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Nurse Practitioner Specialties

a nurse speaking to a patient and their family member

If you’re a current or aspiring nurse practitioner (NP) who wants to address the diverse healthcare needs of patients across the country and the world, you may want to consider choosing a nurse practitioner specialty. There are plenty of exciting opportunities for you to focus your career on what you’re passionate about, from pediatrics to gerontology, but deciding which specialty to pursue can be overwhelming. Here are some ways you can prepare for your career as an NP and choose the specialty that’s right for you.

Types of Nurse Practitioner Specialties

While registered nurses (RNs) tend to have similar backgrounds, often including a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, NPs have the opportunity to specialize and advance their careers accordingly. They can earn advanced degrees, such as a Master of Science in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice, and pursue many specialized roles, including family nurse practitioner (FNP), adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP), adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP), pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP), and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). FNPs typically serve as the primary care providers for individuals and families, at all ages and stages of life. PNPs specialize in the care of children, from birth into the teen years. On the other hand, AGPCNPs and AGACNPs primarily diagnose and treat elderly patients who are either acutely ill or need regular medical care. PMHNPs assess and diagnose patients of all ages for mental illnesses and disorders, often prescribing medication and providing therapy.

Nurse Practitioner Specialties in High Demand

NPs are in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the employment of nurse practitioners to grow 45 percent between 2019-2029, whereas the average projected growth for all occupations is 6%. If you’re an aspiring nurse practitioner who is having difficulty deciding on a specialty, it might be helpful to reach out to your professional network. Consulting with nursing colleagues, mentors, instructors, and professional acquaintances in the healthcare field is a great way to learn more about the demand for specific NP specialties in your region and nearby medical facilities. You could also benefit from reaching out to individuals who might already be working in a specific field or specialty. This allows you to gain advice and insight about expectations, challenges, and rewards that come from working in that field.

Even though the role of nurses is in high demand, there might be better opportunities available for those who are willing to relocate to a different geographic area. Certain areas and states have a higher demand for nurses than others. In states where there is a nursing surplus, the nurse practitioner specialty landscape may be much more competitive. That doesn’t mean, however, that nursing professionals who move to less impacted states will immediately find a high-paying job. Certain communities and areas of those states might have a higher demand for a specific type of nurse, and professionals working in a particular city or location might earn more than those working in a different part of the state. Nevertheless, the ability and willingness to relocate to meet those demands could prove beneficial to nurses and nurse practitioners.

Nurse Practitioner Specialties: Salaries

The BLS reports the median salary for a nurse practitioner is $115,8000, which is far more than the median salary of $73,300 earned by RNs. Salaries can reach higher levels for nurse practitioners who choose specialties such as anesthesiology, research, or midwifery. Salaries can also differ for family nurse practitioners, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners, pediatric nurse practitioners, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners based on geographic location. Nursing professionals should be aware that competition for these specialties is high, and starting salaries may be below the median for all NPs. Additionally, factors such as experience, education, and type of medical facility can also play a role in salaries.

What Nurse Specialty Is Right for Me?

Becoming an NP requires several years of education and professional development. Nurse practitioners can work in a variety of professional environments, including hospitals, clinics, schools, primary care facilities, research laboratories, military bases, and home care environments. As you begin to think about which nurse practitioner specialty is right for you, it’s helpful to consider which type of working environment you prefer and how that aligns with your career goals. Maybe you would thrive in the hectic environment of an emergency room, or perhaps you would prefer working with patients in a long-term capacity in a clinic. If you’re considering what specialty is right for you, it can be worthwhile to visit different working environments and consult with nurses who work there to get a stronger sense of what their day-to-day jobs are like.

Another experience that can help you choose a nurse practitioner specialty is working in a nursing float pool. A float pool is a group of nurses who are skilled in a range of medical procedures and can assist and address the needs of patients in various departments of a healthcare facility. During a 12-hour shift at some hospitals and facilities, these nurses can work in three different units, administering a different type of patient care in each. While working in a float pool entails challenges, such as dealing with temporary assignments or juggling various responsibilities between departments, the variety of tasks, patients, and environments you encounter could help you discover which of the nurse practitioner specialties might be a good fit.

Another option is to become a traveling nurse. Just like the float pool that allows nurses to practice in several departments of a medical facility, traveling nurses are able to work shorter assignments — often 13 weeks long — at different hospitals, clinics, and healthcare institutions. Because they move from location to location, traveling nurses will potentially work for healthcare facilities that pay different amounts.

Pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree

As the healthcare sector evolves and the demand for nurses grows, you’ll likely need to increase your nursing knowledge and advance your professional skills to succeed as an NP. One way to do this is by earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), an advanced degree that can help you become a leader in your organization while seeking new career opportunities in different areas of nursing.

If you’re ready to take your next step as a nurse and find your specialty, you can look into Maryville University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice. The program is designed to work in conjunction with the demanding schedules of professional nurses who have a desire to specialize in certain areas of healthcare. Explore how selecting a nurse practitioner specialty and earning a DNP can help you advance your nursing career and make a greater impact in your field.

Recommended Readings

Future Trends in Healthcare for DNPs 

How 3D Printing Could Revolutionize the Field of Nursing 

Treating Patients in the Future of Medicine: What DNPs Need to Know

Sources:

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, What’s a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?

Houston Chronicle, “RN Float Pool Job Description” 

NCBI, “Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants in Acute and Critical Care” 

ScienceDirect, “Regulation of the Nurse Practitioner Workforce: Implications for Care Across Settings” 

Travel Nurse, “What Is a Travel Nurse?” 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners