12 Specializations You Can Take After Completing Nursing School
Nurse looking after a baby in an incubator

What Nursing Path Will You Take?

After nursing school, you will have to make many choices. You could be a family practitioner’s nurse. Or, you could work in hospitals or nursing homes. What do you think you might want to specialize in?

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Once you have completed nursing school, you can choose from many options:

  • Registered nurse
  • Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse
  • Medical – surgical nurse
  • Emergency room (ER) nurse
  • Home health care nurse
  • Geriatric nurse
  • Neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse
  • Pediatric nurse
  • OB/GYN nurse
  • Cardiovascular nurse
  • Psychiatric nurse
  • Oncology nurse

According to nursejournal.org, the different education and certification paths are quite varied:

Registered Nurse

RN’s can specialize across many departments in a hospital setting. They are highly valued because of their adaptability. RN’s can choose to keep themselves available for many departments or they can specialize in one of the areas listed above.

ICU Nurse

In addition to the associates or bachelor of science degree required to be a registered nurse, ICU nurses must have advanced training:

  • NCLEX-RN, Pediatric Advanced Life Support and Certification in Advanced Cardiac Life Support
  • Most employers will require one to two years’ experience
  • Skills in information retrieval software and medical software
  • Trained in traction equipment, vascular catheters and imaging systems

Medical-Surgical Nurse (Peri-Operative Nurse)

Being a certified RN is not all that is needed to be what is commonly referred to as a med-surg nurse:

  • Two years of practical experience
  • Surgery Specialization Certificates
  • A two-year program for peri-operative nurses or a master’s degree with specialization in surgery

Emergency Room Nurse

Nurses who thrive on the challenge of trauma nursing will have high job satisfaction in the emergency room. They can work in a hospital trauma center or as a ride-along in ambulances. ER nurses require the following:

  • RN license (AS, BSN, MS, or DNP)
  • Two years’ experience prior to examination for Emergency Nursing Certification
  • Pass the Emergency Nursing Certification exam

Home Health Care Nurse

For those nurses who like a slower pace and giving personal care, home health might be a good fit:

  • Extra training in emergency and life-saving skills
  • Certification in Home Health (some states)

Geriatric Nurse

Our elderly population requires specific treatment for the illness of old age. Geriatric nurses care for these patients and must be well-trained:

  • 200 or more hours of hands-on experience with geriatric patients
  • Pass the Gerontological Nursing Certification exam

Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Nurse

When babies are premature or born with other health irregularities, they often will spend a significant amount of time in the NICU. These nurses must be educated and trained beyond the RN:

  • Required to be a certified: Advanced Practical Nurse
  • Two years of practical experience
  • Courses in neo-natal health assessment, transitions to advanced nursing, and pediatric pharmacology
  • Master of science in nursing with a thesis

Pediatric Nurses

Children are often difficult to work with when they are ill. Pediatric nurses are often the key individual to help keep the child be calm and cooperative while being treated:

  • Courses in child psychology and children’s health
  • Years of practical experience (number of years depends on the state)
  • Pediatric Nurse Certification

OB/GYN Nurse

Treating pregnant women can be difficult. There are numerous complications that can occur during pregnancy and they are not all easy to treat. This requires specialized certification on the part of the OB/GYN nurse:

  • 2,000 hours of RN experience
  • Pass the Inpatient Obstetric Nursing exam

Cardiovascular Nurse

Working with cardiovascular patients is delicate. It requires a RN with strong focus and extra training to ensure the patient is and remains stable:

  • Master of science in nursing
  • Examinations after completion of MSN
    • Non-Acute Cardiology Care Certificate
    • Acute Cardiology Care Certificate
    • Catheterization Laboratory Nurses’ Certification

Psychiatric Nurse

Treating psychiatric patients requires not only a great deal of patience and physicality, but it also requires specials skills beyond the RN:

  • Practical training within a psychiatric setting
  • Secondary training through MSN program
  • Additional certification and licensing (as required by state)

Oncology Nurse

Treating patients with cancer requires delicacy and extreme amounts of compassion. It also requires additional training:

  • One year of experience as a registered nurse
  • Oncology Nurse Certification

Becoming a nurse is a great calling. It requires stamina, compassion, focus and a deep understanding of courses of treatment and emergency situation skills. Whatever specialty you choose, know that you will be working toward the goal of saving lives every day.