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Finding Your Niche – Choosing a Nursing Specialty

How to Choose Your Nursing Specialty
Jose Manuel Gelpi Diaz/

From neonatal intensive care units to rural home health care, you will find nurses in a wide variety of settings. There are literally dozens of types of nursing, and each specialty boasts its own unique rewards and challenges. Therefore, nurses must decide just where they want to hone their craft.

The good news is that even though you may start out in a chosen specialty, you don’t have to stay there. Nursing career consultant Donna Cardillo, RN, MA explains, “While a small number of nurses retire from the same specialty in which they first started out, most are likely to change specialties once or more in their professional life. And why not? One of the great things about nursing is that there are so many different paths to take.”

Here are a sample of some nursing specialties and their median salaries, as reported by

Case Managers ($70,763)

Case manager nurses are responsible for organizing a patient’s case from admittance to discharge, creating an individualized treatment plan for patients, and acting as a liaison between patients, their families and health care staff. They are especially important when working with patients with chronic or complex health care needs.

School Nurse ($44,829)

School nurses do more than check for head lice and scoliosis screenings. They manage students with injuries and acute illness. They also provide long-term management of students with special health care needs in school settings.

Surgical First Assistant ($85,795)

An expanded role for a surgical nurse, the surgical first assistant nurse works alongside the surgeon in the operating room, providing direct patient care. Such nurses may be responsible for controlling bleeding, suturing wounds and incisions, and initiating interventions if complications arise.

 Infusion Therapy Nurses ($71,428)

Infusion therapy nurses provide intravenous therapy to patients using an IV or PICC line. Found in home health care outpatient clinics and hospitals, infusion therapy nurses deliver such medications as antibiotics, cardiac medications, blood products, or chemotherapy. They may also be responsible for monitoring patients’ conditions during the therapy administration.

Flight Nurse ($70,797)

A flight nurse is responsible for providing basic and advanced life support care, including assessment, triage, and other treatments while transporting typically critically ill or injured patients in an airplane or helicopter.

Infection Control Nurse ($78,913)

An infection control nurse has to recognize and isolate infectious diseases in healthcare settings and in the community, provide education to health care team members, patients, families and the community, and collect and analyze related data.

Occupational Health Nurse ($71,997)

An occupational health nurse usually works in an outpatient setting and can have a number of roles, including case management, hazard detection, diagnosing and treating worker illnesses or injury, as well as observing and assessing workers’ health status with respect to job performance.

Nurse Researcher ($73, 841)

Nurse researchers typically work as analysts for either private companies or health policy nonprofits. They do not offer hands-on patient care. Instead, they publish research studies based on data collected on targeted practices and pharmaceutical/medical/nursing products.

Nurse Manager ($94,308)

This type of nurse typically is responsible for managing a unit or set of units in a healthcare facility. The nurse manager supervises nursing and administrative staff, and ensures policies and procedures are appropriately followed.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Registered Nurses,

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About Angie Best-Boss RN

Angie Best-Boss, ASN, BA, MDiv is a psychiatric nurse and freelance writer from the Indianapolis, Indiana area. Angie has three daughters and can usually be found with her nose in a book, crafting or, in warm weather, geocaching.