Niche Nurse Jobs: The Most Specialized Nursing Specialties
By Lee Soren, contributor
Like many medical professions, nursing has become increasingly specialized, and according to Purdue University, nurses across all specialties are in high demand due to an aging U.S. population, an uptick in chronic conditions and a greater focus on preventative care. Through formal education and on-the-job experience, nurses are learning skill sets and earning certifications that qualify them to handle advanced equipment and unique patient populations.
If you've thought about narrowing down your nursing focus, read on to discover an overview of five niche nursing specialties and the education required to pursue a career in one of these exciting fields.
1. Pediatric endocrinology
Overview: Pediatric endocrinology nurses work with children who are being treated for endocrine disorders, such as diabetes, hypoglycemia and pituitary and thyroid issues, as well as kids who are experiencing delays in growth or development. These highly specialized nurses assist pediatricians in developing treatment and care plans and provide education on disease management for patients and their families. Jobs are often located in specialized clinics, hospitals or pediatricians' offices.
Requirements: In addition to being an active, licensed RN, entry into pediatric endocrinology nursing generally requires on-the-job experience in pediatrics, internal medicine and endocrinology and continuing education in diabetes management. No special certifications are required.
2. Pain management
Overview: Pain management nurses assess and care for patients suffering from acute and chronic pain, including those with disorders such as fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, spinal injuries and cancer. Assignments take nurses to a multitude of clinical settings, including hospitals, clinics, rehab facilities and nursing homes, where they're responsible for administering medications and pain-relief therapies. Pain management nurses also serve as a bridge between patient and physician, helping assess the efficacy of medications and suggesting changes necessary to keep patients comfortable.
Requirements: Certification in pain management nursing is available through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Candidates must have an active RN license and have been employed full-time for two years (or the equivalent), with at least 2,000 hours over the prior three years in a role that involves pain management. Certification also requires 15 hours of continuing education in pain management and 30 hours of continuing education overall across the prior three years.
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3. Neurological rehabilitation
Overview: Neurological rehab nurses often work with patients who've had strokes, seizures, brain trauma and other injuries to their nervous system, including infections such as encephalitis. They often work in specialty clinics, rehabilitation centers, hospitals and skilled nursing care facilities, helping patients regain function and become more independent.
Requirements: For licensed RNs looking to specialize in this area, the Rehabilitation Nursing Certification Board offers specialty certification. Eligibility requirements include two years of employment as an RN in a rehabilitation setting. Certification must be renewed every five years.
Overview: Forensic nurses are trained to work with patients who've been victims of intentional injuries, such as sexual assault, partner violence and neglect. Nurses in this challenging field must demonstrate exceptional sensitivity in their duties, which include collecting and documenting physical evidence of crimes. They may be called on to testify in court. Jobs include assignments in hospitals, community anti-violence programs and medical examiners' offices.
Requirements: One way to start on the path to this specialty is by becoming a sexual assault nurse examiner, which involves 40 hours of classroom training and approximately 40 hours of clinical training. Board certification is available through IAFN but is not essential to employment. Master's Degrees and PhDs in forensics nursing are also available.
Overview: Perianesthesia nurses work with patients who are under anesthesia or waking from sedation. Their responsibilities may include prepping patients for surgery, treating post-surgical pain and monitoring patients closely for adverse reactions to avoid complications. Nurses in this high-demand specialty generally work in hospitals but may find positions in same-day surgery facilities and dental practices that use sedation.
Requirements: To fill perianesthesia positions, many facilities seek licensed RNs with at least two years of experience working in an acute care unit of a hospital. The American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification, Inc., offers two types of certification: certified post-anesthesia nurse and certified ambulatory perianesthesia nurse.
Although job availability in niche subspecialties may vary, travel nurses can find opportunities in many specialty fields, with positions often offering higher salaries than those for generalists.
If you're ready to take your specialized training and experience on the road, begin the search for your next assignment with TravelNursing.com's job bank.