What Type of Nurse Should I Be? Exploring Your Best Path in Nursing

Deciding on the right nursing specialty can be a complex task, as there are numerous factors to consider. Your personal interests, skills, and working environment preferences all play crucial roles in determining the type of nurse you should become. I will provide an overview of popular nursing specialties and what each entails to help you make an informed decision.

Some aspiring nurses are drawn to high-pressure environments, where they can make critical decisions and perform time-sensitive tasks. If this describes you, then an emergency room nurse or a critical care nurse might be an optimal choice. On the other hand, if you’re looking to work closely with specific patient populations, such as the elderly or children, you might consider becoming a geriatric nurse or a pediatric nurse.

It’s important to acknowledge that no two nursing roles are exactly the same. Nurses not only work in diverse environments such as hospitals, clinics, and schools, but they also specialize in various aspects of patient care. By assessing your own strengths and interests, you’ll be well-equipped to choose the nursing specialty that best aligns with your goals and passions.

Understanding Nursing Specialties

As a nursing professional, it’s essential to explore various nursing specialties and understand what they entail to make an informed decision on which one suits you best. In this section, I will focus on four popular nursing specialties: Acute Care Nursing, Public Health Nursing, Pediatric Nursing, and Oncology Nursing.

Acute Care Nursing

Acute Care Nursing primarily involves providing short-term care to patients with severe injuries or medical conditions that require immediate attention. In this specialty, I would focus on assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients with a wide range of conditions, from traumatic injuries to acute illnesses. Some common settings where acute care nurses work include emergency departments, intensive care units, and trauma centers. Key skills required for this specialty include critical thinking, quick decision-making, and effective communication with other medical professionals.

Public Health Nursing

In Public Health Nursing, I would promote and protect the health of communities and populations by addressing health disparities and advocating for policies that improve public health. These nurses work in various settings such as schools, community centers, and local health departments. My responsibilities in this specialty may include analyzing community health data, implementing health promotion programs, and providing education on preventive measures. Public Health Nursing requires skills in research, collaboration, and education, as well as a strong understanding of social determinants of health.

Pediatric Nursing

As a Pediatric Nurse, I would specialize in providing care to infants, children, and adolescents. The scope of practice in this specialty includes health promotion, acute illness management, and chronic disease care. Pediatric nurses often work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, schools, or private practices. A passion for working with children and a strong understanding of child development and health issues are vital in Pediatric Nursing.

Oncology Nursing

In Oncology Nursing, I would provide care and support to patients diagnosed with cancer. This specialty involves caring for those undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, and other cancer treatments, as well as providing education and emotional support for both patients and their families. Oncology nurses can work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, specialty cancer centers, and hospice care facilities. A compassionate demeanor and an in-depth understanding of cancer treatment options are crucial attributes for oncology nurses.

Each of these nursing specialties offers unique challenges and rewards. As you explore your career options in nursing, take into consideration your interests, skills, and the specific patient populations you want to serve. Remember, choosing a nursing specialty is not a lifetime commitment, and many nurses transition between specialties throughout their careers.

Assessing Your Strengths and Interests

Personal Skills Assessment

It’s important for me to evaluate my personal skills when considering which nursing specialty to pursue. Nurses require certain strengths such as communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking. To assess these skills, I could start by listing my strengths, reflecting on my experiences, and seeking feedback from friends, family, or colleagues.

Additional skills that play a significant role in nursing include:

  • Active Listening: Being attentive to patients, coworkers, and family members
  • Empathy: Understanding the perspectives and emotions of others
  • Adaptability: Adjusting to different situations and challenges

Through self-assessment, I can identify my strongest skills and determine which nursing specialties best align with them.

Career Goals and Lifestyle Considerations

Another important step is to consider my career goals and how they align with various nursing specialties. Some questions I need to ask myself include:

  • What are my long-term career aspirations?
  • Which nursing specializations have a high local demand in my area?
  • How do I see my work-life balance and schedule preferences?

For example, if a flexible work schedule is important to me, I might want to explore nursing positions in outpatient settings. Alternatively, if I’m passionate about critical care, I could consider pursuing a role in an intensive care unit (ICU).

By considering my personal skills, interests, and lifestyle preferences, I can make a more informed decision about which type of nurse I should be.

Educational Pathways in Nursing

Nursing Degrees and Certifications

In my experience, there are several educational pathways to consider when choosing a career in nursing. The most common degrees include Nursing DiplomasAssociate Degree in Nursing (ADN), and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Each of these options has its advantages, depending on your goals and preferences.

  1. Nursing Diploma: A nursing diploma is a fast, and often more affordable path to becoming a Registered Nurse (RN). Most programs are based in hospitals 1 and can be completed in less than two years. However, these diplomas may not provide college credits and limit career advancement opportunities.
  2. Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): An ADN program typically takes two years to complete at a community college. This option allows you to become an RN more quickly than a BSN program and start working sooner. However, some employers prefer candidates with BSN degrees, which could impact job opportunities.
  3. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): A BSN is a four-year program offered by universities and is increasingly becoming the preferred qualification for many nursing positions. Earning a BSN can open the door for greater job opportunities and higher earning potential 2.

