15 nursing specialties to explore with an advanced nursing degree

April 18, 2019

As an RN, you may be aware of many of the options available to you, but what about positions specific to an advanced degree, such as an (MSN) in nursing?

If you are looking to move to the next level in your nursing career, or are interested in an expanded role within the nursing field, consider one of these 15 specialties.

NOTE: A degree is an essential part of each specialization listed below, and some may require additional training and certification prior to practice.

Clinical Care

1. Clinical nurse leader

These advanced generalist registered nurses bring a high level of clinical competence and knowledge to the point of care. Clinical nurse leaders are assigned a specific set of patients, overseeing their care as part of an interprofessional team. Clinical nurse leaders put evidence-based practice into action to ensure that patients benefit from the latest innovations in care delivery.

2. Perinatal nurse

A focus within women’s and family health, perinatal nurses focus on care during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and post-delivery. Perinatal nurses work in clinics, hospitals, and even home care agencies. They focus on ensuring health outcomes for moms and newborns, as well as educating and supporting their families.

3. Critical care nurse

A critical care nurse cares for patients in life-threatening situations. While these nurses most often practice in hospitals, they are needed across the continuum of care; anywhere patients require complex assessment and therapies, high-intensity interventions, and high-level, continuous nursing vigilance.

4. Diabetes nurse

Diabetes nurses provide counsel, education, and preventive services for patients diagnosed with (or at risk of) diabetes. They can also manage a diabetes patient’s care under supervision of a physician.

Advanced Practice Nursing

5. Nurse practitioner (NP)

Nurse practitioners specialize in a population (e.g., family, adult-gerontology, pediatric, and psychiatric mental health). Those with an adult-gerontology or pediatric specialization focus on either primary or acute care practice. Nurse practitioners’ scope of practice and level of autonomy differ across states. In all cases, they focus on the comprehensive management of patients’ health including diagnosis and treatment of illness and injury.

6. Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)

These advanced practice nurses are expert clinicians in a specialized area of nursing practice. The specialty may be identified in terms of a population (e.g., pediatrics, geriatrics); setting (e.g., critical care, emergency room); disease state (e.g., cardiovascular, oncology); type of care (e.g., behavioral health, rehabilitation); or type of problem (e.g., pain, wounds). Practicing in a wide variety of settings, these professionals provide direct patient care and influence outcomes by providing expert consultation and implementing systemic quality improvement programs.

7. Certified nurse midwife (CNM)

Certified nurse midwives are advanced practice nurses committed to women’s health, providing comprehensive care during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the post partum period, as well as many aspects of primary and reproductive care. Nurse midwives work in structured clinical settings such as hospitals, but also in the community promoting women’s and family health.

8. Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)

As key members of the interprofessional care team, certified registered nurse anesthetists are advanced practice nurses who provide anesthetics to patients in every practice setting, and for every type of surgery or procedure. They work with patients on pain management and anesthesia-related care before, during, and after surgery.

Systems Leadership

9. Nurse manager

Nurse managers are responsible for the clinical operation of patient care units and facilitating the work of interprofessional teams who provide direct patient care. The role focuses on assuring quality of patient care. Nurse managers also represent the needs of their units to all relevant stakeholders.

10. Nurse executive

Nurse executives are senior-level leaders who shape the clinical practice in their organizations by defining a strategic vision and influencing movement toward that vision by all stakeholders. These executives work collaboratively across the organization to assure high-quality care and patient and staff satisfaction. Nurse executive positions require considerable direct patient care and management experience and advanced skills in operational, financial, and human resource management.

Other Specialty Roles

11. Care coordinator

This newer role focuses on quality, safety, and cost effectiveness of interprofessional care. These nurses ensure that the right type of care is being delivered at the right time to a patient in order to improve outcomes and manage cost. Special emphasis is placed on assuring transitions of care (transfers to another hospital or doctor) are accomplished without gaps in the treatment plan. Care coordinators work collaboratively with the patients, providers, insurance companies, and equipment suppliers to ensure well-organized and seamless care.

12. Community health nurse

These nurses may work for government health departments, services organizations, and home care agencies. Their practice is in the community where people live and work. Community health nurses support health promotion activities, prevention measures, and disease screening as well as help to decrease the impact of disease and disability.

13. Nursing educator

Nursing educators teach in formal academic settings with students preparing to become nurses or with professional nurses who are getting advanced degrees. They also can work in hospitals and other health care agencies where they focus on professional development and continuing competency of nurses and other interprofessional team members. Academic educators need a master’s degree in nursing at minimum, with many faculty positions requiring a doctorate.

14. Nursing informaticist

Nurses who specialize in informatics combine their nursing practice knowledge with the management of information and communication technologies to promote quality care and positive systems outcomes. Nursing informaticists support the interprofessional team in their decision-making to achieve desired outcomes. This support is accomplished through the use of information structures, information processes, and information technology.

15. Clinical trial nurse

Clinical trials are large research studies, sometimes multi-site, that seek to determine the safety and efficacy of health treatments and strategies such as drugs, devices, or protocols. Clinical trial nurses coordinate the research process ensuring integrity of data and protection of study participants. Clinical trial nurses also provide direct care to study participants as it relates to the research study.

An advanced nursing degree can provide you with the knowledge and skills to expand your practice and grow in your career.

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