Nursing Careers


Deciding on which nursing career you wish to pursue should shape your course of study in school.

Ambulatory Care Nursing

Ambulatory care nursing is the perfect career for those who can respond quickly on their feet and perform well under pressure. Nurses who arrive in an ambulance and act as caretaker until the patient arrives at a hospital are ambulatory nurses. Such nurses must work in diverse settings every day, as they never know where their job will take them next. Those who wish to become an ambulatory nurse must have at least a Bachelor of Science in nursing before they can become licensed in the field.

The duties of an ambulatory nurse are varied, much like that of an emergency room physician. In fact, ambulatory nurses are often compared to doctors in that they must examine and diagnose a patient without referring to a doctor first. As such, an ambulatory nurse must be well-rounded in knowledge and skill. Urgent response is often needed when a patient comes in contact with an ambulatory nurse and the nurse has little room for error. From pediatrics to gerontology, the nurse must be prepared for it all.

There is currently a shortage of nurses in the United States. As such, ambulatory nurses are needed by many health facilities and organizations. From mobile health units to the military, there is no shortage of hiring opportunities for those looking into this field. This is an exciting career and immediately rewarding when patients recover from an urgent condition. Also, ambulatory nurses typically make more than $30 an hour, which is well above the national average for professionals.

Cancer Nursing

Cancer nurses, also known as oncology nurses, care for patients who are receiving treatment for cancer. While this career was once limited to treating patients who are undergoing surgery, the past 50 years has seen the role of cancer nurse change quite a bit. Now, many cancer patients undergo lengthy treatment periods in addition to sometimes undergoing surgery. A cancer nurse will treat a patient through all stages of cancer therapy. As modern cancer treatments evolve, so will the roles of a cancer nurse.

Cancer nurses have many duties. In addition to the direct treatment of patients who have cancer or who are at risk of developing cancer, a cancer nurse acts as a consultant and researcher. Patients will have many questions about their treatment and recovery, which a cancer nurse must be prepared to answer. Also, as the scientific community learns more about cancer, nurses and doctors who work in oncology must learn the new developments. Each patient will pose a new challenge to the medical team that is assigned to him/her.

The benefits of becoming a cancer nurse are many. Most nurses sought a position in medicine because they wish to heal others. Though a cancer nurse must often deal with loss, there are also great emotional rewards in this field. Also, cancer nurses are among the highest paid in the nursing profession. Those who seek an advanced degree are especially well paid and could earn well into the six figures after a few years in practice. With the United States currently experiencing a , there has never been a better time to find work as a cancer nurse.

Critical Care Nursing

A critical care nurse is one who treats patients who are critically ill and in need of emergency treatment. Critical care nurses must endure a fast-paced and often high-stress work environment. However, they are often well compensated and the emotional benefits can be great. Nurses in this advanced field are thought to be some of the most knowledgeable and skilled in the entire nursing profession. They must rely on their intellect and experience in situations where there is little room for error.

The duties of a critical care nurse are varied, as every patient will pose a completely new challenge. As most critical care nurses are employed in ICU’s and emergency rooms, a wide variety of patients and conditions must be treated every day. From pediatrics to gerontology and every specialty in between, a critical care nurse must know how to respond to each situation. Some critical care nurses will have a well-rounded nursing background while others will have an advanced degree in a certain specialty.

To become a critical care nurse, one must become a registered nurse (RN) by earning a Bachelor of Science in nursing. From there, a nurse must earn a critical care certification. Critical care is but one field for an RN to enter. Those who want to become an advanced practice nurse in critical care must attend graduate school for a master’s degree or PhD. Advanced critical care nurses are among the highest paid in the nursing profession.

Cruise Ship Nursing

For a nursing career with exciting benefits, one should consider cruise ship nursing. All cruise ships must maintain at least one registered nurse (RN) on staff for the treatment of passengers. Most cruise ship nurses are trained in critical care or ambulatory nursing, as they must be prepared for anything while out at sea. However, most illnesses and conditions will be minor.

