INDUSTRY
November 27, 2017

Sky-high Pay For Ultra-Specialized RNs: 6 Nursing Salaries That Will Shock You

Sky-high Pay For Ultra-Specialized RNs: 6 Nursing Salaries That Will Shock You
Angelina Walker By: Angelina Walker

Highly specialized nurses work with some of the most interesting and rare patient populations in the medical field. Because the skills needed for such specialties are often the result of extensive hands-on experience or education, the pay is typically much higher than average, making these careers incredibly rewarding and lucrative.

Show Me Nursing Programs

They’re also critical to patients who need this type of care. That’s where rapid response nursing comes in. These unique positions pay the most in situations such as census spikes, unexpected nurse leave-of-absences, natural disasters, strikes and other staffing crises.

And as the nursing pool continues to age towards retirement, qualified nurses in these hard-to-fill specialties will become even more scarce.

So which specialties are in the highest demand?

We talked to Michelle Brudigan, who is the Vice President of Fastaff travel nursing agency. A nurse recruiting agency that places nurses every day in these types of positions.

Here are 6 ultra-specialized nursing careers that provide professional fulfillment and financial security. 

1. Cardiac Catheterization Lab

 

Finding nurses experienced in procedural areas like Cath Lab, EP Lab, Interventional Radiology and Endoscopy can be a challenge for hospitals. Brudigan explains, “these departments are typically pretty small and not every hospital even provides these services so the pool of potential nurses is much smaller than for traditional inpatient services.”  

That scarcity accounts for a typical pay rate that is nearly twice the average hourly wage for registered nurses in the U.S. 

Procedures requiring Cardiac Cath nurses are typically scheduled during the day, Monday through Friday. However, the number of unplanned, emergency cases is high, so nurses are often required to be “on call” during nights and weekends in addition to their regularly scheduled shifts.

Typical Pay Rate: Agency-employed RNs can expect ~$68/hour.

General Qualifications:

  • Active RN license in a specified state with a degree from an accredited registered nurse program
  • BLS required ACLS preferred
  • One year of recent experience as an RN in a Cath Lab environment and two years of RN experience.

Where To Find Cardiac Cath Lab Nursing Jobs:  Preventative Cardiovascular Nurses Association

Show Me Nursing Programs

2. Cardiovascular Operating Room (CVOR)

 

CVOR nurses are key members of the cardiovascular surgical team. That makes these positions particularly profitable. “The surgical department, in general, is a huge revenue generator for a hospital,” Brudigan explains.

“To keep these surgeries going as scheduled, the hospital needs a staff of experienced nurses. While most OR nurses can circulate for a procedure, finding someone experienced to scrub – particularly for specialty surgeries like cardiac, transplants, neuro and trauma - definitely raises the bar.”

Duties may include providing patient assessment, monitoring the patient’s well-being, creating and maintaining a sterile/safe surgical environment, providing patient and family education, and coordinating patient care throughout the surgical process. 

Typical Pay Rate: Agency-employed CVOR RNs can expect ~$65/hour.

General Qualifications:

  • Active RN license in a specified state with a degree from an accredited registered nurse program
  • BLS required ACLS preferred
  • Strong knowledge of all cardiac operative procedures
  • One year of recent experience as an RN in a cardiovascular operating room environment and two years of RN experience

Where To Find CVOR Nursing Jobs:  Preventative Cardiovascular Nurses Association

3. Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)

Pediatric ICU nurses are often the saving grace in the midst of a family health crisis, helping young patients and their loved ones through physically and emotionally difficult times. With the right expertise and a caring nature to go along with it, PICU nurses can really impact a child’s hospital experience and help aid in his or her recovery.

Hospitals also struggle to find qualified PICU nurses. “While it seems anything pediatric-related is hard to fill these days, it’s especially true for PICU and even more so for pediatric cardiac ICU,” says Brudigan. “To locate nurses experienced in taking care of post-cardiac surgical kids, you really need RNs who have worked in true children’s hospitals or other highly-specialized hospitals.”

