How to Specialize in an Area of Nursing

Specializing in a specific area of nursing can enhance your career by increasing your professional growth, earnings potential, competency, and credibility. With around 80 nursing specialties available, you can specialize in an area of nursing by finding the right one and becoming certified in it.

Considering you will spend a lot of time learning about and working in a particular specialty, you need to carefully consider which one is the best fit for you. First, think about your personality. Do you find yourself interacting better with patients of a certain age? Nurses spend most of their time working directly with people, so you want to make sure your personality is brought out by the people you will work with. Are you drawn to certain specialties more than others because of the issues, treatments, and people they involve? Since the field of medicine is constantly changing, nurses have to maintain their education to keep up with it, so you will want to specialize in something you enjoy learning about. Second, think about what type of environment you want to work in. Do you prefer the hustle and bustle of hospitals, or the orderliness and calmness of private offices? Nurses often work long shifts and spend a lot of time at their place of employment, so you need to make sure it is one that brings out the best in you and not the worst.

To prove your expertise in a certain area of nursing, you will have to get certified in it. You can usually obtain a certification through professional nursing associations in specialty practice areas or nursing organizations, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center. To earn a specialized certification you must first meet eligibility requirements. These requirements will differ depending on specialty and credentialing organization, but typically include that you have a certain amount of college education, a current and unrestricted license as a registered nurse, and have completed a minimum number of hours working in the specialty practice area, as well as general nursing, within the last few years. You will then be required to pass an examination that will assess your knowledge of the specialized area and your ability to apply that knowledge to medical situations. Upon successfully passing the exam, you will receive your certificate which serves as validation of your expertise. These certifications usually only last a set number of years and require re-examination or continuing education in order to maintain certification and learn about advancements in the field.