One of the greatest aspects of cruise ship nursing is the ability to travel the world on a luxury ship. Indeed, any downtime enjoyed by a cruise ship nurse is like a vacation. In between shifts, one can enjoy a lounge by the pool, a scuba diving excursion or sightseeing in foreign countries. Not many American nurses can see that they went shopping in Italy during their lunch break.

The perks of a cruise ship nursing position are great, but the job isn’t without its challenges. Without access to a major hospital, cruise ship doctors and nurses must rely on their skill and knowledge. They are, in essence, stranded with all of their patients. For this reason, most cruise ship companies only hire experienced nurses with advanced degrees. RNs with years of practice in the field of critical care may wish to seek out this exciting position.

Emergency Nursing

Emergency nurses are those who treat patients who are acutely ill or critically injured and who must receive rapid treatment. This is obviously a fast-paced career that is suitable only for those who can act quickly and respond calmly within high-stress situations. An emergency nurse is an advanced practice nurse who has received additional certification beyond that of a general registered nurse (RN).

An emergency nurse is burdened with a great responsibility, as every second counts in an emergency care ward. However, the benefits are also great and those who enjoy a challenge will definitely find it with this career. Emergency nurses are among the highest paid nurses in a hospital setting. This compensation is due to the high stress involved and because emergency nurses are so advanced in skill and knowledge.

From the stomach flu to a brain aneurysm, an emergency nurse should be prepared both mentally and emotionally for whatever enters the ward next. This broad knowledge of health and ability to make quick decisions is what makes emergency nurses such a rare breed. Many health facilities are in need of competent emergency care nurses, from hospitals to cruise ships. Those in the field who have a few years of experience should be able to choose wherever they wish to work.

Forensic Nursing

Forensic nursing is an advanced practice of nursing that concerns criminal investigations and legal prosecutions. The duties of a forensic nurse include the collection and preservation of criminal evidence, medical treatment of victims of crime and medical treatment of prisoners. From law firms to prison systems, there are many different places in need of practicing forensic nurses.

A forensic nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who has advanced training in forensic medicine. This could come in the form of a graduate degree or certification program. Forensic nurses are tasked with both hands-on medical treatment as well as investigative work. Also, a forensic nurse can be called forth to testify as an expert in a legal proceeding. The latter can earn a forensic nurse over $150 per hour.

There are common specialized fields within forensic nursing, such as that of a sexual assault nurse examiner, correctional nurse, forensic nurse investigator and more. Recently, forensic medicine has become a very popular subject in film and television programs. This has brought more attention to the practice of forensic nursing, which is a positive thing. With the United States currently experiencing a shortage of nurses, perhaps this newfound popularity will encourage more promising students and nurses to begin the practice of forensic nursing.

Maternal-Child Nursing

Maternal-child nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who specialize in the treatment of both childbearing women and their offspring. A maternal-child nurse will be responsible for hands-on treatment of women during the prenatal and postnatal phase, as well as the children that they deliver. Fostering a healthy relationship between mother and child is also an important duty of a maternal-child nurse. This field of nursing encompasses aspects of gynecology, obstetrics and pediatrics.

Maternal-child nurses work in a wide variety of medical facilities. Some will be employed by pediatricians in a private practice, while others may wish to work in a hospital setting. Postnatal wards are the most common places to hire maternal-child nurses. There, a nurse will care for a mother during her postnatal recovery, as well care for her child in the nursery. It is in a postnatal ward that a maternal-child nurse will help mother and child bond, assisting in feedings and sleeping arrangements as needed.

The field of maternal-child nursing is largely composed of women, although there has been a surge of male nurses entering the field in recent years. As this is an advance level of nursing, those in this field are usually compensated well with a salary above the national average. The shortage of nurses in the U.S. also indicates that maternal-child nurses will earn even more in the future. However, many nurses specialize in this field because they enjoy facilitating healthy lives for mothers and their children. It is a career that is both financially and emotionally beneficial.

Neonatal Nursing

Neonatal nurses care for newborn children in their first days of life. This advanced practice of nursing often takes place in the neonatal wards of hospitals. Once a mother gives birth, her baby is cared for and examined by doctors and nurses in the neonatal ward. Healthy babies are only kept for a short time before they are returned to their mother, whereas sick babies are kept longer for observation and treatment.

