Types of Specialization
RNs can specialize in one or more patient care
specialties. The most common specialties can be
divided into roughly four categories—by work setting
or type of treatment; disease, ailment, or
condition; organ or body system type; or population.
RNs may combine specialties from more than one
area—for example, pediatric oncology or cardiac
emergency—depending on personal interest and
Nursing Specialization by Work Setting
RNs may specialize by work setting or by type of
care provided. For example, ambulatory care nurses
treat patients with a variety of illnesses and
injuries on an outpatient basis, either in
physicians’ offices or in clinics. Some ambulatory
care nurses are involved in tele-health, providing
care and advice through electronic communications
media such as videoconferencing or the Internet.
Critical care nurses work in critical or
intensive care hospital units and provide care to
patients with cardiovascular, respiratory, or
pulmonary failure. Emergency, or trauma, nurses work
in hospital emergency departments and treat patients
with life-threatening conditions caused by
accidents, heart attacks, and strokes. Some
emergency nurses are flight nurses, who provide
medical care to patients who must be flown by
helicopter to the nearest medical facility. Holistic
nurses provide care such as acupuncture, massage and
aroma therapy, and biofeedback, which are meant to
treat patients’ mental and spiritual health in
addition to their physical health.
Home health care nurses provide at-home care for
patients who are recovering from surgery, accidents,
and childbirth. Hospice and palliative care nurses
provide care for, and help ease the pain of,
terminally ill patients outside of hospitals.
Infusion nurses administer medications, fluids, and
blood to patients through injections into patients’
veins. Long- term care nurses provide medical
services on a recurring basis to patients with
chronic physical or mental disorders.
Medical-surgical nurses provide basic medical care
to a variety of patients in all health settings.
Occupational health nurses provide treatment for
job-related injuries and illnesses and help
employers to detect workplace hazards and implement
health and safety standards. Perianesthesia nurses
provide preoperative and postoperative care to
patients undergoing anesthesia during surgery.
Perioperative nurses assist surgeons by selecting
and handling instruments, controlling bleeding, and
suturing incisions. Some of these nurses also can
specialize in plastic and reconstructive surgery.
Psychiatric nurses treat patients with
personality and mood disorders. Radiologic nurses
provide care to patients undergoing diagnostic
radiation procedures such as ultrasounds and
magnetic resonance imaging. Rehabilitation nurses
care for patients with temporary and permanent
disabilities. Transplant nurses care for both
transplant recipients and living donors and monitor
signs of organ rejection.
Information nursing career specialties