A Comprehensive Guide to Finding Your Calling in Nursing

Finding Your Calling in Nursing: A Comprehensive Guide

A Comprehensive Guide to Finding Your Calling in Nursing:

So you’ve successfully achieved your dream of becoming a nurse. The all-nighters studying and frenzied placements are now a distant memory. You know the ins and outs of providing general care and can tend to the sick with confidence and authority. It’s all part of your day-to-day operations as a registered nurse.

You’ve seen best and worst-case scenarios play out in front of your eyes in real-time. You’ve provided the most heartbreaking news to patients’ loved ones and you’ve witnessed real-life medical miracles unfold. You’ve mopped up vomit and convinced a patient that life is worth fighting for. You are the moral fiber of the medical system, fighting on the ground with patients by your side. You should be proud.

A comprehensive guide to finding your calling in nursing
Fig: A comprehensive guide to finding your calling in nursing

Despite all of this, your thirst for knowledge only deepens the longer you practice. Your curiosity spikes every time a fellow medic mentions a particular area in healthcare. A few quick questions are asked and you become privy to the plethora of areas of specialization in nursing. You might vaguely remember covering this in university at one point or another.

What is Specialization?

The American Nurses Association, in combination with the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, define specialization as a concentrated or delimited area of expert clinical practice with focused competencies and knowledge. Specialization involves a narrowing and deepening of focus in nursing realms.

Specializing allows qualified nurses to hone in on an area they are particularly interested in. In doing so, expect greater authority, responsibility, increased confidence, and a potentially higher salary. This generally requires further study of a postgraduate qualification. You can study a nurse practitioner program online or in person depending on the demands of your lifestyle and your style of learning.

There are a myriad of specialties in nursing that are ultimately determined by scientific and technological discoveries, as well as societal demand. Specialties therefore grow and change with time. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated a 13% growth in healthcare occupations from 2021 to 2031. This means healthcare will require an increased amount of practitioners to make up for the demand.

Why Specialize?

Research shows that 97% of specialized nurses admitted to feeling more confident in their clinical abilities, and 90% of nurses agree that specialization enhances credibility. It wouldn’t come as a surprise that 86% of Nurse Managers therefore prefer to hire specialized nurses.

A 2023 study highlighted the most common reasons nurses decide to pursue higher education to specialize. Let’s examine these more closely.

Career Progression and Professional Development:

Specializing is the first step in forging a career journey with boundless possibilities. Allow yourself to grow professionally in progressing your way to a specific field, in a more particular aspect of nursing that you’re deeply passionate about.

Areas of specialization can include pediatric, oncology, neonatal, mental health, geriatric, genetics, dialysis, critical care, case management, cardiac, ambulatory care, and advanced practice nursing.

To be Challenged Intellectually and Practically:

No matter how challenging, confronting, or tedious our routine tasks are; we creatures of habit can easily become accustomed to a set of tasks we enact repeatedly. This is how and why we need to grow professionally by challenging ourselves both on a practical and intellectual scale.

The National Library of Medicine’s study found that 72% of survey respondents sought intellectual challenges in their reasoning for seeking a specialist field in their nursing professions.

To Have Greater Responsibility and Acquire New Skills:

Part of any professional growth is to acquire new skills and achieve a greater level of responsibility across the field. As the saying goes, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. The highest number of the 2023 survey’s participants; 75% attested to new areas of responsibility as a key determining factor when it came down to their decision to specialize in a nursing field.

Higher Wages:

With more career responsibilities and higher stakes at play, professional specialized nurses are understandably remunerated at a higher level than their generalist counterparts. 71% of survey responses alleged that higher wages were a key component of their decision to specialize.

As with many careers, the higher the stakes generally mean the higher the salary. For example, similar to physicians, anesthetist nurses make the top dollar when it comes to nursing specializations.

Naturally, we all want to be rewarded generously for our hard work; especially the generally tough work that nurses routinely encounter. Consider the top-paying nursing specialties when it comes to weighing up your options. Consider the exact nature of the work itself, as well as its predicted toll on you. For example, if you prefer fast-paced environments, you can consider trauma nursing. On the contrary, if you prefer a steadier pace you could look into critical care as one example.

What are the Most Common Areas of Specialization?

While it’s hard to pinpoint common areas of specialization, as there are so many varied areas, one can examine the more popular fields as of the previous year. So what are some key nursing specializations and what do these fields involve exactly?

Critical Care Nurses:

Critical care nurses provide the essential care required for extremely vulnerable patients in intensive care units. This demographic includes patients with severe, life-threatening conditions. Critical nurses require the soundest ability to perform under pressure. They also require comprehensive clinical knowledge in what is notorious for being an extremely stressful and fast-paced environment. Critical care nurses may comprise some of the toughest in the profession.

Nurse Practitioner:

Nursing Practitioners or Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) perform many duties. This can involve prescribing medications, diagnosing conditions, and managing comprehensive and oftentimes ongoing patient care. APRNs generally work in hospitals, clinics, and private practices alike.

Neonatal Nurses:

Neonatal nurses are the first point of contact for newborns entering the world. These nurses are particularly involved when newborns present with health complications and are born prematurely. Neonatal nurses generally work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units where they’re required to manage complex high-pressure situations, often instantaneously.

Oncology Nurses:

In a somewhat opposing, slow-paced fashion, but in no way less heartbreaking, oncology nurses stand on the front line of defense for cancer patients. Their roles involve multifaceted responsibilities including managing symptoms, administering treatments, and providing emotional support to patients and their families. Sadly considering the nature of cancer, these nurses may become even more accustomed to death and deterioration than some of their varied counterparts.

Geriatric Nurses:

Due to a generally aging population, the demand for geriatric nurses has steadily increased. Geriatric nurses provide comfort and care in managing general aging, as well as chronic illnesses that may present over time. These practitioners require the utmost degree of patience and understanding in dealing with an older, more frail, and vulnerable demographic. The inevitable death and deterioration (ideally from natural aging) will be a commonplace occurrence for geriatric nurses to witness.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners:

Increasing developments in mental healthcare mean that associated practitioners are required widely. These nurses can treat and diagnose mental illness and related mental health conditions, as well as prescribe medications. Psychiatric nurses can also provide some psychotherapy services.

These practitioners require a holistic and highly empathetic, as well as sympathetic, demeanor in tending to the needs of those with cognitive disparities. This work can be immensely challenging, as no two days will be the same in dealing with patients with mental illness. The work may also be triggering and psychologically and emotionally demanding – not for the faint-minded.

Specializing in a particular nursing area is the optimal means of professional growth within the field. Sacrifice is required to pursue further study, however, this can allow nurses to challenge themselves on an intellectual and practical basis. In turn, you will be rewarded with a broadened skill set, greater responsibility, and credibility, as well as a significantly higher salary. The short-term sacrifice of time, money, and energy can easily pay off in the long term with a more focused career, in a particular area that you are passionate about.

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