Question from a Pre-Nursing Student

by Apple-Core Apple-Core, ASN, BSN, RN Member Nurse

Has 3 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 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 16 years experience. 226 Articles; 27,608 Posts

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.



1,294 Posts

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 3 years experience. 1,016 Posts

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

Extra Pickles

1,403 Posts

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 :)



Specializes in Cardiac/Tele. 100 Posts

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

Double-Helix, BSN, RN

Specializes in PICU, Sedation/Radiology, PACU. Has 11 years experience. 1 Article; 3,377 Posts

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.



1,035 Posts

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."


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 33 years experience. 1,367 Posts

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, MSN, RN, NP

Specializes in Med-Surg, NICU. Has 7 years experience. 1 Article; 2,556 Posts

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

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 16 years experience. 226 Articles; 27,608 Posts

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.