5 Essential Steps to Finding the Right Nurse Specialty for You
By Kris Lamey, Contributor
If you decide to choose a nurse specialty, there are many options. Some specialties require further education, long hours and stressful environments, but they can also prove to be rewarding choices for the right RNs.
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5 steps to choosing the right nursing career path
Because of the work involved in becoming a nurse specialist, most RNs give these paths serious consideration before stepping down them. Take time to ponder these factors before you begin working toward a specialty.
1. Determine why you became a nurse
For many nurses, a personal experience is their entry into the field. Maybe you helped care for a sick relative or want to make an impact on others’ lives. Whatever drew you to the field, choosing a specialty that aligns with that purpose helps ensure ongoing job satisfaction.
2. Figure out where you want to work
If you love helping people and desire to make hospitals or nursing homes comforting, nurturing environments, working as a specialist in those settings may be an ideal choice. If you love to fly, a flight nurse would be the perfect fit, but if you need a quiet setting, you might consider becoming a nurse educator or IT specialist.
"If you love teaching others and are passionate about teaching students, colleagues and patients, being a nurse educator could be the perfect role specialty for you. If you are passionate about ensuring that other nurses have the resources that they need to deliver optimal care, being a nurse executive maybe a perfect fit for you," says Robin Dennison, DNP, APRN, CCNS, CNE, NEA-BC of the University of St. Augustine.
3. Research the education required for a nursing specialty
While an RN credential is sometimes enough to start you on the path to a specialty, some careers require that you eventually obtain a Masters or Doctorate degree. A nurse anesthetist, for example, must have an RN license and a special graduate degree. Ensure that you're comfortable with the time, effort and other resources that may be required to obtain the necessary education.
4. Consider work-life balance
Deciding what hours and days you're able to work is an important part of choosing a specialty. School nurses get holidays and summers off; emergency room nurses may like the flexibility of shift work. It's also important to consider the emotional and mental aspects of your chosen path. While all nurses need compassion and will deal with stressful situations from time to time, an RN in a small general practice office may not deal with burnout as often as someone in a critical care environment. Matching your passion with your priorities lets you build a career that suits your lifestyle.
5. Determine what aspects of nursing make you happy
"Perhaps you are passionate about being that nurse who delivers direct care to patients but would appreciate greater autonomy. In that case, one of the advanced practice roles, including nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse midwife, or nurse anesthetist, could be your perfect choice," according to Robin Dennison, DNP, APRN, CCNS, CNE, NEA-BC of University of St. Augustine. No job in nursing or any other industry is ideal all the time, but choosing a specialty that emphasizes what you enjoy about the work can make a big difference in long-term job satisfaction.