Advanced Practice Nursing

For nurses seeking higher levels of responsibility and expertise, pursuing Advanced Practice Nursing roles might be the right path. These roles often require a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Examples of advanced practice nursing roles include:

  • Nurse Practitioner (NP): NPs have expanded their practice authority, allowing them to diagnose, treat, and prescribe medications. They often specialize in fields like family practice, geriatrics, or pediatrics 3.
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): CRNAs administer anesthesia to patients during surgical procedures and are among the highest-paid professionals in nursing 4.
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): CNSs specialize in specific areas of healthcare and often serve as consultants, educators, or researchers to improve patient care and outcomes.
  • Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM): CNMs provide prenatal, childbirth, and postpartum care for women, as well as gynecological care and family planning services.

Overall, the educational pathway to becoming a nurse depends on your personal career goals and interests. By weighing the options and benefits of each degree or certification, you can make an informed decision on which path to take for a successful and fulfilling nursing career.


  1. ANA Nursing Career Pathways 
  2. Nurse.org – How to Become a Nurse and Advance Your Career 
  3. Types of Nursing Degrees 
  4. Herzing University – Nursing Specialty Quiz 

Work Environment Preferences

Hospital Settings

In a hospital setting, nurses typically oversee and administer patient care plans. They often manage the care of multiple patients simultaneously, which can be both physically and mentally demanding during eight- or twelve-hour shifts 1. Hospitals offer various departments and specialties, such as medical, surgical, psychiatric, and substance abuse services, with over 60% of RNs working in this setting 2. I would need to consider my ability to handle the fast-paced, high-stress nature of a hospital work environment.

  • Pros: Opportunities to work with diverse patient populations, various specialties, teamwork, and potential for career growth
  • Cons: Demanding workload, long hours, and high-stress situations

Outpatient Care Centers

Outpatient care centers differ from hospital settings in that patients do not stay overnight. Nurses in these centers may work in ambulatory clinics, day surgery centers, or specialty clinics like dialysis centers. The workload can be more predictable, with appointments typically scheduled in advance. Nurses in outpatient settings often have closer relationships with their patients due to more regular visits and follow-up care 3. This setting suits me if I want more regular hours and a slower-paced environment while still having opportunities for patient care and education.

  • Pros: More predictable schedules, opportunity for closer patient relationships, slower pace than hospitals
  • Cons: Limited patient variety and potentially less challenging than inpatient settings

Home Health Care Services

As a nurse in a home health care service, I would visit patients in their homes to provide medical care and support. This setting allows me to establish closer, more personal connections with patients and their families, and adapt care plans to their home environments. Home health care can offer more autonomy as I would often work independently, without the immediate support of a larger healthcare team 4. I must be confident in my clinical skills and ability to work independently in this setting.

  • Pros: Close relationships with patients and families, autonomy, flexibility in schedule
  • Cons: Working independently, potential for travel and varied work locations


  1. Nursing Work Environments: A Brief Guide 
  2. Work Settings For Nurses 
  3. Best practice recommendations for healthy work environments for nurses 
  4. Nursing Work Environment – Nurses Bill of Rights 

Impact of Job Demand on Nursing Specialties

Current Trends in Nursing Employment

In recent years, the demand for nurses has been on the rise. As a nursing professional, I have observed a shift towards more specialized nursing roles. According to Nurse Journal, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 6% job growth for all registered nurses (RNs) between 2021 and 2031. This growth is slightly higher than the average for all occupations, which is 5%.

Some nursing specialties have become particularly sought after, including neonatal nursing, surgical nursing, and critical care nursing. Nurses in these fields are said to be in even higher demand than their peers in other nursing areas.

Projected Growth Areas

Using my expertise and information from reliable sources, I’ve identified a few areas where the demand for nurses is expected to grow significantly. One such field is dialysis nursing. The demand for dialysis nurses is projected to increase in the coming decade. As of September 2021, current specialists in this field earned an average annual salary of $74,100.

Another booming nursing specialty is operating room nursing. Operating room nurses care for patients before, during, and after surgery, making them a critical part of the surgical nursing field. The demand for these nurses is also expected to rise in the future.

Lastly, behavioral and mental health nursing has seen a surge in demand. With a growing need and awareness of mental health issues, the demand for psychiatric nurses is projected to see a 31% growth rate by 2024.

As a nursing professional, I find it important to be aware of these trends and make informed decisions about which specialties to pursue. By focusing on high-demand nursing specialties, nurses can position themselves for career longevity, job security, and attractive compensation.

Special Considerations for Career Advancement

Continued Professional Development

As a nurse, I believe it is essential to invest in continued professional development. This not only keeps my knowledge and skills up-to-date but also promotes career advancement. To achieve this, I can participate in various activities such as conferences, workshops, and online courses. Additionally, joining professional nursing organizations can provide networking opportunities and access to industry resources that can boost my career.