Typical Pay Rate: Agency-employed PICU RNs can expect a pay rate of ~$62/hr 

General Qualifications:

  • Active RN license in specified state with a degree from an accredited registered nurse program
  • BLS required, PALS required
  • One year of recent experience as an RN in a PICU environment and two years total RN experience

Where To Find PICU Nursing Jobs: Society of Pediatric Nurses

Show Me Nursing Programs

4. Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU)

 

Critical care nurses are always in high demand, but this is especially true for those with experience in the specialty ICUs like cardiac and neuro. 

“Finding a strong ICU generalist may be perfect for many community hospitals, but we find that larger medical centers are often looking for nurses experienced in receiving patients directly from the OR. Nurses who can recover a fresh heart and are comfortable with highly specialized devices like VADs, ECMO, balloon pumps and even Swan-Ganz catheters are especially hard to find,” says Brudigan.

As key members of emergency medical care teams, they must use their skills to prevent disease, help patients recover from surgery, and stabilize critically ill patients.

Typical Pay Rate: Agency-employed CVICU RNs can expect a pay rate of ~$53/hour

General Qualifications:

  • Active RN license in specified state with a degree from an accredited registered nurse program
  • BLS required, ACLS required
  • One year of recent experience as an RN in an Acute Care CVICU setting and two years of RN experience

Where To Find CVICU Nursing Jobs: American Association of Critical Care Nurses

5. NICU – Level 3

 

NICU III nurses are experienced in taking care of critically ill babies. This includes micro-preemies (weighing 1 pound or less), babies needing serious respiratory support (i.e., high-frequency vents and nitric oxide), babies with congenital heart or other defects involving the intestines and abdominal wall, and babies who can’t control their blood sugar or even their own body temperature. 

As with the other specialties on this list, NICU III nurses are highly sought-after. Says Brudigan, “NICU nurses not only have to be competent to care for the critically ill baby, but they end up playing a huge supportive role for the families. Parents have much to learn and will be on an emotional rollercoaster for weeks or months to come.” 

Typical Pay Rate: Agency-employed NICU III nurses can expect a pay rate of ~$52/hour

General Qualifications:

  • Active RN license in specified state with a degree from an accredited registered nurse program
  • RN degree from an accredited registered nurse program
  • BLS and NRP required 
  • One year of recent experience as an RN in a NICU Level 3 environment and two years of RN experience

Where To Find NICU III Nursing Jobs: National Association of Neonatal Nurses

Show Me Nursing Programs

6. Oncology Nurse (Medical/Surgical)

 

Nurses experienced in caring for patients with a variety of different types of cancer – especially those trained and certified to administer Chemotherapy medications – are hard to find.

Brudigan describes the ideal candidate for a Chemo RN position: “Nurses who have completed the certification courses are hard enough to find, but finding a nurse with hands-on experience to accompany those credentials is a real score.  Also, if you’re experienced with both adult and pediatric patients (cancer doesn’t discriminate!), then you truly are something special.” 

Chemo RNs manage the care of adult oncology patients and may also be responsible for the administration of other biomedical medications, treatment, and therapies. 

Typical Pay Rate: $50/hour (compared to $43/hour for standard Med/Surg)

General Qualifications 

  • Active RN license in specified state with a degree from an accredited registered nurse program
  • RN degree from an accredited registered nurse program
  • BLS required with either Chemo or ONS certification
  • One year of recent experience as an RN in a medical-surgical oncology environment and two years of RN experience

 Where To Find Oncology Nursing Jobs:  Oncology Nurses Association and Infusion Nurses Society

Find Nursing Programs

Angelina Gibson is a former Nurse Recruitment Manager with 9 total years of experience in recruiting both staff and agency nurses. In addition to her professional experience, Angelina runs the popular YouTube Channel, Travel Nursing Insider, Instagram @TravelNursingInsider

Email Signup

Nurse.org

Find a job, learn, connect and laugh.

Try us out.

Join our newsletter