A caring Geriatric Nurse and her content patient – Photo Courtesy: Daniel Oines. Only one percent of nurses are certified in geriatrics, though the elderly make up almost half of all hospital patients, so geriatric nurses are always in demand.
When you consider going to nursing school, you might have one fixed idea of what a nurse really is. You imagine taking blood pressure, filing paperwork, and providing good bedside manners to patients in a hospital or emergency room. But in reality, there are hundreds of different kinds of nursing careers, and nurses can specialize in about as many areas as doctors do.
Not only do nurses work with patients of all ages and with a variety of conditions, they can do clinical research, coordinate patient care plans, and even develop computer programs. The kind of nurse you become will depend on your level of education and certification, and ultimately on what sparks your interest as you become an RN, or after you have a few years’ experience. These are just a few of the options:
1. Surgical Nursing
Surgical nursing is known as the oldest nursing specialty, and they make up an incredibly valuable part of the operating team. The surgical nurse explains the procedure to the patient and their family, and they can talk them through their concerns. They also monitor the patient’s health before and after their surgery, checking their vitals and watching for post-operative side-effects. The nurse discharges the patient and gives them the information necessary for their home recovery. Other kinds of medical nurses can also assist doctors and anesthesiologists during the procedure.
2. Pediatric and Geriatric Nursing
Some nurses specialize in either children or the elderly. Pediatric nurses can work in hospitals or private practices, and they are responsible for the health of children and babies. They measure height, weight, and other signs of growth, and they often spend time analyzing lab results to diagnose a child’s condition.
Geriatric nurses sometimes work in nursing homes or hospices. Since they care for the elderly, they usually have some level of expertise in illnesses that are common in older patients, like stroke, cardiovascular issues, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and prostate disease. Only one percent of nurses are certified in geriatrics, though the elderly make up almost half of all hospital patients, so geriatric nurses are always in demand.
3. Clinical Research Nursing
A clinical nurse specialist is an advanced area of nursing for experienced nurses with higher education. They are directly involved in analyzing data, and they work with the nursing staff to try and develop better and more effective ways of care. As part of their research, they can conduct clinical trials to test the effectiveness of certain drugs and treatment methods. They can also evaluate hospital procedures to see how safe and effective they are. Clinical research jobs, for nurses as well as pharmacists and project managers, are some of the most in-demand positions in the country.
4. Case Management Nursing
Insurance companies and healthcare centers sometimes employ case management nurses to manage an individual patient’s entire scope of care. They usually work over the phone, coordinating a schedule between doctors, physical therapists, and other care providers, as well as communicating with a patient’s family and even their employer.
This is another career option for experienced RNs, and because a case manager handles every aspect of the care plan, they can make a significantly higher salary than many traditional hospital nurses. Depending on the company that employs them, some case management nurses even work from home.
5. Nurse Practitioner
For nurses who want to continue providing more traditional care even after they have advanced in experience and education, it’s always a good option to become a nurse practitioner. NPs can be certified in any area, such as emergency, cardiology, family, neonatal, or women’s health.
The difference between a nurse practitioner and a regular RN is that they are qualified to be a primary health provider to patients – ordering tests and even prescribing medication. Some licensed NPs actually perform minor surgeries, under physician supervision. With a shortage of doctors, licensed NPs can be very valuable to hospitals who need other qualified professionals to diagnose and treat sick patients.
Many of the more specialized nursing careers require higher education or certification. As a registered nurse, you will probably be interested in advancing your career, which means advancing your education and taking an online RN to BSN program, or even going on to graduate school. While nursing is one of the fastest-growing industries in the country, it is also highly competitive. There’s no reason for a gifted nurse not to move past bedpans and blood pressure charts and find a more specific area of healthcare – one that they can enjoy and excel at.
Amie Gottschalk is an avid tech blogger. You can follow her on Twitter @amiegottschalk.