psychiatric/mental health nurses help with the assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation, and evaluation of people's mental health issues. They work with individuals, families, groups, and communities.
  • Rehabilitation nurses assist patients recovering from an illness to full health through the process of rehabilitation. They provide healthcare, prevent complications, advocate, manage cases, counsel, and educate.
  • Addiction nurses work with patients suffering from addictions like alcoholism or drug abuse. They help with detoxification, therapy, monitoring, and assessment. They help patients improve their mental health, behavior, and relationships.
  • Perioperative nurses help patients before, during, and after they undergo surgery. They assist doctors during surgery and advocate for the patient throughout the surgery process.
  • Correctional nurses provide treatment for inmates in jails and prisons. They serve as primary clinical care providers, but have specialized knowledge of how to deal with dangerous patients or those suffering from issues related to prison life.
  • Emergency nurses quickly assess and treat severely ill patients in a stressful emergency room setting where every second counts. They have a broad range of knowledge and can think/act quickly on their feet.
  • Geriatric nurses provide medical assistance for the elderly. They specialize in issues of aging and end-of-life, and serve as advocates for elderly people and their families. This is currently a high-demand specialty area, as much of the U.S. population is aging.
  • Occupational health nurses help treat and prevent job-related illnesses and injuries. They help businesses and other places of employment maintain satisfactory levels of health and safety in the workplace.
  • Hospice nurses focus on end-of-life care for terminally ill patients, usually in a home environment. They help the dying and their families come to terms with the illness, treat symptoms, and provide the best medical treatment possible for a specific individual.
  • Nephrology nurses treat people with kidney problems, particularly kidney disease stemming from hypertension, substance abuse, or diabetes. They are educated in the diagnosis, treatment, and education of these issues.
  • Neonatal nurses work with mothers and their newborn babies from the time they are born up until 28 days of age. They have specialized knowledge about how to care for new mothers and newborn infants.
  • Pediatric nurses specialize in providing medical treatment to children and adolescents. They understand how to talk with, relate to, and help this age group, and deal with the health problems and illnesses related to them.
  • Respiratory nurses help people with breathing problems like asthma, cystic fibrosis, or tuberculosis. They are trained in how to diagnose problems, provide palliative treatment, and reduce pain and breathing difficulties.
  • School nurses help students learn by promoting health and safety in the school and home environments. They provide health services, coordinate school health programs, treat students, and educate school populations about wellness issues.

Article Resources:
Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery
National Commission on Correctional Healthcare
New York University Langone Medical Center
Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow
Ohio State University Medical Center
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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