Things to Consider When Looking For a NP Program Part 2: Specialty

It can be difficult to know which nurse practitioner specialty you should choose, especially if you have limited nursing experience.  Your decision on a specialty will directly influence your choice in nurse practitioner schools as some schools offer a wide variety of nurse practitioner specialties while at others options are limited.  What specialty should you choose as a nurse practitioner student and how?

First, evaluate your nursing experiences.  What type of patients do you like?  Do patients on ventilators freak you out?  Well, then maybe the ICU is not the place for you.   Do you enjoy children or does the thought of a kicking, screaming two-year old send you running for the door?  If you identify with the latter, do not specialize in pediatrics.  Compile a list of positive and negative experiences you have had in your medical career.  What commonalities do you see in each list?  You will want to choose a specialty that encompasses your positives and minimizes your negatives.

Second and most importantly, think about which specialties will help you easily find a job…that is the reason you are pursuing a nurse practitioner degree, right?  A current trend among nurse practitioner schools is to offer more and more specialized nurse practitioner degrees- think cardiology, dermatology.  I am not a fan.  I recommend going general.  Even if you dream of mole removal and cannot wait for your career as a Derm NP, I would recommend family.  Most nurse practitioner students do not get their dream job after graduation as employers are looking for experience.  Wouldn’t you rather have a family nurse practitioner degree to fall back on for a year than be an unemployed dermatologic nurse practitioner?  Most employers will also hire FNP’s to work in specialty practices.  I have friends who work in cardiology, dermatology, oncology and emergency medicine and they are all family nurse practitioners.

Talk to nurse practitioners in your area to get their advice.  Look online to see what kind of job postings you can find so you know what specialties are in demand.  Think about what you like to do and what specialty you will enjoy.  Choosing a specialty will be inportant so put some thought into the decision.  If you need advice, feel free to post a comment below.

3 thoughts on “Things to Consider When Looking For a NP Program Part 2: Specialty”

  1. I’m so grateful for this blog! I discovered it today and have found plenty of useful insights already.

    I’m considering direct entry NP programs. I just completed a NA course and will soon be working in a hospital, but I only have about 1,000 hours of patient care experience so far. I’m not experienced enough to know exactly what I want to do. However, I know I’m not interested in pediatrics or acute care. I’m considering either AGPCNP or FNP.

    Could you tell me a little bit about how the choice between these two would limit my opportunities to practice? For example, you mentioned that FNPs are hired into specialties. As of now, I’m interested in endocrinology. If I were to choose adult-gerontology, would that preclude working in this specialty? Not being eligible to work with children means I couldn’t treat some type I diabetes patients.

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