Understanding the specializations and career pathways for qualified nurses

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There has been a constant growth in healthcare careers in recent years, and it is projected to grow more in the coming years. As this demand continues to grow, there has also been a corresponding increase in nursing specializations and career paths. The process begins by identifying your interest area based on academic qualifications and certifications, gaining the necessary experience, and putting your skills to work. By specializing, nurses can focus on their areas of expertise within the nursing field rather than being forced to perform work they dislike.

These multiple career paths are beneficial in that they help reduce unemployment while providing room for career advancement. Also, the constant growth in nursing specializations has positively impacted nursing shortage statistics.

Ideally, the emergence of these specializations enables patients to have more specialized care based on the health services they need. These specializations give qualified nurses room for career growth and allow them to work in their areas of interest. Continue reading this article to learn more about the various career paths a qualified nurse can pursue.

Registered nurse (RN)

A registered nurse is one of the career paths to pursue as a qualified nurse. This group of experts primarily aims to educate patients, coordinate care services, provide psychological support, and advise on various health challenges. Individuals who choose this specialty work with professional physicians in multiple settings, such as outpatient clinics, nursing care facilities, and hospitals.

Sometimes, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is confused with a certified nurse program; however, they don’t refer to the same thing. So, be cautious when choosing between the two programs, as it will determine the type of registered nurse you will be.

You may also need a BSN to pursue RN certification at some institutions. So, it would be best to start by earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree to become a licensed nurse.

It will take you two to four years to become certified as a registered nurse; however, this depends on your previous academic qualifications. You can work in various capacities upon certification, including as an ambulatory nurse, critical care nurse, specialty nurse, rehabilitation nurse, or nurse educator. Whatever responsibility you choose, you’ll help mitigate nursing shortage statistics.

Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)

Many people confuse the CRNA specialty with a registered nurse profession. While they may share some things, CRNAs specialize in anesthesia nursing services during surgery. Their role involves assisting patients in navigating surgical pain during and after the operation.

This career requires detailed training before certification, so they are often regarded as the nursing career with the highest pay. This career requires a master’s degree, a registered nurse license, and proven experience of at least one year in an acute care unit.

You will be awarded a CRNA certificate upon certification, and you can then be eligible to work in surgical centers, hospitals, and specialty doctor’s facilities.

Neonatal nurse

A neonatal nursing career may be perfect if you love caring for infants during and after their births. In intensive care units, you look after infants who develop complications during and after birth. These challenges include premature births, genetic conditions, drug dependency, and congenital disabilities.

A neonatal nursing career requires an RN certificate and an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. You must also have a Neonatal Resuscitation Program certificate to provide care services to infants. You’ll nurture these infants at the hospital and after leaving the facility if they need more personalized care.

Adult-gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP)

As the name suggests, AGNP is a career path where nurses provide adult care services. Nurses under this specialization are trained to care for, provide medical advice, and offer beneficial foods that older people should consume. This career path has significant potential for growth in the coming years as the need for care for the elderly is expected to increase significantly.

To serve as an adult gerontology nurse practitioner, you must hold an RN certificate, be a national board-certified nurse practitioner, and have an MSN degree. Currently, AGNP certification ranks second in the most engaged nursing specialty. Employment is predicted to rise by about 46% by 2031.

Nurse researcher

A nurse researcher is an option to consider if you’re a qualified nurse and want to advance your career. It is often regarded as a high-specialization path with various responsibilities ranging from conducting health studies, analyzing surveys, generating reports, and suggesting health improvement practices.

You can work as a nurse researcher in multiple settings, such as research laboratories, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. When you choose this path, you will often not engage one-on-one with patients, but your role and responsibilities will impact the nursing field enormously through the care suggestions you provide.

To secure a career as a nurse researcher, you will need to complete doctorate-level studies in addition to a master’s degree and an RN license. However, you are better positioned if you hold a certification in clinical research from the Association of Clinical Research Professionals.

Travel Nurse

If you are a nurse who loves traveling, you can advance your career as a travel nurse. This nursing career specializes in providing services in multiple healthcare facilities across the country and on a global scale. Travel nurses perform general duties such as making diagnoses, assessing symptoms, filling out health histories, and administering medicine and treatment.

While many travel nurses are self-employed, others work through agencies on contracts, usually between one month and two years. It will help if you hold a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing or a related field.

In addition, you should have an active RN license to secure a position as a travel nurse. If you want to work for agencies, you may be asked to have a minimum of two years of experience in the nursing industry. Also, you may need a critical care, pediatric, or emergency nurse certificate.

Pain management nurse

A pain management nurse provides care before, during, and after a patient has undergone treatment for a particular pain, such as a backache or bone ache. This specialty involves studying pain levels, providing medicines, and following up with patients to determine their health progress.

Many patients with different types and pain levels have received treatment from professionals in this particular career path in recent years.

If you are considering venturing into a pain management career, you must have an RN license, BSN, or associate degree. In addition, you must have at least two years of experience in nursing. A pain management certificate remains optional and is not a requirement.

Telehealth nurse

Considering rapid technological advancements, you may find a telehealth nurse career suitable for progressing your nursing career. As a telehealth nurse, you will monitor and provide care to patients virtually through video calls, online chats, or phone calls. This nursing career has grown in popularity since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While there are few academic requirements to become a telehealth nurse, you will need a BSN and a passing grade on an RN license. You can broaden your career choices by becoming certified to care for patients beyond clinical settings.

Dialysis nurse

You can consider the dialysis path if you are a qualified nurse and want to further your career. Dialysis is a treatment that involves cleaning the blood of patients with kidney failure. This condition does not allow the kidneys to filter out excess fluids and harmful waste.

