Nursing is not a one size fits all occupation, and hasn’t been for a long time. The world of nursing has come a long way since the days of Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale, and there are all sorts of career options and specializations available for modern day nurses. With more and more people purchasing long term care insurance, an increasing number of nurses work in home visitation or for-profit long term care facilities. While many nurses still work in hospitals, many do not, and in or out of the hospital, there’s an amazing variety of medical careers available. So don’t feel pigeonholed into thinking in terms of the old stereotype of nurse jobs. We’ll talk about some of the different jobs open to today’s nurses, both in hospitals, and outside hospitals.
Types of Nurses In Hospitals:
Nurse Practitioner-This is another option for nurses with advanced training and experience. Nurse Practitioners perform many of the functions that physicians perform, including prescribing medication (in most states). Nurse practitioners work under the supervision of a medical doctor, but they are largely independent in their day to day activities. Because of the ever growing tendency of M.D.s to specialize, the number of general practitioners has been dropping precipitously in the past few decades. To fill the gap, state medical boards created the N. P. position. Nurse practitioners are for many people their “family doctor”. They handle common illnesses, and give health counseling and advice on avoiding sickness. A master’s degree is required for this nursing career, and N.P. programs usually require candidates to have several years nursing experience before acceptance.
Nurse Anesthesiologist-This is another career option for nurses that requires a master’s degree, and advanced training. The vast majority of anesthesia administered in American hospitals is administered by nurses. Anesthesiology is one of the most important medical breakthroughs in history-before it came along, surgery was a horrifyingly painful ordeal. But now people can be operated on without fear thanks to anesthesia, and the nurses who deliver most of it. This is also one of the highest paying of any medical careers.
Cardiac Care Nursing-Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in America, and preventing and reversing it is one of the primary goals of modern medicine. Cardiac care nurses work with doctors who are treating victims of heart disease and other cardiac related ailments, by means of bypass surgery, angioplasty, pacemaker implants, etc. Most of the time their work is done in a hospital, but cardiac nurses can sometimes be found in specialty medical clinics, and some even visit patients at home.
Case Manager Nurse-Sometimes a patient, especially under long term care, will face a bewildering number of medical appointments, procedures, doctors, oncologists, surgeons, etc. Keeping track of them, as well as handling the interaction between the patient and the health care system is the job of the Nurse-Case Manager. Additionally, he or she not only makes sure the patient gets good health care, but also works to see to it that it’s done in a cost effective manner, saving the facility unnecessary expense. Nurse-Case Managers usually specialize in either a particular segment of the population, such as children or the elderly, or in certain medical specialties, such as AIDS, cancer, heart disease, etc.
Critical Care Nursing-You’re no doubt familiar with situations where someone has had a stroke, or been injured in a car accident, and news reports state that they’re listed in “critical condition”. Their situation is touch and go, they’re hanging between life and death. And critical care nurses are the ones who take care of them. This nursing specialty requires lots of compassion, empathy, split second decision making, intelligence, and good people skills. Not only are critical care nurses working to pull the patient back from the brink of death, but they’re also interacting and comforting the grieving and worried family members of the patients. It’s a tough job, but if you’re up to it, critical care nursing has some of the greatest emotional rewards of any nursing career.
Emergency Nursing-Nurses who work in emergency rooms deal with all kinds of situations that require immediate care, from appendicitis to car wrecks to gunshot wounds to strokes, etc. It takes a special kind of person to work in this environment-one who’s fast on their feet, can make split second decisions, isn’t easily shocked, etc. Life isn’t always exciting in the emergency room, but nurses who work there know that at any time they’re liable to encounter a life and death situation, and they have to be ready. Not everyone is cut out to work in emergency room setting, but many nurses would never work anywhere else.
Ob/Gyn Nursing-Obstetrics and gynecology nurses specialize in caring for women with regard to childbirth, pregnancy, and everything else related to the female reproductive system, from puberty all the way through menopause.
Hematology Nursing-Hematology has to do with diseases of the blood, such as sickle cell anemia and leukemia. This is a less common nursing specialty, but a very important one. If you’ve ever had a family member with hemophilia, you know just how important hematology nurses are. Much of their work involves educating patients and their family members on how to manage the disease, and cope with living with it.
Intravenous Nursing-Also known as infusion nursing, this is the nursing specialty that deals with delivering fluids, nutrients, and medications directly into the patient’s bloodstream. If you’ve heard the term “I. V. drip”, these are the nurses who administer the drips and other infusions. They also monitor the patients during delivery, and afterwards keep an eye on the opening of the skin to watch for infections.
