How to Choose a Nursing Specialty

Picking the right nursing specialty is essential for those who want careers that suit their personality, interests, and skills.

There are numerous disciplines and specialties for aspiring registered nurses.

Unfortunately, many nursing students and specialists aren’t aware of the full spectrum of choices at their disposal.

They may also not understand which career path best fits their nature, expertise, and lifestyle.

The trendy and well-known nursing fields don’t provide the complete picture of occupations nurses can pursue.

There are over one hundred careers available, including direct care, community health, legal consulting, research, and other fields.

It enables aspiring nurses to pick a specialty that matches their personality, skills, and interests.

For instance, nurses interested in the legal aspects of healthcare may become legal nurse consultants or forensic nurses.

In contrast, nurses interested in teaching and education may become nurse educators or administrative nurses.

If you’re a nurse who loves to travel, then travel nursing may be the right career path.

Contrarily, becoming a research nurse may be more suitable if you enjoy clinical research or lab testing.

The following article provides numerous career pathways to help you pick the right nursing specialty.

Nurse Entrepreneurs

Self-motivated nurses with a strong passion for starting their businesses may consider becoming nurse entrepreneurs.

Nurse entrepreneurs use their knowledge to create products, services, and solutions that improve the healthcare system.

For instance, some nurse entrepreneurs develop educational tools to help students learn more effectively and prepare for the NCLEX-RN exam.

Others create clothing brands like FIGS scrubs to provide healthcare workers with fashionable, functional, and comfortable clothing.

Nurse entrepreneurs also develop medical tools, accessories, and healthcare software.

This profession requires a lot of dedication, trial and error, and a willingness to grow and learn.

However, successful nurse entrepreneurs have countless opportunities to improve healthcare and earn a lot of money! 

Healthcare Specializations

As previously mentioned, the nursing domain is relatively broad.

It allows registered nurses to select specializations that suit their interests, talents, and discipline.

For instance, nurses specializing in pediatrics work with children to ensure they receive specialized medical care.

It enables them to center their education on children rather than adults.

Other nurses may choose careers in women’s health to accommodate women through various stages of life.

Each of the 100+ healthcare domains caters to a demographic requiring medical care, education, resources, and specialization.

As a result, numerous specializations exist matching nurses with different personalities, goals, and medical expertise.

Working in the Community

Nurses pursuing careers in the community operate as community nurses, school nurses, mental health nurses, and health policy nurses.

These careers allow registered nurses to work directly and indirectly with the communities they serve in various capacities.

It ensures the community receives adequate medical care, resources, and education to lead happy, healthy lives.

They also ensure states and institutions create and enforce better health policies for the community.

Community health nurses typically work outside of hospital settings in non-bedside care occupations.

Community Health Nurse Careers:

  • Public health nurse
  • Community health clinic RN
  • Community nursing services consultant
  • The public health school nurse
  • Travel public health registered nurse
  • Community health nurse

Employee Care-Focused Occupations

Besides patient care and community work, some occupations focus on other nurses’ health and well-being.

For instance, occupational health nurses ensure healthcare workers receive fair treatment and adequate support.

They help nurses understand their occupational opportunities and the legal rights that are available to them.

They also promote policy changes to improve the workplace for registered nurses and healthcare workers.

How to Pick a Suitable Nursing Specialty

Picking a suitable nursing specialty starts with determining what’s most important to you regarding healthcare work.

You must consider your personality, training/expertise, work/life balance needs, and career interests.

These factors will help you determine the particular area of nursing that best suits your identity.

A good career choice often blurs the line between work and play.

Not everyone will find a career they love in the first few years of work.

However, considering the abovementioned factors provides a much better understanding of your skills and interests.

That way, you receive a closer balance between work, talents, and personal welfare.

Your Personality Matters

Your personality says a lot about which career path best suits you.

The following questions will help you decide which nursing specialty ideally matches your talents and interests.

  • Are you a social person, or do you prefer working alone?
  • Do you like caring for others requiring direct medical attention, or do you prefer non-direct care?
  • Are you comfortable taking orders from others, or would you rather be your boss?
  • What areas of nursing are you most interested in and why?
  • Do you prefer patient care, administrative work, education, research, law, advocacy, consulting, or self-employment?
  • What is your reason for becoming a registered nurse?
  • What is your area of expertise, and why?
  • How important is your time, and are you comfortable working extended hours?
  • What are your most important values?
  • Do you often think you would be happier if you chose a career path outside of nursing, and why?
  • If so, is it because you didn’t realize there were other careers in nursing
  • Do you feel tired, burnt out, exhausted, and want to take a step back from nursing as a whole?

The purpose of these questions is to help you be completely honest with yourself and determines what field is best for you.

Answering these questions honestly and thoughtfully will help you weed out undesirable occupations.

For instance, you may realize that you prefer legal consulting or research over direct patient care.

