7 Nursing Specialties in Demand: Which Career Path Is Right for You?

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Nursing is a meaningful career for those who want to make a positive difference in the lives of others. If you decide to pursue a career as a nurse, you can choose from many different nursing specialties in demand, including emergency room nurse, critical care nurse and others.

nurse with blue scrubs standing and holding patient charts

For many aspiring nurses, health care is more than a profession — it’s a calling, an opportunity to make a positive difference in your community through evidence-based practice and compassionate care. Nursing also gives you plenty of specialization possibilities to pursue your specific interests.

This blog will discuss the top nursing specialties in demand you can pursue with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Other types of nursing specialties require more advanced academic credentials and certifications.

Whichever career path is right for you, your journey can begin with enrollment in the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at Averett University. Averett’s accelerated BSN program in Norfolk, Virginia, is designed to graduate nursing students in as few as 16 months (prior non-nursing college credits required).

The Best Nursing Specialties Based on Demand

Many different types of nursing specialties are in high demand. How can you choose which is right for you? Some nursing students might already know they’re passionate about one particular specialization, such as pediatrics or critical care, while others have a harder time identifying the best career path.

As a nursing student, you’ll work through multiple clinical rotations, which expose you to various aspects of the health care field and care delivery. This can help you identify which of the following nursing specialties could be right for you.

Averett nursing student working with sim manikin

Learn more about how to excel during your clinical rotations in the Averett ABSN program.

1. Emergency Room Nurse

Are you capable of keeping a level head during a serious situation? Can you think well on your feet, stay calm and reassure those in distress? A career as an emergency room (ER) nurse may be right for you.

As the job title suggests, ER nurses work in ERs, which are usually attached to hospitals but may sometimes be freestanding facilities. The job of an ER nurse includes the following:

  • Assess patients quickly, determine the severity and identify which patients need treatment right away
  • Administer life-saving interventions to patients at imminent risk of death
  • Stabilize incoming patients, administer treatments and discharge or admit patients to the hospital
  • Provide patient education, helping the patient and their family understand the diagnosis, recommended treatment options and potential side effects

Not every patient who walks into the ER is facing a life-or-death situation. Patients go to the ER for all sorts of reasons, such as broken bones, severe dehydration and lacerations. However, an ER nurse must be prepared for anything at anytime — from overdoses and suicide attempts to heart attacks and gunshot wounds.

2. Critical Care Nurse

Critical care nurses are often confused with ER nurses, but the role is quite different. Both professionals care for patients facing significant diagnoses but work in different settings. Whereas an ER nurse works in the emergency department, a critical care nurse works in the intensive care unit (ICU). This means that ER nurses work with a variety of patients, some needing to be admitted to the hospital and some not; conversely, critical care or ICU nurses only work with seriously ill admitted patients.

nurse working with IV

For example, a critical care nurse may care for patients recovering from a heart attack or stroke or facing any potentially life-threatening condition. Like ER nurses, critical care nurses must be prepared for anything. A patient may suddenly code (suffer cardiopulmonary arrest) and require the team to immediately initiate resuscitation efforts to save their life. Because critical care nurses work with critically ill patients, they must remain calm during an emergency.

3. Neonatal Nurse

In a perfect world, parents could welcome their newborns with nothing but joy. Yet, newborns aren’t always without health problems, and sometimes those health problems are quite serious, even life-threatening. Neonatal nurses specialize in caring for newborns facing all sorts of medical issues, including:

  • Premature birth/low birth weight
  • Congenital disabilities
  • Infections
  • Cardiac malformations

Neonatal nurses often work with newborns through the first month of life. However, some medical problems can linger for months. A neonatal nurse may care for a baby with ongoing medical problems for the first two years of life or until the baby is discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Being a neonatal nurse isn’t easy, even if you’re passionate about newborn care. Sometimes, these little patients can’t overcome their challenges, and the heartbreak can be difficult to bear. If you’re thinking about becoming a neonatal nurse, it’s helpful to develop strong emotional resilience and be effective at counseling bereaved parents.

nurse holding a newborn baby

4. Home Health Care Nurse

Not every patient receives care exclusively in a hospital or clinic. A home health care nurse is a professional who travels to patients’ homes to deliver care there. A home health care nurse will typically work with the following types of patients:

  • Elderly
  • Disabled
  • Pregnant/postpartum
  • Critically ill
  • Post-operative or in recovery from an accident

A home health care nurse handles many of the same tasks as an RN caring for hospitalized patients. These typically include the following:

  • Assessing patient needs and developing a care plan in coordination with the physician and other treating providers
  • Providing patient and family caregiver education
  • Monitoring the patient’s progress and keeping health records up to date
  • Administering medications, including intravenous treatments
  • Taking vital signs, lab samples and providing wound care
  • Assisting patients with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as hygiene requirements
nurse on digital tablet speaking with their patient remotely

Have you considered any of these remote nursing career options that require a BSN?

Nursing Specialties in Demand for APRNs

Although many nursing specialties in demand are open to nurses with a BSN, others require more advanced education and training. An advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) is a nursing professional who has earned a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and completed the necessary certification requirements for their chosen specialty. Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners are examples of APRNs.

The demand for APRNs is considerable. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates a 40% job growth for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners from 2021 to 2031, much faster than average. This indicates that employers expect to hire about 30,200 APRNs annually through 2031.

5. Nurse Anesthetist

A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is a type of APRN specially trained to administer anesthetic medications to patients undergoing surgery. A CRNA can also work with patients receiving conscious sedation and patients in labor who require epidurals or other types of pain management.

This nursing specialty requires the utmost attention to detail and the ability to make sound clinical decisions in difficult situations, as the patients’ lives are literally in the CRNA’s hands. It’s a role with a great deal of responsibility.

nurse giving patient anesthesia

6. Nurse Midwife

Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) are known for providing reproductive health care to expecting mothers, but they can work with patients across the lifespan. Nurse midwives provide gynecological and primary health care services and prenatal, childbirth and postnatal care. Nurse midwives also care for newborns.

7. Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners (NPs) can specialize in several areas, such as primary care, cardiac care, oncology and pediatrics. They deliver direct patient care, including assessments, diagnostics, treatments and ongoing management. Although regulations differ from state to state, NPs generally enjoy greater autonomy than non-APRNs.

Nurse listening to child patient's heartbeat

This blog post outlines the steps required to become a nurse practitioner.

Begin Your Nursing Journey in Averett’s ABSN Program

Now that you’re more familiar with the best nursing specialties based on demand, it’s time to begin working toward your future career. Contact an admissions counselor at Averett to discuss our online-based ABSN. The baccalaureate nursing program at Averett is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, 655 K Street, NW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20001, 202-887-6791.