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What are the Different Nursing Specialties?

By Christy Bieber
Updated May 17, 2024
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Nurses serve an important role within the medical community, and there are many different nursing specialties. A nurse who specializes in a given field may do so through professional certification, or through obtaining experience within that area of medicine as she works. Generally, a nurse who specializes can command a higher salary, although this is not always the case.

Several types of nursing specialties exist surrounding the delivery and care of babies. For example, a nurse midwife works with expectant mothers to deliver an infant. Most often, nurse midwives must become nurse practitioners and obtain special training and education to fulfill this role. A nurse midwife can work independently of a doctor, delivering babies on her own unless medical complications arise.

Neonatal nurses are also a type of specialist nurse. Neonatal nurses work in nurseries and care for babies. Generally, nurses within this specialty are certified for various levels of care, with the least experienced nurses or those with the least education in the specialty working with "level one" or normal and healthy infants and the nurses with the most experience working with "level four" or high risk infants in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Other nursing specialties exist within the fields of critical care. An intensive care nurse, for example, generally works in the ICU (intensive care unit) and provides specialized care for individuals who need constant medical attention and surveillance due to serious illness. An ICU nurse may be responsible for monitoring a patient's vital signs and otherwise reporting any changes in condition to a doctor on call.

ER (emergency room) nurses are also specialist nurses. In this field, nurses have to cope with high risk and high pressure situations. They generally must be prepared to perform triage, which is the process of determining which patients have the highest priority illnesses or medical situations and which must be seen by doctors first. These nurses work within hospitals.

Still another of the nursing specialties are nurses who work with people with specific diseases and conditions. Diabetes nurses must provide specialized care and education to diabetic patients. Within the United States, there are specialized educational programs that certify diabetes nurse practitioners to provide assistance and advice to patients who have diabetes or who are in danger of developing the condition. Other diseases and illnesses also create a need for specialty nurses; for example, a nurse may specialize in oncology and work primarily with cancer patients.

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