Many nurses begin their careers in acute medicine working in the hospital, but there are many other specialties in nursing. Nurses holistically care for the whole client or person, so there are many different aspects of care that you can specialize in. Here are a few of the more popular specialties in nursing.

Perinatal Nursing / Maternity Nursing

Perinatal means the time before or after birth. A Perinatal nurse works with childbearing women and their families to support them with skills to care for themselves and their families as they prepare for birth and after.

As a Perinatal nurse, you work as part of interdisciplinary team that can include obstetricians/gynecologists, midwives, doulas, physiotherapists and other providers. You likely will work in labor and delivery in the hospital to support women and their families during birth and postpartum.

Like other specialties in nursing, perinatal nursing requires that you help provide education and support to ensure the health of both the mother and child. As perinatal nurse you may help monitor changes in the woman during pregnancy, estimate gestational age of the baby, monitor lab values for abnormalities that may indicate the need for monitoring and of course assist in the delivery of the baby. A perinatal nurse must be able to work in a dynamic environment with a great deal of sensitivity and excellent communication skills.

In the community, care can include working as a lactation consultation to advise new mothers on breastfeeding. Other avenues could include following up with families after birth to ensure the baby is feeding well, up to date on immunizations and the mother doing well. Maternity nurses can also help screen for things like postpartum depression.

Some states may require additional certification to work in this area including Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS). Many states require perinatal nurses in the hospital to be registered nurses.

For further education, you can become a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). A CNM is a midwife with a masters degree who is trained to support women in their pregnancy and in labor/delivery. They cannot do surgery on patients, so if a cesarean section is needed or a vacuum or forceps assisted birth, a physician must help them.

Cardiac Nursing Specialty

Cardiac nursing is one of the more common specialties in nursing Cardiac Care Nurses (CCN) can work in a variety of settings with patients cardiac or heart problems. It is common for CCNs to work in intensive care units in hospitals, in cardiac care units or even cardiac rehabilitation units.

A cardiac nurse must have a good knowledge of anatomy and physiology and a working knowledge of cardiac issues and treatments. You will have knowledge of chronic and acute cardiac issues and the interventions that patients may receive like coronary artery bypass surgery or pacemakers. You will likely need to have current Basic and Cardiac Life Support certification and have to earn a Cardiovascular Nurse Certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

CCNs gain special training related to the heart and supporting systems. They learn skills like how to perform electrocardiograms, graded exercise tests to assess the cardiac output of the patient and other types of monitoring. In this specialty you may also work closely with a cardiologist, a dietitian, a physiotherapists or even occupational therapist to help cardiac patient’s recovery after cardiac surgery, heart attacks or to live successfully with chronic illness such as congestive heart disease. You will become skilled at addressing the complex physical symptoms, nutritional and emotional needs of a patient if you were to pursue this as one of your specialties in nursing.

Emergency and Trauma Nursing

One of the most exciting specialties in nursing is Emergency or Trauma Nursing! Emergency Nurses work in a fast-paced area and must be able to multi-task to care for patients that are acutely ill and unstable. Emergency nurses are able to triage and decide on the priority of care of patients when they arrive in the hospital and care for them to stabilize them either for discharge or transfer to another unit.

A triage nurse evaluates the patient’s condition upon arrival to an emergency room and collaborates with the team to determine the priority for admission. An emergency nurse may see and care for trauma victims such as car accidents, gunshot wounds. They may also see medical emergencies and many other conditions including acute psychiatric issues, drug overdoses and even domestic violence.

A high degree of stamina and ability to quickly integrate information to form a plan of care is essential for this specialty. A good understanding of diagnostics such as interpreting lab values is essential. Emergency nurses often hold additional certification in areas such as life-flight care and pediatric nursing.

Cardiac care nurses and general medicine nurses may also transition to working in emergency. A good knowledge of general medicine is essential for success in this area and some nurses recommend at working least one year in general medicine to consolidate medical knowledge.

Psychiatric Nursing Specialty

Psychiatric nurses work both in the hospital and in the community. This is one of the few nursing specialties that can work in the justice system. Psychiatric-mental health nurse (PMHN) is a term for a registered nurse who works in psychiatry. PMHNs work with individuals, groups, communities to assess mental health needs.

They must be able to work well in crisis intervention and hold specialized knowledge in psychiatric issues, addictions and mental health disorders. Psychiatric Mental Health Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (PMH-APRNs) are advanced practice nurses with additional schooling to qualify them to diagnose, assess and treat clients with psychiatric disorders.

They can prescribe medication and may offer psychotherapy. Depending on your state, most registered nurses can work in psychiatry without additional schooling but may be required to prove that they have worked clinical hours in mental health. Psychiatric nurses can work with patients who are acutely ill in the hospital where they may present a danger to themselves and the community or are at risk of decompensation (a term that means psychosocial deterioration).

They may provide psychiatric medication and work closely with psychologists, psychiatrists or social workers to help a patient holistically. They may also work in the community as community mental health nurses to help clients living in the community with mental health issues. This may include ensuring patients are taking their medications, administering depot psychiatric medications by injection (a medication that is slowly released in the body over a number of weeks) and providing regular counseling and care.

Psychiatric nurses must possess excellent communication skills and be able to develop a therapeutic relationship with clients who may have unstable moods. They must be able to assess mental health status and work in an interdisciplinary team.

Rehabilitation Nursing Specialty

A rehabilitation nurse is able to assist an individual with a disability or chronic illness attains or maintains maximal function in activities of daily living. The nurse may help the client overcome limitations or be able to adapt to an altered lifestyle after a surgery, illness or loss of function. I have worked in stroke rehabilitation.

This is one of those specialties in nursing where the nurse works closely with physiotherapy and occupational therapy to help a patient return to independent or assisted living following a stroke. Once they are medically stable, the nurse will help patients re-learn how to function or gain strength following a stroke.

This may include difficulty swallowing, difficulty speaking or hemiplegia (impairment in function of one side of the body). Rehabilitation nurses can also work with clients who have lost limbs due to amputation or accidents learn how to live with mobility aids or prosthetics (an artificial limb).

A rehabilitation nurse can also work with orthopedic patients following surgeries such as knee or hip replacements. You must have a good knowledge of how to mobilize patients and be able to work closely with an interdisciplinary team to support clients to regain function.

While rehabilitation may not offer the immediate excitement of emergency nursing, you play an integral role in helping people return to living in the community. There are many types of nursing. To research and learn more about different specialties please visit this site:

specialties in nursing


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