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Steps to Choosing Your Nursing Specialty

Written by Sharon O'Maley & Stephanie Turek, RN

At the start of your career or even when you decide to switch specialties, choosing your nursing specialty is crucial. Deciding in favor of one nursing area does not mean rejecting others; it means that you genuinely know your strengths and the area where you will excel. As you have progressed through your education, training, and internships, you may have worked more extensively with the medical care of children or the terminally ill. However, you may have enjoyed your time spent in pediatric medicine the most. It is not only about skills, but it is also about passion.

Since the COVID era, the traveling nurse has been another option among the many choices nurses have today. While there is substantial money to earn in this area, it may not be for everyone because it requires great flexibility and mobility. So, let’s look at some of your options when choosing your nursing specialty.

Identifying Your Strengths

Nursing has high-level demands on the body, mind, and emotions. Those who choose a nursing profession are dedicated to serving others. Let’s look at four patient age areas within which you may find your strengths:

  • Neonatal
  • Pediatrics
  • Adults
  • Geriatrics

Neonatal Nursing Strengths

Neonatal nurses have many strengths that allow them to succeed in this specialty. Keen observation/assessment of symptoms, trending behaviors, and assessing the neonate as a whole, along with interpreting monitors, are some of those strengths. Newborns have the lowest level of communication, so observation and patient assessment is vital in caring for them. One body system requiring this observation and assessment is the respiratory system since infants may be born needing respiratory stimulation and potential artificial ventilation.

Feeding and nutritional support for new mothers and neonates is also high on the priority list. All the newborn’s body systems are just starting to function outside the mother’s body, so it may require some encouragement, and it may be decided to administer feeding via a nasogastric tube. You will need to quickly decide how to act in the infant’s best interest.

When choosing a nursing specialty, medication administration is always a crucial aspect to consider. This is mainly because the dosage and potential side effects of medication can vary depending on the age and size of the patient. As a nurse, you must be able to quickly and decisively address any possible contraindications or adverse effects. Additionally, it is essential to remain calm and focused during stressful situations, especially when caring for the smallest and most vulnerable patients.

Pediatric Nursing Strengths

Pediatric nursing is a specialty that involves taking care of patients from birth to 18 years of age. Nurses who love communicating with younger individuals often choose this field. Developing a relationship with the patient and their parents is essential to this job. In pediatric nursing, it is crucial to teach effectively. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of pediatric nurses today, which may be due to the unique skill set that is required.

Healing sick children is challenging because they often experience pain during medical procedures and may not understand what is going on. This can be difficult for both the child and the parents. When a young patient passes away, it is not only challenging for the nurse, but it's also devastating for the family. Witnessing their grief can be heart-wrenching for everyone involved.

The Adult Patient

Adult patients may have the most variables, such as age and health status, so this area has a lot of possibilities when choosing your nursing specialty. As for age, your patient will be from 19 to 60 or 65. At that age, the adult will pass onto the grand stage of “senior adult” or become a geriatric patient in some care settings. As a nurse for the adult population, you may also continue to breach the veil of the geriatric specialty.

The adult patient can range from downright strong and healthy to chronic illness or sudden onset of disease. It may seem there are a few downsides or extraordinary challenges to this group of individuals. However, caring for the adult population is very rewarding.

Encouraging healthy adults to undergo preventive care is necessary even in the absence of adverse symptoms, as sudden diagnoses of severe diseases like cancer can occur without any provocation.

The Geriatric Patient Specialty

This particular group of patients may have their own specialty, but they are often grouped with the general adult population. Being geriatric does not necessarily mean that a patient over the age of 65 is chronically or severely ill. However, geriatric patients may have different red flags than younger or middle-aged patients because of their age. For instance, at the age of 65, it is recommended that patients receive a pneumonia vaccine. Even before that, at 50, many healthcare providers suggest getting the shingles vaccine. It is also advisable to have a living will and end-of-life decisions in place by this age to make decisions more straightforward for the family in case of an emergency.

Embracing the Choice

Choosing a nursing specialty involves committing to the highest ethical and professional standards for a particular age group. It is important to remember that you can always change your specialty or age group at some point in your career to prevent burnout and keep your career fresh. Each specialty and age group comes with a learning curve, but it's important to choose what's best for you in the present moment.

About the Author:

Stephanie Turek, RN: Stephanie is a 1992 graduate of Austin Community College with an Associate of Applied Science/ Registered Nurse Licensure. Her entire career has been spent in the pediatric specialty in one capacity or another. Her experience has ranged from Med Surge, Neurology Intermediate Care, Pediatric Ambulatory Clinic, and School Nursing (elementary and secondary). She has thoroughly enjoyed caring for and educating the pediatric patient and their families in assisting them in the betterment of the patient's overall health and well-being.

Sharon Finch O’Maley, Author: Sharon Finch O’Maley received her Bachelor of Arts in Education from the Peoples’ Bible College in 1976 and her Certification for Supervisors of ACE classrooms from the ACE Certification Institute in 1984. She also studied Spanish at the Peace Corp Language Institute in Santo Domingo and El Instituto De Espanol in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Sharon served as a Technical Writer and Translator for Royal Tech Writers & Blog Content and has researched and written continuing education manuals for medical issues, as well as insurance, real estate, and the financial industry. She is also a medical researcher, having completed research on topics including deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and respiratory issues like Pulmonary Artery Hypertension (PAH). She has written Continuing Education courses for a variety of medical emergencies for adults and infants, degenerative conditions and age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

Stephanie and Sharon are independent contributors to CEUfast’s Nursing Blog Program. Please note that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog post are solely of the independent contributor and do not necessarily represent those of CEUfast. This blog post is not medical advice. Always consult with your personal healthcare provider for any health-related questions or concerns.

If you want to learn more about CEUfast’s Nursing Blog Program or would like to submit a blog post for consideration, please visit

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