There are many specializations within nursing. For those seeking a career in nursing, the first step is earning a nursing degree and becoming a registered nurse (RN). After that, nurses can continue theireducation to gain further relevant qualifications.These extra qualifications can allow nurses to specialize. Depending on a person’s current education status and how much time they have for online classes, it is possible to go from no medical degree to anurse practicing in their chosen specialization in as little as three years. Of course, registered nurses can work alongside gaining further qualifications.
Specializing in an area of interest allows nurses to vary their careers, meaning they can work with a variety of patients of all ages and backgrounds. Certain specializations may also allow a nurse to travel and work in different facilities all over the world.
Here are some of the specializations and opportunities that are open to those with an advanced nursing degree.
FNP (family nurse practitioner)
A family nurse practitioner can find employment at practically any type of medical or specialized care facility. Some work in private practice or within the education or correctional system. Becoming a licensed FNP allows you to conduct a lot of the health care appointments the average person needs thus helping bridge the gap in health care occurring due to a lack of primary care doctors.
PMHNP (psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner)
Mental health services are in high demand. FNPs specializing in mental health services can help provide mental health care to underserved areas. As a PMHNP you will help diagnose and treat mental health-related issues and make referrals for patients to receive other treatments such as counseling or in-patient treatment for substance abuse or severe mental illness.
PMHNPs may diagnose and treat people of all ages. Common conditions such as ADHD, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance abuse will make up a large portion of cases.
The increasing aging population makes specializing in the medical needs of older adults a choice with a lot of job security. In this position, a nurse practitioner will be diagnosing and treating illnesses and conditions that are most common in adults and older patients. This often means treating chronic health conditions.
Conditions related to aging such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis, memory loss, etc. are good examples of what a FNP can expect to see and treat.
An FNP specializing in older adults may find employment at assisted living facilities, health and social services departments, and major hospitals.
Pediatric nurse practitioner
As a pediatric nurse practitioner, you will be specializing in treating patients under 18 years old. Treatment is often routine and preventative. School physicals, vaccinations, and yearly physicals and checkups will make up a good portion of the visits that pediatric nurses perform. Pediatric nurse practitioners also diagnose and treat common illnesses and injuries such as colds, flu, sprains, bruises, lacerations, and broken bones.
Standard office hours apply in this position but there are often some weekend hours or hours that go past 5 p.m. to accommodate after-school appointments and walk-ins.Nurse practitioners specializing in pediatrics can find employment within health departments or private or public education.
Places of employment
As well as working with a variety of different patients, RNs who get an advanced degree and specialize have the option of working in a number of different roles and institutions. Below are some of the places where a nurse with an advanced degree might work.
Traveling nurse practitioner
Plenty of nurses find they enjoy the adventure of traveling to different locations and filling in where medical facilities are experiencing staffing shortages. This is quite common. Temporary positions may last longer, depending on the facility’s needs. For example, a hospital might hire temporary help during historically busier times of the year for a specific department or enlist temporary help while searching for and hiring a qualified person for a permanent position.
Mid-career and senior nurses sometimes decide to take on a traveling position for a change of pace but it is even more common for nurses who are just starting their careers and want to gain experience working at a range of medical facilities.
Traveling nurse practitioner positions are great for increasing cultural awareness and working with and for people from many different backgrounds.
Schools and universities
All schools and universities offer some level of healthcare. Having a nurse on staff to take care of basic medical concerns is common in any public or private school. Larger colleges and universities often have health clinics that have standard operating hours so students can get fast treatment for common problems.
This is a great position for nurses who want to work with a very diverse group of people. At larger schools, nurses will meet parents and students from many different backgrounds and nationalities. Having time off during the summer months and some breaks throughout the year is a nice perk.
The school and university system may offer some opportunities for teaching, especially if they provide healthcare classes. Teaching is a great way to make a change or divide your work time up if teaching others is something you enjoy.