Labor and Delivery Nursing-this is a popular career choice for nurses. It’s related to ob/gyn nursing, but focuses solely on pregnant mothers and their child immediately before, during, and immediately after labor and childbirth. Many L & D nurses wouldn’t trade jobs for anything as they can’t think of anything else that would give as much satisfaction as helping to bring new life into the world.
Medical Surgical Nursing-This specialty, commonly referred to as Med/Surg nursing, is the branch of nursing that most people have in mind when they think of a registered nurse. They help patients in hospitals and nursing homes and other facilities who are taking pharmaceutical drugs, and also care for them prior to and after surgery.
Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit-Nurses who specialize in this field, which is called NICU for short, take care of premature babies, and other babies who have serious problems immediately after being delivered. Some nurses say that while it can be an emotionally draining job, it can also be immensely satisfying.
Oncology Nursing-Oncology nurses work with cancer patients. This is a growing field, as the rates of cancer in this country continue to increase. Nurses who work in oncology administer chemotherapy, counsel patients, work with the doctors and surgeons to create and coordinate a cancer treatment plan, and educate patients on their disease and its treatment.
Perioperative Nursing-These are nurses who work in operating rooms, also known as OR nurses, although preoperative is rapidly becoming the preferred terminology. They assist surgeons directly and indirectly during surgery, prepare and maintain a safe and sterile operating environment, and monitor patients vital signs and progress during and immediately after surgery. Many periop nurses further specialize in a particular kind of surgery, such as heart surgery or neurosurgery.
Otorhinolaryngology Nursing-Also known as Head and Neck nursing, this is the branch of nursing that cares for patients with injuries and diseases affecting these areas of the body, such as accident victims, allergies, cancers of the head or neck, cleft palates, etc.
Pediatric Nursing-Pediatric nurses care for younger patients, from infancy until adulthood. Many of them also have further specializations, such as pediatric oncology, which is treating children with cancer, or pediatric hematology, since so many blood diseases strike people during childhood.
Perianesthesia Nursing-these are the nurses who assist anesthesiologists by preparing patients for anesthesia before surgery, and after surgery is completed, slowly bringing them back to wakefulness. Nurse Anesthesiologists actually administer the anesthesia; these nurses don’t actually handle the medication but help the patients during the process.
Perinatal Nursing-Nurses who specialize in pregnancy and childbirth issues, sometimes known as prenatal nursing. Pregnant women and their families face a lot of issues preparing for childbirth, especially in the case of a first child, and perinatal nurses help them get ready, telling them what to expect, giving them health tips, watching for symptoms, offering general health advice for both mother and fetus.
Psychiatric Nursing-Psych nurses work with patients facing issues of mental health, from eating disorders, depression, anxiety, addiction, physical and sexual abuse, personality disorders, etc. This branch of nursing can be highly stressful and isn’t for everybody, but like all other nursing specialties, has its own rewards that go along with the drawbacks.
Radiology Nursing-This is one of the more technically advanced nursing specialties. Radiology nurses work in the field of medical imaging, which includes sonograms, ultrasound, magnetic resonance, x-rays, etc. It’s also quite physically demanding-nurses who work in radiology are often on their feet all day, and there’s a lot of walking involved, in addition to sometimes having to wear heavy protective aprons made of lead.
Respiratory Nursing-Respiratory nurses, also known as pulmonary care nurses, work with patients who have lung problems or difficulty breathing. Their patients will have such conditions as lung cancer, emphysema, asthma, tuberculosis, etc. Many of them will also be breathing with the assistance of ventilators or oxygen machines. Respiratory nursing is primarily an in hospital nursing specialty, but many respiratory nurses will make home visits as part of their job.
Rehabilitation Nursing-Rehab nurses work with patients who’ve become temporarily or permanently disabled and unable to function normally due to injury or illness. Many of their patients are in wheelchairs or use other devices to assist them in getting around. It can be a physically demanding job, and requires a lot of compassion and patience.
Telemetry Nursing-Telemetry nurses work with heart patients in the cardiac units of hospitals, where the patients are hooked up to sophisticated instruments used to monitor various functions of the cardio pulmonary system, such as electrocardiogram machines. Not only must these nurses know how to care for patients, they must also be familiar with the various types of instruments and how to interpret the feedback they get from them.
Trauma Nursing-Trauma nurse usually work in emergency rooms, or with patients who’ve just come out of the emergency room. Whether it’s a heart attack victim, a person who almost drowned, someone who fell off a ladder, or a person who’s been in a severe car accident, trauma victims need intense care as soon as possible. They’re often in shock, or bleeding profusely, and are many times near death. Trauma nurses work with doctors and surgeons to treat their condition, and then stabilize them so they can hopefully make a full recovery. This can be an extremely stressful nursing career, more so than many others.
Last Updated: 02/23/2013