Or you may prefer operating in collaboration with other healthcare workers and don’t enjoy isolation.

In many cases, our careers and our personalities feel inseparable.

When we love our profession, it feels like an extension of ourselves.

We often find ourselves talking about what we do and how it is a part of who we are.

A promising career blurs the line between work and satisfaction to lead happier and more fulfilled lives.

Conversely, we experience physical and mental fatigue, a lack of joy, and separation from our interests in careers we don’t enjoy

The lack of a satisfying job may cause us to make poor decisions in an attempt to feel fulfillment and pleasure.

For instance, partying, spending money on shopping, sleeping long hours, and participating in other activities offer to try to recuperate some happiness.

Unfortunately, these coping strategies don’t improve our lives.

A lack of job satisfaction also affects us emotionally and leaks into other areas of life like our relationships.

As a result, assessing your interests, values, and skills is essential when deciding on a particular nursing specialty.

It benefits you, the people you serve, your social circle, and your coworkers.

Training and Expertise

Choosing a career that complements your training and expertise is an excellent start.

In many cases, career opportunities are dependent upon training and skill level.

As a result, these jobs only become available once you’ve acquired enough expertise in that particular field.

Suppose you’re working at a hospital or large healthcare facility.

In that case, you can take advantage of training programs, volunteer work, and certifications that expand your knowledge. 

It enables you to move into other specialties you find interesting.

From there, you can determine which occupation best suits you before going back to school to specialize in that career.

Your opportunities for entering a particular nursing field will vary depending on the training and expertise you acquire.

It also depends on the specialty’s demand and the competition in that field.

Nurse education ranges from on-site training to certification courses or returning to school to acquire an MSN or DNP.

Suppose you are interested in a field that will require you to return to school.

In that case, it is highly suggested you gain career experience before returning to school.

You can also volunteer if a full-time position isn’t available.

That way, you make an informed career decision before pursuing years of education and spending money on schooling.

Work/Life Balance

Nurses often struggle with choosing a specialty that offers a good work/life balance.

Many nurses work long shifts and take on extra hours, leading to burnout and decreased work enthusiasm.

A nurse’s career can play a huge role in determining their satisfaction and work/life balance.

For instance, nurses in busy hospitals or nursing homes may work extended hours or take on additional overtime.

It’s often financially beneficial for those without children or other commitments that require a lot of time away from work.

Conversely, nurses that work for a clinic, research lab, or school may have a set and defined schedule.

It enables them to have a better work/life balance if they prefer to have nights or weekends off.

However, it may not offer the same pay as those working in busy hospitals or healthcare facilities.

Not every healthcare facility or career operates similarly.

As a result, nurses must determine where to work and the specialty that best suits their interests.

Single nurses with few commitments may be happy taking additional work, while those raising a family may require more personal time.

Having a good work/life balance ensures nurses remain happy with their work while enjoying life outside of the workplace.

Family, friends, social life, commitments, personal interests, and other factors play a huge role in determining how much work/life balance is necessary.

When choosing a career, consider your work/life balance needs to determine which nursing specialty best suits you.

Perhaps the best part of being a registered nurse is that you can shift carers to meet your needs.

Career Interest

One of the most important aspects of choosing a particular nursing field is your interest in that field.

Choosing a career based on salary, work hours, or prestige alone will not make you happy, even if the perks are excellent.

It isn’t uncommon for nurses to quickly lose steam or interest when working in a career field they don’t enjoy.

They eventually feel like work is nothing more than a paycheck rather than finding pleasure in their work.

Unfortunately, having that mindset can lead to resentment and difficulty excelling in your career.

It’s much better to pick a career that provides satisfaction, work/life balance, and the right amount of challenge.

After all, who wants to move up in their career when they don’t like where they currently are?

You don’t need to love every aspect of your career, although that would be great.

However, you should derive a good amount of pleasure from your work.

Consider a career change if you aren’t passionate about your current nursing specialization.

Career Opportunities

The specific opportunities you have to advance to higher positions are essential to deciding on a particular career path.

A highly competitive career that offers little opportunity for further advancement may not be worth the effort.

However, it may be worth the trouble if you are passionate about that field and can’t see yourself working elsewhere.

A career with many advancement opportunities isn’t beneficial if you have no interest or desire to work in that field. 

Finding your interests and matching them with career opportunities is essential for your happiness and job satisfaction.

Bottom Line

You may not find a career that checks off every box.

However, finding a career that matches your values, wants, and needs would be best.

Balancing personal pleasure and satisfaction with a rewarding career significantly impact your professional and personal life.

Learning to separate your work from who you are as a person is also essential.

It is imperative if you aren’t thrilled about your career or aren’t highly motivated by what you do.

The more you find satisfaction in your work, the more you blur the lines between work and pleasure, significantly reducing burnout, fatigue, and stress.

After all, minimizing stress, fatigue, and unhappiness requires successfully satisfying what we do and achieving our goals.