Are you considering a new career in nursing? If you want to become a nurse, your first step should be to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. This degree will allow you to advance your career — either through clinical experience or through a combination of experience and further education.
Fortunately, you do not have to start from scratch to begin your journey toward becoming a nurse. There are accelerated programs out there that consider your previous college credit and apply it toward a BSN. For example, University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio offers an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track that allows you to earn a BSN in as few as 16 months. We will talk more about this program later.
Specialization: Narrowing Your Focus
Once you have graduated from nursing school and you begin your first job, you might prefer to take a position “specializing” in a particular area of nursing, such as obstetrics and gynecology or emergency nursing. However, because BSN education educates nurses to care for the general population, many entry-level nurses take positions on generalized medical surgical units.
When you have a few years’ experience under your belt, you may elect to specialize in one of several areas of nursing. They include:
- Community Health Nursing
- Critical Care Nursing
- Nephrology (Dialysis) Nursing
- Travel Nursing
- Trauma Nursing
- Oncology Nursing
- Pediatric Nursing
If you are asking yourself, “How do I choose a nursing specialty?” below is a bit of information about each of the specialties listed above. Perhaps these descriptions can help you decide.
- Community Health nurses focus on population health and often work in public or private agencies that serve the whole community. They work to prevent health problems from beginning or expanding. Their clients include individuals and families across the life span.
- Critical care nurses work in a hospital’s intensive or critical care unit, caring for patients who have complicated, acute illnesses. They use medical equipment to maintain life support, administer medications and blood, care for wounds, take vital signs and assess bloodwork. Jobs in critical care can require a minimum of one year’s experience in acute care or telemetry nursing. Desired traits of a critical care nurse include working well under pressure, strong critical thinking skills and the ability to collaborate with practitioners from other specialties.
- Nephrology nurses operate dialysis machines for patients who require filtering of their blood due to end-stage kidney disease or kidney failure. They also monitor vital signs, administer blood and medications during dialysis and provide education and care for kidney transplant patients.
- Travel nurses work temporary assignments — from a few weeks to six months or more. They receive bonuses above and beyond their base pay. Some travel nursing specialties that are in demand include: intensive/critical care, perioperative, telemetry and nephrology. Duties of a travel nurse vary by specialty.
- Trauma nurses assess patients, take vital signs, administer IVs, medication and blood products and help with wound care. If you work well in a fast-paced environment, have strong assessment and clinical skills and exhibit resilience, you might be a good fit for trauma nursing. Generally, nurses who have spent at least two years in emergency or critical care are well-positioned to become trauma nurses.
- Oncology nurses work with oncologists and other cancer care specialists to provide care for patients and their families. They also work with patients on the prevention and detection of cancer and provide care for survivors of the disease. Oncology requires a special kind of nurse who is comfortable giving patient care at a most crucial and life-altering time.
- Pediatric nurses conduct physical exams, take vital signs and administer medications to children. They also provide education to both children and their loved ones. You will need specialized training in pediatrics or neonatology to work as a pediatric nurse.
Advanced Practice Degrees: Furthering Your Education
BSN holders can also continue their education by pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and earning specialty certification. These advanced practice nurses (APRNs) perform high-level duties and often supervise nursing staff. APRNs can also be primary caregivers.
These nursing specialties are in demand. They require earning an MSN, a Ph.D., or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree:
- Nursing Administration and Leadership
- Nurse Midwife
- Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
Nursing Administration and Leadership
Nurses who hold advanced degrees in nursing leadership or administration are prepared to lead change and direct care across a continuum of specialty areas. They address policy and lead change at the highest levels of healthcare organizations. Their insight is valuable to improving the care given and the working conditions for nurses and other healthcare personnel.
Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
These are advanced practice registered nurses who specialize in childbirth and women’s reproductive health. They not only help women throughout pregnancy, during childbirth and post-partum — they also work to maintain women’s health on a preventive basis.
Nurse Practitioner (NP)
NPs are advanced practice registered nurses who provide diagnoses and treatment and perform procedures. They can also offer preventive health education and write prescriptions. Their care of patients is comprehensive and holistic, meaning they not only assess physical symptoms, but they also evaluate a patient’s psychosocial and environmental factors. In some states, NPs can practice without the oversight of a physician.
NPs can lower the cost of healthcare, as studies show patients who see NPs as primary care providers have fewer trips to the emergency room and shortened hospital stays. NPs also help alleviate the primary-care doctor shortage in the U.S.
Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
Certified registered nurse anesthetists are advanced practice nurses who are certified in anesthesia. They work in a variety of settings to provide anesthesia and pain management, including:
- Hospitals (operating room and obstetrics)
- Outpatient Surgery Centers
- Plastic Surgery Centers
- Dental Offices
- Pain Management Centers
- Public Health Centers
In many states, CRNAs can practice without a supervising physician.
Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
These are graduate-level registered nurses who are certified in the specialty of their choice from adult to gerontology to pediatrics. Earning specialty certification means demonstrating a higher level of knowledge as well as advanced clinical skills in a particular area of nursing. A CNS focuses on education, research and consulting, and is a leader in assuring that evidence-based care is optimally provided to individual and populations of patients.
UIW’s ABSN Track – Earn your BSN more Quickly.
While it is exciting to think about advanced specialization as a nurse, every specialist starts with a BSN. The University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio allows you to achieve a BSN more quickly through its ABSN track.
How the UIW Accelerated BSN Track Works
The UIW ABSN track is for non-nursing bachelor’s degree-holders, making it possible to graduate with a BSN in as few as 16 months. We offer three start dates per year — in January, May and August — so you may be able to start your nursing journey much sooner than with other programs.
As a UIW accelerated nursing student, you will take part in a hybrid track that includes:
- Online coursework in the concepts and theories of nursing — when and where it is convenient for you.
- Hands-on skills and simulation labs, where you will practice your nursing skills, become familiar with medical equipment and develop clinical judgment.
- Clinical rotations at a variety of San Antonio-area healthcare facilities, giving you real-life experience under the supervision of experienced instructors.
Keep in mind that earning a BSN in as few as 16 months takes a lot of hard work and dedication, which is why we recommend that students treat our accelerated nursing track as a full-time job. Find out more about our ABSN track.
Reach Out for More Information
If you are looking to enroll in our ABSN track, don’t hesitate. Contact us today and start your journey toward becoming a registered nurse! We will connect you with a dedicated admissions counselor who will answer any questions you have and guide you through the entire application process.