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Question from a Pre-Nursing Student

Posted

Has 2 years experience.

Hope it's ok to post here, but I'd love some feedback from seasoned (and not so seasoned :D) nurses!

My question is...how does one decide on a specialty?

Was perhaps just an area that really appealed to you before you even stepped one toe into a hospital as a nurse? Was it just something that kind of happened because that's where you got a job? Was it something that you really enjoyed during rotations as a student?

My understanding (please correct me if I'm wrong) is that during nursing school, we will (as students) hopefully be given the opportunity to spend time in each major hospital area, such as L&D, surg-med etc. and I assuming that is where many students feel a particular "draw" to a specific area of nursing??

Thanks in advance. :D

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

I picked a specialty by truthfully assessing my workplace preferences and personality. Basically, I dislike dealing with high acuity levels, complicated procedural skills, frequent codes, stat orders, and snap decisions.

I like a slower pace and a routinized work environment. Essentially, I prefer to know exactly what I am walking into because I am task-oriented.

Therefore, I exhibited a preference for long term care (a.k.a. the nursing home industry). This area of nursing provided me with slower paced work of a mostly routine nature. With the exception of the occasional 911 call or surprise complaint of chest pain, I knew what I would be walking into.

For the most part I figured it out during clinicals in nursing school. I did not enjoy working with adults so that guided me towards pedi. I thought I would love doing L&D, Post partum, newborn nursery or NICU - found out after I got my first job in a hospital that I didn't really care for those areas either after having to float to them. I enjoy working with school age kiddos.

Apple-Core, ASN, BSN, RN

Has 2 years experience.

Thank you for your replies! This is exactly what I was looking for! :yes:

You won't get to experience all avenues of nursing while a student, it's really just a Sample Pack. You might find what you desperately want to do while in school is something you really don't care for when you actually start working in the job. Or available jobs may not exist in the area of nursing you're interested in. You might figure it out later on, after working for awhile, and you may figure it out ony after 3 or 4 different areas worked! That's the beauty of nursing, you can move and change and grow :)

datalore

Specializes in Cardiac/Tele.

For me it was undeniable interest in an area long before nursing school. Significant family history of strokes and heart failure makes me think that hearts, lungs, and kidneys are cool... so for me the cardiopulmonary unit in my hospital was my only goal. And then once I worked there, my interest continued to deepen -- that's how I knew I chose wisely. Now that I've floated to a few other units, I see other areas I would love to learn in the future. But for now I want to become an expert in my area before I move on. The beauty of nursing is you can move about if different types of nursing interest and excite you.

The other side of that coin is that I learned quickly what I can't stand. I don't like post-surgical care, so that eliminated quite a few units! I am severely uninterested in orthopedics. I floated to my ED, which I thought I would end up doing, and hated it. I love kids, but don't like peds/NICU after shadowing there. I did a few shifts shadowing a scrub nurse in the OR; hated it. I still learn a lot when I float to those areas, and I love that, but I'll never apply to work in those specialties. So that helped too! :)

Edited to add: If you're not sure what area you'd like, use nursing school to get as many types of experience as you can!! It's ok to not know. It's ok to never find one area to stick to, too! Nursing school is such a unique and wonderful place to get as broad and varied an experience as you can. When I send my nursing students to go see cool procedures and the like, I am always a little jealous! Do as much as you can, in as many areas as you can! And if you think you know your specialty, STILL go see other areas, because you might be surprised (and at worst, it reinforces your decision to specialize elsewhere).

Edited by datalore
added

Double-Helix, BSN, RN

Specializes in PICU, Sedation/Radiology, PACU. Has 10 years experience.

I think the answer will be different for everyone. The area that interested me most in school was wound care. My pediatrics clinical was okay, but peds didn't hold any particular appeal. But after graduation I was offered a job in PICU and, because new grad opportunities in my area are scare, I took it. The critical thinking, the diversity and the low patient ratios were a good fit for me, and I came to enjoy the pediatric population very much. My career moves since have been more about work/life balance than desire to work in any particular specialty. I very much consider myself a person who can be content in a variety of work environments.

Here's my favorite find in the Search feature on this topic:

I always told my students to ask every nurse they came in contact with to ask why s/he did what s/he did. Everybody tells you that. But also be sure to ask why s/he doesn't do what s/he doesn't do. Example: "Mother-baby all the way. What better opportunity to get a new family off to a good start, establish breastfeeding, usually a healthy population."

"Mother-baby, blechhhhh! Tits and fundi and screaming babies and pushy mothers-in-law, addicted mothers who won't ever care for their addicted offspring, and if I never see another entitled princess with a six-page birth plan it will be too soon."

See?

