Most nursing students solely focus on becoming registered nurses. Over time, though, many of those nurses decide to advance their education to pursue a more specialized nursing career. It’s not always easy to decide which path to take, though, especially if you’ve spent years as an RN. Do you think you’d make a great nurse-midwife, or are your skills better suited to educating other nurses? If you’re at the point where you want to advance your nursing career, here’s how to choose your specialty.
Get Your Nursing Degree
If you are hung up on which nursing route to take before you’ve even had any nursing experience, your first step is to get your degree. You don’t have to decide on a specialty that early on, after all. Throughout your education, you’ll learn more about nursing, which will provide you with a better idea of what you want to do. For those without nursing experience but are eager to get started, an online ABSN allows you to qualify as a nurse in sixteen months. That way, you can pursue a more advanced specialty before too long.
Spend Time as a Registered Nurse
Some people know exactly what they want their career to be before they even apply to university, whereas others need some time spent in a role before they know for sure. Others might think they know but later realize it’s not what they thought it would be.
Wherever you stand, it’s a sensible idea to spend some time as a registered nurse before jumping into your master’s or doctorate. That way, you’ll get to know the various roles, understand the way healthcare facilities work, and even get opportunities to work alongside nurses in the advanced careers you’re considering. The more you know about nursing, the easier your decision will be.
Look At the Projected Growth
It’s important to consider how many jobs will be available once you’ve qualified in your specialty. You don’t want to spend years in advanced education only to realize there aren’t many openings, after all! Once you have an idea of what sort of nursing roles interest you, look at each one’s projected growth. If one of the careers looks like it’s going to grow rapidly in the next few years, then there’s a greater chance that you’ll find a job quickly.
Speak to Other Nurses
The best advice will come from nurses who have worked the roles you are considering. If you aren’t sure if becoming a midwife is right for you, for example, get in touch with a certified nurse-midwife to get their side of the story. They’ll be able to let you in on the ins and outs of the role without sugar-coating the challenging parts. Once you know the best and worst parts of a nursing specialty, the decision will become much clearer.
Consider Your Strengths
While pursuing a career you enjoy is crucial, it’s also important to choose one that lets your skills shine. Not only does this ensure that you perform well, but it also means you’ll gain far more satisfaction from your work. So, before choosing your nursing specialty, ask yourself what your strengths are. Are you great with kids? Do you make everyone feel comfortable? Are you a natural leader? Use your strengths to influence your path, and you’ll have a more successful and enjoyable career.
Consider Your Weaknesses
Knowing your weaknesses is just as important as knowing your strengths when it comes to choosing a nursing specialty. If you aren’t a great leader, for example, then you should probably steer away from management and teaching roles. Don’t worry – your weaknesses don’t have to affect your nursing career, as long as you allow them to adjust your goals.
Volunteer for More Opportunities
If you’re currently working as a registered nurse, it’s important to volunteer for extra experience. For example, your supervisor might ask someone to work alongside a nurse administrator for the day. By taking on as many opportunities as possible, you’ll have a wider breadth of knowledge on each nursing specialty. You never know; you might realize that a nursing path you’d never previously considered is the perfect one for you!
Think About the Setting
Another thing to consider is exactly where you’ll be working. It’s important to enjoy your work setting! Nurses tend to work in hospitals, clinics, and care homes, but there are other potential settings, too, such as schools and correctional facilities. So, when choosing your nursing path, be sure to think about where you’d feel most comfortable working. If you’ve spent years working in emergency rooms and you want a change, for example, you might consider becoming an FNP and working in a family clinic where it’s not quite as intense.
Decide Who You Want to Work with
Another crucial factor is who you will be working with. Nurses work with a wide range of people, from young children to mothers to the elderly, so consider that before choosing a specialty. You should also think about the co-workers you’ll be around, too – if you decide to work as an FNP in a clinic, you’ll have fewer co-workers than if you worked in the emergency room.
Don’t Rush Your Decision
No matter how eager you are to further your career, you must not rush your decision. After all, there is nothing wrong with working as a registered nurse for a while before you decide where you want to go! Some nurses even realize that they’re best suited to an RN position over any other.
The more time you have to deliberate your decision, the more likely the choice will be the right one. Once you’ve spent time working alongside various nurses and in different settings, you’ll better understand exactly where your healthcare passions lie.
Choosing a specialty isn’t easy, especially if you don’t know what they all entail. By gaining more experience, considering your traits, and taking your time though, you’ll soon discover which nursing path is right for you. Remember, even if you make a decision now, it isn’t set in stone. You always have the opportunity to change your specialty years down the line.