Beyond the Hospital: Looking at the Vast Array of Nursing Specialties and Healthcare Jobs

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When you hear the word “nurse,” what comes to mind? Chances are you picture a woman wearing scrubs and comfortable shoes like Danskos, sneakers, or Crocs. She has a stethoscope around her neck, and she’s constantly on-the-go, running from bedside to nurse’s station and back again and keeping numerous plates spinning as she provides care to her patients.

The stereotypical nurse is straight out of movies and television shows like Gray’s Anatomy, Nurse Jackie, Chicago Med, and ER. In reality, however, nurses don’t all fit into this pigeon hole. Instead, they have varying levels of education and a wide range of specialties, and work in all kinds of facilities and capacities, not just in hospitals or doctor’s offices. Let’s take a closer look at the wide world of nursing!

Where Do Nurses Work?

Where can nurses be found, other than hospitals, medical clinics, and doctor’s offices? Just about everywhere, it turns out. Nurses work in or for:

  • Skilled nursing facilities or memory-care facilities for the elderly
  • Schools and camps for children
  • Insurance companies
  • Governmental organizations
  • Community health programs
  • Universities and colleges (both providing medical services and teaching)
  • All branches of the military
  • Correctional facilities
  • Coroner’s or Medical Examiner’s office
  • Legal firms
  • Sports franchises and sporting competitions
  • Academia
  • Healthcare missions to developing countries
  • Laboratories and research facilities

This means that no matter what your area of interest, whether it’s sports, working with children or the elderly, diet and nutrition, the law, or anything else, you can probably find work as a nurse or other medical professional.

A Few of the Many Nursing Specialties to Consider

What kind of nurse do you want to be? This is a helpful question to ask yourself at just about any stage in your education, and even as you continue to grow your skills and advance your career as a full-time nursing professional. It can help you decide between an MSN vs. DNP degree, inform the positions you seek and apply to, and recognize when it’s time to choose another path.

Trauma Nurses: These professionals generally work in emergency rooms, but can also be found flying in medical helicopters to perform triage for accident victims or other patients who cannot be brought directly to the hospital. As the name implies, they provide care for patients suffering from a stroke, a heart attack, a gunshot or knife wound, or serious injuries related to an accident.

Critical Care Nurses: Another subset of nurses, these nurses work in the critical care or intensive care units, treating patients who are recovering from the above-mentioned injuries and conditions. They also work with patients experiencing pulmonary, respiratory or cardiac failure.

Ambulatory Care Nurses: This is the general name for nurses who do not work in a hospital, but who are invaluable team members at physician’s offices and medical clinics. They deal with comparatively minor illnesses, injuries, and conditions. They also perform routine tests and tasks, like taking a patient’s blood pressure, oxygen levels, and other vitals or administering injections.

Home Health Care Nurses: Many people require care in their own home, and that’s exactly what home health care nurses provide. The patients they tend to are generally recovering after a hospital stay for surgery, childbirth, or an accident. These nurses might also make routine “house calls” to administer medication or another type of treatment to patients who are elderly or infirm.

Hospice or Palliative Care Nurses: Assisting a patient in the final weeks, days, or even hours of her life is an incredibly rewarding, if emotionally challenging, aspect of nursing. The professionals who fall under this category will monitor a patient’s vital signs, provide pain relief as necessary, and generally help make the patient as comfortable as possible.

Perioperative Nurses: Television depictions of surgery often show a surgeon, intently focused on her work, saying “scalpel!” as she reaches out her hand for the instrument. A perioperative nurse is the one who hands that scalpel over. They also take steps to control a patient’s bleeding and may suture incisions after the surgical procedure is complete.

These nurses help surgeons by handing them instruments, controlling bleeding and suturing incisions.

Wrapping Up

Experts are predicting that the United States is going to suffer a shortage of qualified nurses in the years and even decades to come, as medical professionals who belong to the Baby Boomer generation retire — and as all Baby Boomers age and begin to require more health care. That means this is an ideal time for you to pursue a nursing education, or go back to school for an advanced degree in that field.

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