It's fine to have an idea or three in mind. Bear in mind, though, that you have no idea about what nursing in various settings is like and it's much more likely than not that you will end up in something you never knew existed. Those thousands of students who confidently declare they've got it all figured out -- a year in critical care, then CRNA school, a year in ER then NP school, whatevs-- will very likely not end up there because the odds are steeply against them.

So walk your path with an awareness of your peripheral vision. An open mind allows the possibility of something falling into it. jKu2nbPr+Fgsge+qBOVzDI41rbuwLmBmzjE42rTlIcowgbSMIThoxBwViKpSgMjaJQz2zY7UAUQNHRn0Gdo5DB3AATavZYAhSRItrmForRiVkMCAQKRz+QqNH2kUYh6dRgA=

Also remember: it's hard to get a job in many areas of the country. So the job you want to get is the one you CAN get.

Rocknurse, MSN, APRN, NP

Specializes in Critical Care and ED. Has 32 years experience.

I picked my specialty because it chose me. In nursing school all I really wanted to do was critical care. They allocated rotations in a random fashion and so it ended up that the students who really wanted to go to ICU didn't and the ones who didn't want to go did. I was very upset about that at the time but I was lucky enough to rotate through most specialties to find what interested me and didn't. I landed a job in ICU finally and never looked back. Critical care and the ED are the only things that really interested me except for the OR. I love the sickest, most complicated patients with the most drips and machines. You gravitate to what captures your interest.

ThePrincessBride, BSN

Specializes in Med-Surg, NICU. Has 6 years experience.

Whichever one is hiring. You can't be picky in this market.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

Whichever one is hiring. You can't be picky in this market.
Luckily, I picked a specialty area (long term care/SNF) that the majority of other nurses deemed an undesirable employer of last resort. Therefore, job openings for nurses in the nursing home setting are usually abundant.

ICU. I knew in my final semester clinical rotation it's what I wanted. I like having something vastly different every day and I like the high acuity. It's like a giant puzzle to me on how to get this patient better and what can I do to help get them there.

djh123

Specializes in LTC, Rehab. Has 5 years experience.

You don't get exposed to every type of nursing in school - there are far too many - but you do, or should, get exposed to a number, plus whether as part of school, on here, or just your own research/reading, you'll get exposed to a bunch of them while you're in school. I can tell you that in my class there were at least a few who came in with strong desires as to what specialty but changed that once they'd been exposed to something else that they really liked.

I knew I wanted to be a flight nurse from the day I saw a helicopter land on the helipad at my old job.

I've loved emergency nursing from the day I rotated to the ED in nursing school, so I started there as a new grad and became a flight nurse 6 years later.

I love the job for lots of reasons, but a big part of it is that you really have to rely on your partner in the air. You form close bonds with the people you work with because it's just the two of you taking care of a critically ill patient. I like the autonomy of it, and how different the job is every day.

I would say look at the jobs you have enjoyed in the past, even if they are non medics. I've always liked high pace, frequently changing, and low down time jobs. I don't want to see the same people every day. I graduate in April as an RN and am considering new grad float position but I'm keeping my options. I know I don't like L&D, babies, or kids. I love babies /kids but it gets to me too much to enjoy it.

Ruby Vee, BSN

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching. Has 40 years experience.

Hope it's ok to post here, but I'd love some feedback from seasoned (and not so seasoned :D) nurses!

My question is...how does one decide on a specialty?

Was perhaps just an area that really appealed to you before you even stepped one toe into a hospital as a nurse? Was it just something that kind of happened because that's where you got a job? Was it something that you really enjoyed during rotations as a student?

My understanding (please correct me if I'm wrong) is that during nursing school, we will (as students) hopefully be given the opportunity to spend time in each major hospital area, such as L&D, surg-med etc. and I assuming that is where many students feel a particular "draw" to a specific area of nursing??

Thanks in advance. :D

It's too early to worry about a specialty. As you begin your nursing clinical program and learn more about different aspects of patient care and different specialties, you may find yourself beginning to gravitate toward a certain specialty. Or not. Either is OK. When you graduate, you may find yourself in an area of nursing shortage (rare these days) or an area that is completely saturated with new grads. You'll take your first job in the specialty which will hire you. As you work and gain experience, you'll form opinions about what you like and don't like about the job and what appeals to you or doesn't appeal to you about the specialty. THEN you'll be in a position to make an informed choice about what specialty calls to you.

Some nurses seem to "know" well in advance of their first job that they want to be an ED nurse or an OR nurse. I was most interested in oncology. After a few years, I discovered that I was burning out in oncology and found myself in MICU. I've been in critical care ever since. It isn't where I wanted to go or anywhere I thought I might go, but is truly my niche. You'll find yours . . . don't worry if you don't find it right away.