Qualified nurses have a wide variety of career paths open to them, which means they can find a role and environment which suits their interests and skills. Nurses also have the option to continue their education and change their specialty later in their career. This means that the path you choose at the beginning of your career is not set in stone. You can take on new challenges and pursue progression, changing to a career path that is in greater demand. This article explores the nursing career paths that are growing in demand and set to be vitally important for our future healthcare system. 

Why pursue a career in nursing?

Before addressing the many specialties within the nursing profession, it is worth outlining why someone would pursue any career in nursing. There is a lot of press about how physically and mentally demanding being a nurse can be, and while there is no denying that this is true, that is not the whole story. 

Being a nurse means making a positive impact in the lives of individuals and the community. Nurses can work in a wide variety of healthcare facilities on a full or part-time basis, so they can choose a position to suit their lifestyle. It is a fascinating vocation that demands continued learning and training and can be transferred to educational settings, the legal system, community health, etc. Nursing also offers lots of different specialties that nurses can switch to at any time in their career. 

Choosing a nursing training program

While there are several routes to becoming a nurse, the most highly regarded is the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Many organizations will only hire nurses with this level of study and it naturally leads on to further study (e.g. a master’s or doctorate degree), which is required for senior positions and the highest salaries. Training to be a nurse can take up to four years and it combines the study of theory with clinical experience. Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing or ABSN programs, however, can be completed in one year via online study, which can be more convenient. 

Which nursing career paths are growing in demand?

Travel nursing

Travel nursing, as you might expect, involves being available to travel to wherever you are needed. This can involve working in communities or hospitals where there are staff shortages, or even disaster zones and emergencies. These nurses tend to be managed by an agency and will receive short-term assignments. To be a travel nurse, you need to be able to adapt to new situations and challenges easily and to have a relatively flexible lifestyle. 

Midwifery 

A midwife provides care for expectant mothers during pregnancy, supports them during the birth, and offers advice, guidance, and care for newborn babies. However, midwives also play a pivotal role in the provision of health care for women in general, and because of this there is a real focus on recruiting more nurses to the profession, particularly in rural and inner-city areas.

Teaching

When you have been nursing for some time, you may want to share the knowledge and experience you have accrued with the next generation of nurses. Unfortunately, a lot of nursing applicants are not able to train because of a lack of teaching staff and many existing teachers are due to retire in the next few years, so demand for nurse educators is increasing. 

Critical care

A critical care nurse works in intensive care units in hospitals where patients are suffering from serious injuries or illnesses. Hospitals are expanding intensive care facilities, so nurses are likely to be in ever-increasing demand. This career path involves a high level of stress and requires the ability to make important decisions under a great deal of pressure. 

Geriatric nursing

Advances in healthcare mean that we are living longer, and, thanks to the baby boomer generation, this is only going to become more of a strain on the health system. Nurses who specialize in geriatric care focus on conditions and diseases which are more common in older people. A lot of elderly people struggle with their hearing, sight, and/or memory loss, which can make providing care more complex. 

Perinatal or neonatal nursing

Perinatal nurses provide care for pregnant women before, during, and after the birth of their baby and are sometimes referred to as labor and delivery nurses. They support women through their contractions, providing pain relief medication, monitoring the birth for potential risks to the mother or baby, and helping new mothers to breastfeed. Neonatal nurses provide care for babies up to 28 days of age. This care may take place in intensive care units if babies are born with complications and/or are premature. Nursing mothers and babies can be rewarding, but it is also important to consider the emotional trauma involved when a mother loses their baby. 

Psychiatric nursing

The field of mental health is expanding and being prioritized much more than it has been historically. Research is ongoing into mental health and the most appropriate treatments, but what we do know is that many people do not get the help they need. Psychiatric nurses help doctors and psychiatrists when assessing an individual’s mental health and provide compassion and emotional support when required. They may work with families or individuals who have experienced trauma, substance abuse disorders, or mental health conditions. 

Pediatric nursing

For people who enjoy the company of children from their early years through to their teens, pediatric nursing could be perfect. Being a pediatric nurse means working with patients who have limited understanding of why they are being examined and may be resistant to medicines or procedures, so it is essential that pediatric nurses can develop a rapport with children. They need to feel safe and comforted and the caregivers need to understand and trust your advice.

Trauma nursing

Nurses who work in the Emergency Room are often referred to as trauma nurses and need to cope with high levels of pressure, stress, and often chaotic working conditions. There is no denying that being a trauma nurse is stressful as they are facing life and death decisions on a daily basis. This means they also need to be ready to carry out a wide range of nursing tasks as any injury or medical emergency could come in at any time. 

Surgical nursing

Surgical nurses are sometimes called OR (operating room) nurses or perioperative nurses. These nurses provide care for people before, during, and after surgical procedures. Working in an OR can be stressful and requires a high degree of attention to detail and the ability to work in a team, taking direction from the surgeon. Surgical nurses often work in hospitals but there are some facilities that offer surgical procedures to outpatients. 

Case management nursing

Case management nursing involves providing care and guidance for patients suffering from chronic conditions. The increasing number of older people in this country has increased the need for this kind of care. A case management nurse works with patients on a long-term basis, supporting them and their families, and ensuring the relevant resources are available while monitoring costs. It can be rewarding to work with patients to improve their quality of life, but this can also be emotionally draining as there are important decisions to be made. 

Home-care nursing

Technology and healthcare are moving on, and one of the results of this is that patients do not need to remain in hospital for as long as they used to. Improved technology means that complex treatments and rehabilitation programs can now be administered at home, and home-care nurses make this possible. Home-care nursing is appealing to many people who do not want to work in a hospital with different patients every day and want to establish relationships with a group of patients whom they visit regularly. 

Virtual nursing

Many people turn to the Internet when they are suffering from mystery symptoms, but unfortunately, not all information on the Internet is reliable. Virtual nurses provide accurate advice that is based on medical training. In addition, virtual nurses can provide a triaging service for physicians to assess which patients are in most need of a face-to-face appointment and which are less of a priority. Virtual appointments can also be helpful for people who cannot leave their home easily due to disability or illness. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the demand for this kind of nursing as many people have had to rely on telephone and video calls to access healthcare advice. 

Nursing informatics

Nursing informatics has been present in healthcare for years but advancing technology and the increased data available to us has pushed the career into the spotlight. Nursing informatics capture, interpret, and communicate data alongside their medical knowledge to improve the quality of patient care. This could be done through improved technology, data, and communication, and minimizing paperwork to ensure healthcare professionals can prioritize care over bureaucracy. Informatics as a nursing field is still developing, but it has the potential to transform our healthcare system through improved efficiency, communication, and mobile technology.