An experienced dialysis nurse can assist in preparing and dialyzing patients. This involves providing medication and dietary education and aftercare services. This consists in giving medicine and dietary education, and aftercare services. Dialysis nurses have been trained to operate various blood-cleaning machines and monitor patients for any negative effects caused by the dialysis process.

Becoming a dialysis nurse requires an RN certificate and a minimum nursing diploma. A nephrology certification, which includes studying kidney diseases, functions, and treatment, will give you an advantage when pursuing a career as a dialysis nurse.

Family nurse practitioner

Nursing care has significantly changed today, as nurses can care for particular people throughout their lives, from childhood to adulthood. Family nurse practitioners specialize in examining, diagnosing, and treating patients throughout their lifetime as they provide primary care services.

Typically, a nurse will consider your health problems from childhood to adulthood while focusing on preventive services. This career requires an RN or BSN as the minimum education requirement, advanced education to become a family nurse practitioner, and certification as a nurse practitioner.

You can positively impact the nursing shortage statistics by pursuing this career path. However, you’ll first want to learn more about the online MSN-FNP program available at Rockhurst University. This program allows you to handle your coursework and complete your degree online. You will also receive assistance making arrangements for a clinical placement near your residence.

Informatics nurse

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the informatics nurse specialty is projected to grow by over 6% by 2031. If you specialize in informatics nursing, you will provide pertinent health data to patients, doctors, and other nurses while administering medication procedures that mitigate various challenges.

This career category combines technology and nursing experience to provide comprehensive healthcare services. To pursue this career path, you will require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing; however, to secure a job, some employers may ask for a master’s degree in quality management, healthcare management, or healthcare informatics.

Trauma nurse

You may also consider pursuing a trauma nursing specialty to further your nursing career. This involves serving patients who require critical care due to experiencing a life-threatening situation. The professionals in this field have had diligent training to treat and stabilize patients who have suffered trauma.

They provide emergency medications, administer wound care, carry out blood transfusions, and operate various machines to save patients’ lives, including monitoring vital signs and applying defibrillators. Like other career paths, a trauma nurse requires a Bachelor’s in Nursing and completing the NCLEX test.

Certification in emergency nurse credentials administered by a Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing is also a plus. After completing this program, you can work in critical care facilities, emergency rooms, or hospitals.

Pediatric nurse

In contrast with AGNPs, which focus on a patient’s needs from childhood to adulthood, pediatric nurses consider the demands of patients from birth to puberty. Nurses in this category manage acute and chronic illnesses, conduct physical tests, perform diagnoses, and offer appropriate treatment options based on the health problem.

A pediatric nurse can operate in any setting, including the home, hospital, and laboratories. You can start this career by earning an RN certification license and an equivalent nursing certificate or BSN degree.

Acute care nurse

Sometimes, a patient develops sudden health problems that require immediate help from a medical practitioner. These challenges are often the result of chronic diseases and include premature birth complications, diabetes, and heart attacks. As such, immediate and professional help is needed.

Due to these circumstances, acute care nursing is a career that a qualified nurse can pursue. They know how to deal with sudden health problems from patients anytime, anywhere.

The acute care nursing specialization provides 15+ certifications in various fields, such as gerontology, cardiac, pediatric, and neonatal. A career in critical care nursing requires a doctorate-level education, though the requirements vary depending on location.

Oncology nurse

Oncology is for you if you would like to care for patients with cancer-related problems. Generally, if you choose to specialize in this career path, you can only provide care for a cancer specialty in which you are professionally certified.

That is why different care categories exist, such as senior, pediatric, hematology, and breast cancer. Nurses must possess sufficient knowledge to identify symptoms, administer chemotherapy and track progress while assisting patients.

This profession requires an RN license, an NP certificate, and a BSN education level. Additionally, you may be required to provide an oncology specialization certificate, especially when competition is high.

Mental health nurse

Like other health challenges that require a nurse, mental health is also of concern. Individuals suffering from mental health problems such as depression, stress, and anxiety need a nurse to diagnose them and provide meaningful coping strategies. A career in mental health nursing will enable you to provide psychological guidance to this group of patients while counseling them to ensure they lead a mentally healthy life.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 50 million people in the US suffer mental and emotional distress. The number is projected to increase even further. Some reasons behind the rise include social media, the Covid-19 pandemic, and isolation, among other factors.

Nurses who are passionate about building relationships with sufferers so that they can understand their mental and emotional needs will find this career rewarding. You can work in hospitals, psychiatric facilities, and rehabilitation centers when you choose this option.

Nurse manager

You can pursue a career as a nurse manager if you want to work administratively while managing other nurses within a healthcare facility. Despite its simplicity, it’s a career that focuses on supervisory tasks. The main functions include making decisions about management and budget, creating schedules, recruiting nurses, and administering hospital nursing processes.

If you choose this career path, you will work in outpatient and surgical centers. To qualify, you will need a registered nurse license, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and certification as a nurse manager and leader.

Nurse midwife

A nursing midwife career path may suit you if you enjoy helping pregnant women during and after giving birth. Nurse midwives are trained to assist women during labor, ensure successful delivery, and provide prenatal appointments to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

They also counsel, educate and caution new mothers about monitoring their children’s health. In addition to an RN license, you will need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to join this career, after which you can work in doctor’s offices or hospitals.

Are you looking forward to furthering your nursing career? You can choose from multiple specialties based on your interests and career objectives. Most of these career paths require a minimum academic qualification of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a registered nurse license.

The careers mentioned above are options for nurses who have achieved their professional goals and would like to advance to continue growing.

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