Specialization and Credentialing

Another crucial aspect of career advancement in nursing is specialization and credentialing. By pursuing a specific nursing specialty, I can demonstrate expertise in a particular area, making myself more marketable to potential employers. Some popular nursing specialties include:

  • Pediatric nursing: Focusing on the care of infants, children, and adolescents.
  • Oncology nursing: Caring for patients with cancer.
  • Orthopedic nursing: Providing care for patients with musculoskeletal conditions and injuries.

Additionally, obtaining certifications in my chosen specialty can further enhance my professional credibility. For example, I might pursue the following credentials:

PediatricsCertified Pediatric Nurse (CPN)
OncologyOncology Certified Nurse (OCN)
OrthopedicsOrthopedic Nurse Certified (ONC)

Ultimately, by investing in my professional development and pursuing specialization and credentialing, I can create a fulfilling and successful nursing career.

Making an Informed Decision

When I think about what type of nurse I want to be, it’s essential for me to consider my interests, strengths, and the environment I’d like to work in. Nursing is a diverse profession, offering several specialties and career paths.

First, I need to evaluate my strengths and weaknesses. Some nursing roles require strong critical thinking skills, such as an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse. In contrast, a public health nurse may require excellent communication and educating skills, while a surgical nurse may need to be calm under pressure and have strong technical skills.

Next, I consider the environment in which I’d like to work. Options include hospitals, clinics, schools, or even patients’ homes. Size, location, and the type of patients I want to care for will all influence my nursing path. I also need to take into account the potential stress level, workload, and schedule each role entails.

In addition to my personal preferences, it is crucial to stay informed on industry demands and trends. Specialties like gerontology and informatics are expected to grow significantly in the coming years.

Here is a list of factors that I’ll consider when making my decision:

  • Interests: Which nursing specialties or patient populations excite me the most
  • Strengths and weaknesses: Assess my skill set and determine where I excel and where I need improvement
  • Work environment preferences: Hospital, clinic, school, home health, urban, or rural settings
  • Lifestyle balance: Shift work, on-call, weekend, and holiday requirements
  • Industry demands: Research current nursing trends and predicted growth areas
  • Education and certifications: Determine the level of education or specialization required for my desired role

In conclusion, to make an informed decision about becoming a nurse, I must thoroughly assess my personal preferences, strengths, and desired work environment. Considering industry trends and educational requirements will also play a crucial role in choosing my nursing career path.

Connecting with Nursing Professionals

As I navigate the nursing profession, connecting with other nursing professionals is essential in discovering the types of nursing roles that may interest me. Attending nursing conferences and networking events is a great way for me to meet nurses from various backgrounds and learn about their experiences. These events typically include educational sessions, as well as opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge.

I understand that there are different types of networking, such as personal and professional networking. Personal networking focuses on building relationships with individuals outside of my work environment, including friends, family, and acquaintances from various professions. Building these connections allows me to expand my support network and gain valuable insights from diverse perspectives.

For professional networking, I find it beneficial to join nursing organizations like the American Nurses Association (ANA), where I can connect with nursing leaders and engage in opportunities for collaboration and growth. By participating in these organizations, I continue to refine my career goals and explore the different nursing paths available to me.

In order to enhance my networking skills, I follow these tips:

  1. Attend nursing conferences, workshops, and meetings to meet other nursing professionals.
  2. Maintain a professional online presence by updating my profiles on platforms such as LinkedIn.
  3. Engage in conversations with peers, highlighting my strengths and interests.
  4. Practice active listening, taking genuine interest in others’ experiences.

By focusing on these networking strategies, I am confident that I will gather more knowledge about the various nursing specialties available and ultimately determine the best path for my career.

Frequently Asked Questions

What nursing specialty aligns with my skills and interests?

To determine which nursing specialty aligns with your skills and interests, it is essential to assess your strengths, preferences, and passions. Your desired work environment, such as a hospital, intensive care unit, or a public health setting, is also essential. For instance, if you enjoy fast-paced environments, consider becoming an emergency room nurse. If you love working with children, a pediatric nurse role might be suitable.

How do I choose between different nursing roles and settings?

To choose between nursing roles and settings, start by researching each specialty, and consider your values, work preferences, and long-term goals. It’s beneficial to talk with other nurses, consult with mentors, or participate in clinical rotations to get a firsthand perspective.

What are the primary responsibilities of various nursing specialties?

Each nursing specialty has its primary responsibilities. For example, a geriatric nurse focuses on the care of older adults, whereas an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse provides care to critically ill patients.

Which nursing specialties offer the best work-life balance?

The best work-life balance in nursing depends on your personal preferences and needs. Some nursing specialties, like school nursing or outpatient clinic nursing, come with regular hours and less stressful environments compared to hospital-based roles.

What nursing specializations have the highest demand and salary potential?

Nursing specializations with high salary potential include nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, and clinical nurse specialist. These roles typically require advanced education, certifications, and experience. Job demand varies by location, but some reports indicate that specialties like emergency room nursing are continually in high demand.

How does one prepare for a career in a high-acuity nursing specialty?

Preparing for a high-acuity nursing specialty involves obtaining the necessary education and experience. Start by earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and gaining clinical experience in your chosen field. You may need additional certifications and training, depending on the specialty. Additionally, staying up-to-date with the latest research and best practices can help you excel in a high-acuity nursing role.


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