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One-Stop Guide to Nursing Specialties

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By Christina Orlovsky, contributor

Even as the total number of registered nurses working in the United States creeps toward three million, the nation continues to face a critical shortage of health care professionals—a shortage that is only expected to worsen as baby boomer nurses enter retirement years. With the average age of the nursing professional at 47 years, the next decade expects to see a large number of retirees from the workforce, leaving a gap that must be filled by new nursing school graduates.

According to the 2006-2007 Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses are projected to create the second largest number of jobs among all occupations through 2014.

Combine advancing technology and the ability to treat numerous conditions with the growing number of elderly people who are going to be needing care in the coming decade, and the time is now to be a registered nurse.

Job opportunities abound, the avenues to entry are plentiful and the need is great. But, with so many different avenues to pursue in nursing, it may be difficult to know exactly which specialty to choose. While nurses of all types are in high demand in facilities across the United States, there are a few specialties that are in greater demand than others. Here is a look into five of the most-in-demand nursing specialties.

Critical Care

According to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, critical-care nursing is “the specialty within nursing that deals specifically with human responses to life-threatening problems. A critical-care nurse is a licensed professional nurse or registered nurse who is responsible for ensuring that acutely and critically ill patients and their families receive optimal care. “Critical-care nurses account for roughly one-third of the total number of nurses working in the hospital setting.

For more information, go to the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN)’s Web site.


Telemetry nursing deals with the care and monitoring of patients connected to machines that measure heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, blood-oxygen level and electrocardiogram information. Telemetry nurses educate patients in the cardiac unit about their care, medications and health maintenance after they are removed from cardiac machines.

For more information, go to the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN)’s Web site.

Emergency Department

Emergency nursing is a specialty in which nurses care for patients in the emergency or critical phase of their illness or injury. Emergency nurses are adept at discerning life-threatening problems; prioritizing the urgency of care; rapidly and effectively carrying out resuscitative measures and other treatment; acting with a high degree of autonomy and ability to initiate needed measures without outside direction; and educating the patient and his or her family.

Emergency department (ED) nurses are highly trained in their specialty, and there are several certifications available. At a minimum, an ED nurse should be certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support. Other certifications include Certified Emergency Nurse), Trauma Nursing Core Course, Emergency Nursing Pediatric Course, Mobile Intensive Care Nurse and Neonatal Advanced Life Support.

For more information, go to the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA)’s Web site.


Medical-Surgical nursing (commonly referred to as med-surg nursing) is an adult health specialty that provides care for patients before and after surgery. This field also encompasses nurses who care for adults with acute health conditions and includes many elements of care, such as medication administration, patient education, pain management, case management and discharge planning.

According to the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses, med-surg nurses care for adult patients in many settings, including inpatient care units, clinics, HMOs, ambulatory care units, home health care, long-term care, skilled nursing homes, urgent care centers, surgical centers and universities.

For more information, go to the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN)’s Web site.

Perioperative (OR)

The Association of periOperative Nurses defines perioperative nursing as “the practice of nursing directed toward patients undergoing operative and other invasive procedures,” and the perioperative nurse as “one who provides, manages, teaches and/or studies the care of patients undergoing operative or other invasive procedures, in the preoperative, intraoperative and postoperative phases of the patient’s surgical experience.”

For more information, go the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN)’s Web site.

© 2008. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Source: http://www.nursezone.com/Recent-Graduates/recent-graduates-featured-articles/One-Stop-Guide-to-Nursing-Specialties_20120.aspx


1 Comment

  1. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

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