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Nursing Specialties Demystified: Choosing the Right Path for Your Career

There are several great reasons to be a nurse! One of the best aspects of nursing is that the career options are limitless. There are several entry points, too. You could work as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN) for the entirety of your career. Or you could start with an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or even an accelerated master’s degree if nursing was not your first degree. From your initial degree, you can pursue your passion within healthcare. And if you aren’t sure exactly what that looks like, you can switch specialties throughout your career.

To help you understand a few of the leading nursing specialties, we list several popular ones. We also describe a few you may not have considered — because the sky’s the limit with nursing!

General Medical Surgical Nurse

NurseJournal explains that med-surg nurses care for patients before, during, and after surgical procedures. Other patients who are not necessarily surgical patients may also be admitted to a medical-surgical floor for care. If you aren’t sure which population you’d like to work with, consider med-surg nursing, the most common specialty. You can care for patients with various medical conditions and utilize several nursing skills. A background as a med surg nurse is often a great stepping stone to a more specialized field if you determine your passion is with a specific population. And several nurses stay in med surg long-term because they love the variety!

Operating Room Nurse

While med-surg nurses care for patients before and after procedures and may provide some care during procedures depending on the circumstances, operating room (OR) nurses are the primary nurse specialty in the operating room. If surgeries fascinate you and you desire to join the surgical team, an OR nurse might be the right fit! An OR nurse may help prep and position a patient for surgery, ensure the appropriate tools are there, and document important aspects of the procedure. One attractive aspect of OR nursing is that instead of managing a patient assignment, you focus on the one patient in the OR. At most facilities, once that patient is in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), you can move on to the next patient.

Emergency Department Nurse

If traumas, high adrenaline, and a fast-paced environment are your jam, consider specializing as an emergency department (ED) nurse. You never know what situation will walk through the doors, and ED nurses need to be able to handle all sorts of emergencies, from car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and broken bones, among other situations. While you’ll see your fair share of general health complaints, such as coughs, sore throats, fevers, stomach bugs, ear infections, etc., you can also play a critical role in life-and-death emergencies.

Other Specialties to Consider

There are also dozens of other specialties to consider in the nursing world. For example, you may consider:

  • Pediatric nursing: These nurses work in a pediatric med-surg unit, intensive care unit, outpatient practice, or specialty area.
  • Forensic nursing: These nurses care for patients after crimes and may collect evidence. Some may also work as an autopsy nurse.
  • Intensive care unit (ICU) nursing: These nurses care for critically ill patients.
  • Post-anesthesia care unit nursing: These nurses care for patients after surgery and procedures until they are recovered enough to go home or to their hospital room.
  • Labor and delivery nursing: These nurses care for pregnant individuals before, during, and after labor.
  • Travel or contract nursing: These nurses work in their specialty at various hospitals and fill critical staffing needs.


There are several nursing specialties to pick from. One of the awesome parts of nursing is that regardless of your practice area, your skills are likely in demand nationwide. So, if you work in a specialty you enjoy, but you’re looking for a change of pace, consider contract staffing or travel nursing! Contract staffing allows you to explore a new setting and travel the country depending on your home base.

If healthcare contract staffing interests you, check out the open positions through 365 Healthcare Staffing.

A nationwide healthcare staffing agency, they love to help dedicated nurses find the right match. LVN roles are available in both regions, and RN positions are available in the southeast. If travel nursing sounds like a great fit, check out their open positions today!