Thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner? One pivotal decision you must make on your path to becoming a NP is selecting your nurse practitioner specialty. From neonatal to geriatrics and midwifery to cardiology, universities offer a wide variety of specialty programs. Your nurse practitioner specialty selection will affect your future career so it is important to choose wisely.
Here are four things you must consider in determining your nurse practitioner specialty:
1. Your Personal Areas of Interest
If you are already a nurse, you likely have some idea of your medical areas of interest, and more importantly areas you dislike. If ventilators freak you out, for example, the ICU is not the place for you. Do you enjoy children or do kicking, screaming kids have you reaching for a Xanax? If you identify with the latter group, don’t pursue pediatrics. Compile a list of positive and negative experiences from your medical career and look for patterns. Choose a nurse practitioner specialty that encompasses your positives and minimizes your negative experiences.
2. Employment Outlook
Although nurse practitioners are in high demand, your personal employment outlook is affected by specialty. A current trend among NP programs is to offer more and more specialized degrees- think cardiology or dermatology. I would recommend avoiding more specialized programs and pursuing a more general specialty such as acute care (ACNP) or primary care (FNP). Even if you dream of mole removal, Botox and skin cancer screening and cannot wait to become a dermatology nurse practitioner, that the more generic FNP route. Most nurse practitioner students don’t get their dream job immediately after graduation. It is better to have a generic specialty to fall back on while you gain some practice experience than to be a highly specialized but unemployable NP.
As a nurse practitioner myself, I knew I ultimately wanted a career in emergency medicine. I was unable to find a job in the ER immediately after graduation as employers required experience. Luckily, I was able to work as a family nurse practitioner in urgent care clinics until landing my dream job in the emergency department.
Despite having the title ‘nurse practitioner’ in common, NP salaries do vary somewhat by specialty. Some specialties such as emergency medicine and dermatology promise well into the six-figure salary range. Others such as pediatrics fall closer to the $80,000 mark. Although the difference in pay between nurse practitioner specialties is not as pronounced as it is among physicians, your specialty selection will affect your income.
4. Career Flexibility
Some prospective nurse practitioners have a clearly defined career path in mind while others are uncertain what their ideal plan entails. Some NP’s gravitate toward stability while others anticipate practicing in multiple different roles throughout their careers. If you aren’t sure which areas of medicine best accommodate your interests and talents, or if you would like to work in multiple specialties over the course of your career it is important to choose a broader specialty such as primary care or acute care. A more general specialty selection will allow you to further define your career path as you go offering you the flexibility to work in multiple areas of medicine.
Take these points into consideration when choosing your NP specialty and your career will be off to a great start! Questions about your specialty selection? Get advice from other NP’s by commenting below.
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