Ditch the Bedpan and Find Your Nursing Specialty



There’s no doubt nurses are in control of their career destiny. Finding your nursing specialty can be difficult, however, if you’re unsure of where you want to be. Additionally, you may not possess the exact skill set you need for certain fields of medicine, which may require you to go back to school or take some classes to acquire those skills. But, in the end, working in a nursing specialty can be extremely rewarding.

When deciding on a specialized field, nurses need to take a few key points into consideration. For example, if you don’t deal well with pressure, and have a hard time suddenly switching gears, you probably shouldn’t go into an ER or Trauma Center. If you tend to be technology savvy, seek out a career in nursing informatics, or telemetry. In addition to your skills, each specialty warrants the right “personality fit” in order to succeed.

What to Consider When Choosing Your Nursing Specialty

  • Personality and Interests

Every nursing specialty is unique. There’s an energy, a pace, and an environment that’s different from other specialties, even within the same facility. If you’re a self-starter with attention to detail, medical research may be the right area for you. For the nurse who likes challenges and constant activity, an ER or Trauma Center could be a good fit. Are you all about nutrition in your day to day life? Do you have a gift for relating to children? Women? Athletes? Take a moment to reflect on your personal strengths and weaknesses and let that guide you to the specialty that’s right for you.

  • Setting

When you were doing your clinicals, you likely worked in a hospital setting. Maybe you loved that environment, or maybe you like a more varied work setting. There are plenty of jobs for nurses that don’t involve hospitals. You could become a home health nurse, or a public health nurse. Inside the hospital there are differences among the specialties as well. Labor and Delivery, Med-Surge, and ICU are very different settings.

  • Location

Depending on your specialty, there are many different locations from which to choose. Do a little research about the area where you would like to live and find out those specialties that are in demand. Urban areas usually have a broad range of available jobs in many different specialties. If you prefer a rural environment, you may be limited.

If you’re considering a move to another state, don’t forget to check their certification requirements first, allowing for that. Also, if you’re an advance practice nurse, you may not have the same leeway with your job in another state as you do where you currently reside.

  • Level of Involvement

Your desired level of involvement will dictate your nursing specialty as well. For those who aren’t particularly good engaging with patients and their families, a research job may be best. For the nurse who isn’t comfortable with hands-on patient care, perhaps a case manager position is your nursing specialty. If you’re a go-getter, organized, and a leader, look into nurse management. If you like to nurture and interact with patients, bedside care in all areas would suit you-and your patients-the best.

  • Skills, Qualities, and Certifications

Some nursing specialties require certain skills, qualities and certifications. Typically, the more time you spend on your education, certification and advancing your skills, the higher salary you can expect. This can be time-consuming and you need to gauge how much more you’re willing to put into your education before you seek out a position in a nursing specialty with additional requirements. Do the research and, if you like, go back for additional training so that you truly are specialized in your field.

  • Salary

Again, the more advanced you are in your nursing specialty, the more money you can expect. Take into consideration, though, that the more specialized your position, the more demanding it may be. Also, many of the highest paid nurses work in urban hospital settings and medical campuses. If you don’t really want to be in any of those environments, you may have to reconsider your salary requirements.

  • Education

Finally, when you decide on your nursing specialty, remember you may need to go back to school and advance your degree. Some special fiends will require no less than your MSN, so factor in the time and cost of going back to school.


No matter what nursing specialty you choose, pick the one that suits you best. Once you find your authentic calling, you know you’ll be able to provide the medical care and patient care your vocation demands. And remember, life is about change. If, after a few years, your specialty is no longer fulfilling, find another. The world will always need good nurses.

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