Thursday, June 30, 2011

Falling into the Right Nursing Specialty

I confess: I chose my career in nursing by default.

It was second semester of my senior year of high school and I still had no idea where I wanted to go to college or what I wanted to do. A few months earlier, I had definitely dismissed a career in nursing after hearing a nursing student describe her first effort at urinary catheterization. But now, as graduation crept closer, my best friend was telling me that she was headed for nursing school. Since I still had no plan for my post-high school years, I decided to go with her to take the entry exam.

A few weeks later, I learned that I had passed and that my name was on the freshman class list.

My friend (and roommate) dropped out of nursing school after the first year and eventually had a very successful career as a corporate employee. I hung in there – and I’m glad I did. Luckily, I found that I liked nursing, despite having just fallen into it.

When I graduated, I chose to work on a medical floor in a large teaching hospital – again by default. I didn’t feel comfortable on some of the other units, so acute medicine seemed like the best fit. Again, I lucked out, and found that I really did like working in this area.

When I graduated, there weren’t that many options for nurses. You could work in a hospital, an office, a school, enter the military or public health nursing, or you could acquire additional education and become a nursing instructor or an anesthetist. New graduates today have infinitely more choices, and were I on the brink of my career today, I’m not sure which path I’d follow.

Just look at some of the choices of nursing specialties available today:

Maternal-child health
Flight/transportation nursing
Forensic nursing
Hospice
Immunology and allergy
Infection control
Occupational health
Hyperbaric nursing
Palliative care
Radiology nursing
Rehabilitation
Renal nursing
Telenursing
Oncology
Genetics
Telephone triage
Transplantation
Utilization management
Wound and ostomy care
Gastroenterology
Nurse practitioner
Complementary health
Infectious disease
Case management
Cardiac cath lab
Lactation consultation
Legal consulting
Health policy specialist
Hematology specialist
Neuroscience
Life care planning
Midwifery
Executive/CEO/administration
HIV/AIDS care
Ophthalmology
Intravenous therapy
Pediatric endocrinology
Substance abuse
Research
Toxicology
Transcultural specialist
Environmental health
Faith community nursing
Transplant nursing

...and this isn’t even a complete list.

The good news is that the choices abound; the bad news is that it might be tough to choose.

If you are a veteran nurse, how did you choose your specialty?

Have you worked in more than one specialty? If so, why and how did you switch?

If you are a student or a new grad, have you chosen your field of interest?

Do you feel that you’ve had enough exposure to various areas to make a good choice?

Tell us about it.

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