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Choosing the right nursing specialty

Some years ago, the number of nursing specialties was quite limited. Today there are more than 100, ranging from ambulatory care to wound care. Nurses work in both inpatient and outpatient settings, hold managerial and executive positions, work in research environments and establish private practices. With so many types of nursing, how does one decide which nursing specialty is the best fit?

How to decide on a clinical specialty or role

It is not necessary to decide on the right nursing specialty early on in your nursing education, but it is helpful to take several things into consideration when narrowing the list. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are my interests?
  • With whom do I enjoy working: Adults? Children? Immigrant populations? Women only?
  • Am I able to work in a chaotic or fast-paced environment, or do I prefer less stress, a slower pace and spending in-depth time with patients?
  • Am I comfortable working in non-traditional settings?
  • How much training will I need after obtaining my registered nurse license?
  • Does the specialty in which I am interested require additional certifications or an advanced degree?

New programs help nurses choose specialties

Hospitals nationwide are offering programs that help nurses test different specialties before making a commitment. For example, there are internships that allow new graduates to learn technical skills and experience clinical cultures before choosing a nursing specialty. During the internship, nurses receive full salary and benefits, classroom instruction and clinical rotations that provide contacts that can lead to a permanent job.

Other employers help new graduates make the transition to staff nurse by placing them in different clinical areas for several weeks so they experience a variety of specialties. After this, the programs link graduates with a specific specialty of their choosing.

Check geographic areas where shortages exist

There are nursing shortages in many areas of the country, but some geographic areas are in greater need than others of nurses with certain clinical specialties. There is a high demand for nurses in specialties that require high levels of nursing skills and technological skills. Shortages exist in critical care settings, emergency rooms, and specialties like telemetry – all nursing specialties that are learning-intensive and have fewer individuals who are qualified for these positions.

For a satisfying and fulfilling career, it is important to choose the right nursing specialty for you. This requires thought and planning, but the time and effort are well worth it.


Explore Specialties. Johnson & Johnson – The Campaign for Nursing's Future.(n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2015, from

LeClaire, Jennifer. How to Choose a Nursing Specialty | (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2015 from.

Persson, Ricky. Things to consider when choosing your nursing specialty. (2014, August 1). Retrieved January 10, 2015 from

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