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October 22, 2015

5 Nursing Specializations that will Transform or Advance your Nursing Career

Written By: Dawn Papandrea

When you think of nurses, you probably envision people dressed in scrubs attending to patients, taking vital signs, filling out charts, and providing other bedside care. While that is accurate for many RN positions, it’s certainly just the beginning. Nursing careers can take on many different forms, especially for those who choose to add specializations and credentials to their general RN designation.

Take a look at some nursing specializations that can turn your nursing career into something totally unexpected.

Travel Nursing

What you’ll do: Being a travel nurse is basically just taking your skills on the road. While the nature of the job is the same, you have the freedom to move around, explore different parts of the country, and be well compensated for it. In fact, if you have specialized skills that are in demand, you could find a travel nurse agency willing to pay moving expenses and offer a sign-on bonus.

Why it’s a career game changer: Becoming a travel nurse allows you to seek out the most competitive offers and opportunities in nursing, while exploring different parts of the country. Travel nurses can earn about $75,000 per year, according to TravelNursing.org . Although you are hired for short-term positions that range from 8 to 20+ weeks, doing good work will make your travel nursing agencies eager to keep placing you in new positions.

How to break in: If you’re interested in becoming a travel nurse, speak to some agencies to find out about opportunities, and research cities in which you might like to work to figure out if they are a good fit for you. Look into outside factors including cost of living, consider perks beyond salary, and more.

Health Policy Nurse

What you’ll do: Forget about starting IV lines or doing diagnostic exams. Health policy nurses work behind the scenes of the profession, dealing with policy development, advocacy, public health issues, and more, according to DiscoverNursing.com .

Why it’s a career game changer: Although much of your nursing training had to do with individual patient care, this career specialization takes you into public health issue territory. Health policy nurses deal with legislative changes, public policies, health education and research programs, and more. If you aspire to be part of a team that works to change and improve the healthcare system, this could be a good move for you.

How to break in: RNs must earn their master’s degree, and then continue on to complete a 10-week health policy residency program. These are usually given via government offices, advocacy organizations, or community groups. Because of the changes involved in the Affordable Care Act, the job projections in this area of nursing are strong.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

What you’ll do: CRNA’s prep and administer anesthesia to patients, working within a team that includes surgeons, anesthesiologists, podiatrists, dentists, and other members of healthcare professionals.

Why it’s a career game changer: If you become a CRNA, the biggest difference between you and your former RN colleagues is that you have the potential to make way more money. This nursing specialist is the highest paid of all nursing professionals, with an annual mean salary was $158,900 as of May 2014; in some cities, the salary goes over the $200k mark, according to the BLS . What’s more is that the demand for this position is expected to grow 25 percent during the decade of 2012 to 2022.

How to break in: To become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, you must complete a master’s degree from an accredited nurse anesthesia program, and pass a national certification exam.

Nursing Informatics

What you’ll do: Nursing informatics is all about data. If you pursue this path, you’ll be collecting and analyzing medical information to conduct research, and/or training others on how to adapt to new technologies. For those interested in informatics, expect to work outside of traditional healthcare settings like hospitals, and instead, for government agencies or pharmaceutical companies.

Why it’s a career game changer: This is another position that switches gears away from clinical duties, this time into a more analytical and research role. Keeping up with technology is a good thing, generally speaking, but for those in nursing informatics, it’s a competitive advantage. The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) estimates that up to 70,000 nursing informatics specialists/analysts may be needed in the next five years. And, nurses in this specialty area can expect to make somewhere in the ballpark of $83,000, according to Indeed.com .

How to break in: Like many other nursing specialties, expect to go for your master of science degree, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be in nursing. Pursuing an information or computer science track can help prepare you for the job as well.

Nurse Educator

What you’ll do: Someone has to step up to teach the next generation of nursing students. Although nurses in general have strong job projections, nursing educators are in even greater demand since there is a perpetual shortage of them. Between degree programs, certificate coursework, and continuing education, nursing educators teach both classroom lessons and practical, clinical skills. Full-time nursing educators can earn an average yearly salary of $73,633 as of March 2014, according to AACN ; some others choose to teach courses as adjuncts.

Why it’s a career game changer: For anyone who finds the physical demands of a traditional RN job too difficult, teaching can be a great way to parlay the knowledge and experience you’ve earned into a lucrative opportunity. You’ll also have more of a set schedule, which can be appealing for many people.

How to break in: In order to teach nursing, you’ll be expected to have earned at least your MSN. Some educators go on to doctoral degrees as well. From there, you’ll need to pass a nursing educator’s certification exam. Experience as an RN will serve you well, too, since it will give you more real-world credibility behind the lecture podium.

These are just a sampling of the dozens of nursing specializations that can take your career into a completely new direction. Whether you want to move away from long shifts and hands-on patient care, or focus in on one area of nursing, exploring the different nursing pathways can help you reinvent your career time and time again.

Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, parenting, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in Family Circle, WomansDay.com, Parents, CreditCards.com, and more.

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