Assisted living and nursing homes
A large population of aging adults has resulted in a strong demand for nurse practitioners at assisted living and nursing homes. This demand is set to grow, with more elder care facilities being built every day to accommodate the needs of older adults with a variety of healthcare needs.
These types of facilities often have different sections for adults based on how much help and care they need in their daily lives. As a nurse practitioner, this means offering healthcare to patients with issues ranging from chronic and debilitating conditions to those that just need help managing common issues such as diabetes or high blood pressure.Some patients may simply require routine, everyday care.
There are some facilities that specialize in helping those experiencing dementia. This can be a particularly challenging area because patients are often not able to clearly articulate how they are feeling or advocate for themselves when experiencing healthcare issues. Good attention to detail and a high level of patience is essential.
A hospital is going to be one of the busier locations for a nurse practitioner to work. Shifts may vary a lot since hospitals are open all the time. The department you work in may vary based on your specialization or current demand at the hospital. You may work with people of all ages or be assigned to a department that means you work with a more specific age group.
Urgent care clinics
There are a lot of urgent care clinics throughout North America. In fact, more and more people are turning to urgent care clinics for medical care because there is such a lack of primary care doctors. Even if someone finds a primary care doctor who is accepting new patients, it can take months to get an initial appointment. Urgent appointments may be available but they are still not as fast as just going to an urgent care clinic. In addition, a lot of people wait until they absolutely have to be seen before they get a health issue evaluated. The lack of preventative care and the tendency to wait until a condition is so bad it becomes absolutely necessary means urgent care clinics can be very busy places at times.
Some clinics are busier than others because of their location. For example, if an urgent care clinic is in an area with an extreme lack of primary care doctors and a hospital that is further away, there may be a higher volume of patients daily.
Nurse practitioners working at urgent care clinics fulfill a major need and help take stress off emergency rooms so that they can deal with those who are experiencing a true medical emergency.
Primary care clinics associated with major hospitals
Larger hospitals may have outpatient clinics throughout the region they service. For example, Mission Health operates the largest regional hospital in western North Carolina, but they have primary care and walk-in clinics throughout neighboring counties.
Working at a facility like this offers the advantages of working at a small to mid-size practice with the financial and administrative support of a major medical provider. Patient records can be accessed via the same systems so practitioners have an easy time referring to and collaborating with a range of specialists and other doctors throughout the system. This makes it easier to create a total healthcare and treatment plan for each patient.
Private primary care practices
Nowadays, there are far fewer private practices than there used to be so finding a position at one is a bit harder than finding a position at a major medical facility, university or school, or government-affiliated institution. Private practices tend to be quite small and family-based, and for nurses working in a private practice,standard daily work schedules with frequent time off on weekendsare major perks.
Private practice nurse practitioners see patients of all ages and perform a lot of preventative medical care. They help manage common diseases and ailments while major specialized care is done by a specialist or doctor that a patient is referred to. If a nurse practitioner wants a career with a lot of room for advancement and promotions, then a small private practice is not the place to be. However, if you want a job for the long term that offers stability and are happy with staying in the same position, then you might find that private practice is a great choice.
How to become a licensed nurse practitioner
If you are a licensed RN, then you may be considering what the next step is on your career path. Many nurses are choosing to become Family Nurse Practitioners. You may find yourself researching RN to NP online programs – Wilkes University offers excellent master’s and doctorate-level nurse practitioner programs you can complete while keeping your regular job. Of course, clinical placement components toward the end of your degree program will require you to be present. The Master’s level program can be completed in as little as 12-18 months.
Becoming an advanced practice nurse is a great way for RNs to advance their careers and help make a major difference in the average person’s access to healthcare when they need it the most. Specializing in an advanced practice role can allow nurses to tailor their education so that they can work in a specialization that suits and interests them.
Specializing also allows nurses to improve their salary without investing a lot of money in tuition thanks to the availability of online degree programs. Now is a great time to advance your career and help bridge the primary care gap that is getting wider each and every day.