Different Types of Nurses & Nursing Specialties Within The Hospital

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There are so many different types of nurses in different specialties that work within the hospital setting.  So how do you figure out which one is right for you?

When I was initially toying with the idea of going back to college to become a nurse I had no idea how many types of nursing specialties there actually were.  I thought there was just a single “type” of nurse who did pretty much everything.

I was so wrong.  That just shows how little I actually knew about the nursing world back then!  In fact, I think many potential nurses who are contemplating getting a BSN may think the same thing as I once did.

The good news about starting out in nursing school is that you don’t have to make a decision about what type of nursing specialty you want to go into right away.  At least not until you get closer to the end of nursing school and start interviewing for jobs.    In addition, you can even change your nursing specialty during your career if you want (I did it and reignited my passion for nursing).  So, if you find you don’t enjoy one specialty after a while, you can look into others that might better suit you.

This particular post explores nursing career specialties within the hospital.  If you don’t want to work in the hospital, that’s OK.  There are a ton of opportunities to explore as a new grad nurse outside of the hospital setting too!  However, if the hospital setting is for you (as it was for me) then this is a quick and dirty explanation of the different types of nurses and nursing specialties that may be available to you!

Nursing Specialties & Opportunities In The Hospital Setting

There are literally dozens of different nursing specialties and levels of care in the hospital to choose from.  When deciding on a specialty it may help to start with the level of care that works best with your personality and then work from there.  While some nursing students think the intensity of working in an emergency room might be exhilarating, others may prefer to start out by learning on a medical surgical unit instead.

The next step may be to consider which patient age groups you would most enjoy working with.  For example, a nursing school friend of mine knew from the moment she applied to nursing school that she had to be a pediatric nurse.  Yet another student friend was passionate about working in the geriatric community.  Some nurses find that they love working with newborn babies or children, while others find that they enjoy the intensity of managing patients at the ICU level of care.

Lastly, as you start studying more about the different body systems and doing clinical hours, you can decide which specialties that you are most interested in.  Being a student nurse is a great time to learn all about the different types of nurses in the hospital you might want to work in!

Hospital Levels of Care

Medical/Surgical Care

Medical Surgical Care, otherwise known as Med/Surg, is the largest nursing specialty in the United States.  Med/Surg nurses care for adult patients who are acutely ill with a wide variety of medical issues or are recovery from surgery.  Nurses on these units often care for 4-5 patients (or more) depending on acuity.

Telemetry Care

Telemetry Unit patients are often more acutely ill and need constant monitoring.   Patients here are monitored with telemetry monitors that allow nurses to review a patient’s vital signs constantly so they can give more detailed care.  Often, Med/Surg and Telemetry patients are referred to interchangeably as many Telemetry Units have both types of patients.

Intensive Care Units

An Intensive Care Unit, otherwise known as an ICU or Critical Care Unit is a unit that provides a higher level of intensive patient care.  Patients in the ICU often have severe and life-threatening injuries which require constant, close monitoring.  Nurses in the ICU usually only care for 1 or 2 patients at a time due to the high acuity of the patient care.

Emergency Room

ER nurses treat patients in emergent situations who are involved in a trauma or other life threatening injuries.   These nurses deal with patients from all age groups involving many different levels of patient care.  You may have patients with illnesses and wounds ranging from dog bites or minor burns to more serious conditions such as strokes or other trauma victims.

Patient Age Groups

Hospital units are also broken into different age groups to offer more specialized care.  This is also something to consider when deciding on a specialty you want to work in.  Some of the age groups include:

  • Newborns
  • Pediatrics
  • Adult
  • Geriatric

Hospital Specialties

There is a general list of hospital specialty units that many nurses work in:

  • Cardiovascular
  • Thorasic
  • Neuro/Trauma
  • Medical
  • Orthopedic
  • Radiaology
  • Hematology/Oncology
  • Liver Transplant
  • PACU
  • Emergency Room
  • Neonatal
  • Urology
  • Surgical
  • Gynecology
  • Operating Room

Are you thinking about becoming a nurse and wondering what nursing specialties might be best for you?  Or do you have any other questions about the different types of nurses in the hospital setting?  Please leave a comment or question below!

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About The Author

Sarah

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Sarah Jividen is a registered nurse, blogger, writer, wife, and mother with an aspiration to empower nurses and moms to take better care of themselves. Sarah lives with her husband in a beach suburb outside of Los Angeles where they are raising their two-year-old daughter, newborn son and two rescue kitties. In a rare moment of free time you may find Sarah practicing yoga, socializing with friends, sampling dark beers or attending a local concert venue with her husband.

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