The Silver Lake Blog

10 ways you can specialize as a nurse

Posted By Brianna Neuser On May 31, 2018

10 Ways You Can Specialize as a NurseIt is well known that the demand for nurses is on the rise. With the baby-boomer population aging rapidly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Nursing is a popular profession for many reasons - the job security, the pay, and the sense of fulfillment and reward from the work are just a few reasons. Another benefit to working as a nurse is the ability to tailor your career to your particular interests within the health care profession.

Nursing is a highly customizable profession. Currently, there are over 100 different specialties in the nursing field and that number continues to grow. Whatever your interests, there is a specialty or program that can give you the opportunity to put your skills to good use. Nursing is not a “one size fits all” field. Read on to learn about ten popular nursing specialties, what they pay, and the education they require.


1. Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

A FNP functions very similarly to a primary care physician, and while some work alongside a physician, in many states FNPs are allowed to have their own fully autonomous practice. FNPs responsibilities include patient consultations, diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medications.

FNPs can expect to make a median salary of $103,880 (as of 2017).

To become an FNP, you must earn your bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing, and become Board Certified by applying for your family practitioner certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.


2. Diabetes Nurse

A diabetes nurse is a specialized nurse who works with patients who have diabetes. They assist patients in making lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, that can help them cope with diabetes. They also help educate the patient and their family about the disease. Sometimes diabetes nurses work alongside an endocrinologist to diagnose and treat patients. Diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases in the country, so nurses who are specially trained to help are expected to be in high demand.

Diabetes nurses can expect to make a median salary of $75,000.

After becoming an RN, you must work for 500 hours in a diabetes clinic or facility that specializes in treating diabetes. Next you will need your master’s degree in nursing before you can apply to receive your Advanced Diabetes Management Certification through the American Association of Diabetes Educators.


3. Health Policy Nurse

Health policy nurses do not work directly with patients, but rather with lawmakers and policy influencers at a larger societal level. Health policy nurses strive to create public policy that will make for a healthier society, by analysing laws, suggesting new policies, and helping brainstorm strategies to change public opinion. These nurses work with national, state, and local governments, at universities, or at other public agencies.

Health policy nurses can expect to make a median salary of $95,000.

To work as a health policy nurse, you must earn your bachelor’s and master’s in nursing, and complete a 10-week health policy residency with a qualified group or agency. To earn higher positions and have more effect on health policy, some nurses choose to go back for their doctorate.


4. Nurse Attorney

Nurse attorneys are exactly what the name suggests—nurses who have gone back to school to practice law. Nurses are highly knowledgeable and understand the nuances of the health field far better than your average lawyer. Some nurses choose to take that knowledge and pursue a legal career. Often these nurses will work for hospital legal departments, firms that specialize in social security disability or they will choose to open their own practice.

Nurse attorneys can expect to make a median salary of $110,000.

After earning your bachelor’s degree in nursing, and gaining experience by practicing in the field, you must return to school for your law degree. After graduation, in order to practice, you will need to pass the bar exam for the state in which you wish to work.


5. Informatics Nurse

Informatics nurses combine the skills of nursing, with a knowledge of technology. As electronic records continue to become more prevalent and technology continues to explode, informaticists have become more in demand. These nurses manage and interpret patient data and often are responsible for helping train other staff to use new technology. Informatics nurses can work in hospitals, doctors offices, government agencies or for research companies.

Informatics nurses can expect to make a median salary of $83,000.

To work as this type of nurse, a bachelor’s degree is required, as well as clinical experience as a registered nurse. Often nurses will return for their master’s in Computer Science, and will also acquire an informatics certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.


6. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

This highly skilled nurse assists anesthesiologists, doctors, surgeons, and dentists in preparing and administering anesthesia for patients. They also monitor patients to help keep them comfortable during procedures. Out of all nursing specialties, it is the highest paying, in large part because it requires extensive education, training and on-the-job experience.

CRNAs can expect to make a median salary of $157,000.

To become a CRNA you must earn your bachelor’s degree in nursing, and your master’s at an institution with an accredited CRNA program. After school, you will need to complete one year of experience in an acute care facility and pass the certification exam in order to practice.

Are you a registered nurse looking to advance your career in the industry? We  invite you to explore Silver Lake College of the Holy Family's BSN program!


7. Psychiatric Nurse

These nurses use their skills and knowledge to help patients who suffer from mental illnesses such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and many others. Psychiatric nurses often work as part of a team to provide comprehensive care for a patient. With the appropriate qualifications, these nurses can offer counseling and therapy to patients. Psychiatric nurses work in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, private practice and correctional facilities.

Psychiatric nurses can expect to make on average $90,376 in annual salary.

To become a psychiatric nurse, you will need you bachelor’s and master’s degree in the field. Some also choose to pursue graduate certificates in psychiatric nursing.


8. Critical Care Nurse

There is currently a great need for critical care nurses. These are the nurses that work in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and work with life-and-death issues on a daily basis. They provide care for the sickest and most vulnerable patients, and assist doctors in monitoring and treating their conditions.

Critical care nurses can expect to make a median salary of $71,561 (as of March 2018).

There is no additional education required beyond an associate degree, to practice as a critical care nurse. Upon completion of the RN program students will need to work for two years in a critical care unit before they can apply to take the certification exam.


9. Gerontological Nurse Practitioner

Another one of the fastest growing specialties is gerontological nursing. These nurses specialize in treating the elderly. They are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to the specific conditions that affect older populations, and are well equip to treat them. With the aging baby-boomer population, this type of specialized nurse practitioner will continue to be in high demand.

Gerontological nurse practitioners can expect to make a median salary of $95,070.

To practice this specialty, you must earn your bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and achieve your certification for practicing gerontology from the American Nurses Credentialing Center of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.


10. Travel Nurse

Travel nurses are a unique subgroup in the medical field. Often, when hospitals and clinics cannot staff their facilities or have temporary shortages they will use agencies to supply nurses. These appointments typically last between four and 13 weeks, but can last up to two years. Perhaps you love traveling and seeing the world, but also have a desire to help people through the field of nursing - this specialty is a unique opportunity to do both. Working as a travel nurse allows you to move around, see different parts of the country, and experience life in a wide variety of states, cities, and hospitals.

Travel nurses can expect to make a median salary of $70,000 and many agencies offer employment benefits such as health insurance and a 401k plan. Additionally, your housing expenses are often covered by the medical provider who hires you.

To start work as a travel nurse you must complete your RN certification, pass the national licensing test, and apply to the agencies who supply travel nurses.

Many of these specialties require a bachelor’s or advanced degree to practice, but to begin these or any other path to a nursing specialty you must first become an RN. This is an associates degree from an accredited university which allows you to begin work in the field and gain experience. You can continue to work as a RN, however many choose to pursue a BSN or higher degree so they can specialize in one particular area of nursing, and earn a higher salary. During your time as an RN, you will be exposed to several areas of nursing. This experience can help lead you to discover the particular area in which you want to practice.

Silver Lake College of the Holy Family offers a 4 year BSN, and a RN to BSN completion program. Upon completion of your RN degree, you will have the opportunity to begin working in the Wisconsin hospital system, gaining valuable experience while you narrow down a nursing specialty.



Silver Lake College of the Holy Family Nursing offers state of the art facilities, and currently has no waitlist to being a BSN degree. It’s the perfect time  to apply now and get started!

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Topics: Nursing

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