There are three kinds of neonatal nurseries within a major hospital. The first is the Level I, which is the nursery where all the well babies are kept when they are not in the hospital rooms with their mothers. Luckily, a majority of babies are either born healthy or stabilize to good health very rapidly. Other babies are not so lucky, however. Level II of a neonatal ward is a special ward for babies who need extra care after birth, such as oxygen. Level III is the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, which is for sickly babies who can not be treated in Level I or II.

Neonatal nurses are needed throughout the neonatal ward. Those who are trained in advanced critical care will more than likely work in one of the upper levels. The career of a neonatal nurse can be both emotionally rewarding and taxing. However, these advanced nurses are compensated well in salary and are revered in the nursing industry as being some of the most skilled and compassionate professionals.

OB Nursing

OB nursing is an advanced nursing practice that involves many duties. From assisting with the delivery of babies to caring for a pregnant woman’s family during and after labor, an OB nurse is present throughout most of the childbirth process. Men and women who seek a career in OB nursing are those who enjoy being around babies and experiencing the miracle of birth. This is one of the most emotionally rewarding areas of the nursing profession.

The duties of an OB nurse are varied. Most work in a hospital setting where they care for women in triage who are in labor or who are experiencing problems that could lead to labor. An OB nurse will also be present to care for a mother once she is admitted for labor and when the baby is being delivered. Even the care of a laboring mother’s attending family will fall under jurisdiction of an OB nurse. Perhaps the most rewarding part of this position is assisting with a mother’s newborn baby. As liaison between mother and nursery, OB nurses are charged with nurturing newborns in their first days of life.

It goes without saying that potential OB nurses should be those who enjoy the presence of babies. OB nurses are often the most compassionate and nurturing of medical professionals. An advanced degree in nursing is required to attain this position and the starting salary is above the national average. Due to the shortage of nursing professionals in the United States, OB nurses are expected to earn even more in the projected future. This is an exciting career that offers great emotional and financial rewards.

Pediatric Nursing

A pediatric nurse is an advanced nurse who treats all ages of children, from infancy to young adulthood. They will often assist pediatricians in a hospital or private practice, treating patients with hands-on care based on the diagnosis of the doctor. An advanced degree in pediatric nursing can open many doors for a nursing student, particularly if a student specializes in a particular field within pediatric health. With a shortage of experienced nurses in hospitals, pediatric wards are eager to hire pediatric nurses.

The duties of a pediatric nurse vary depending on both the patient’s condition and the health care facility that the nurse is employed with. Since pediatric health covers children from birth to early adulthood, a broad knowledge of holistic health is required. A wide variety of pediatric nurse specialties exist, from critical care to oncology. A pediatric nurse practitioner is the highest station for a pediatric nurse, as a nurse practitioner also examines and diagnoses like a doctor.

While pediatric nursing is often about hands-on medical treatment, the career also demands that the nurse become an educator to families. Sharing medical information with parents and caregivers, as well as their children, will help to foster a healthy life for the nurse’s patients. Pediatric nurses are considered advanced practice nurses and make a higher-than-average salary. However, many nurses who specialize in pediatrics do so because of their love of children. Compassion is just as important as knowledge and skill in this career.

Psychiatric Nursing

Psychiatric nursing is a practice of nursing for registered nurses (RNs) who have additional training in psychiatric medication and therapy. A psychiatric nurse will care for patients who are mentally ill or who are experiencing some sort of mental distress. Psychiatric nursing is different from any other kind of nursing in that the practice calls for both physical and mental treatment of a patient.

Medical facilities that hire psychiatric nurses include but are not limited to general hospitals, mental hospitals and prisons. Psychiatric nursing, though a specialized area of nursing in itself, has other specializations. Advanced psychiatric nurses may choose to specialize in forensic psychiatry, drug rehabilitation, pediatric mental health or some other focus within the psychiatric field.

One could argue that psychiatric nursing is the most complex of all nursing fields, given that a psychiatric nurse must be able to treat both a patient’s mind and body. Those in this field may also encounter a certain amount of danger, particularly if employed by a mental hospital. Administering drugs to and physically handling a patient who is under mental duress is a challenge in its own. However, psychiatric nurses are paid well for their skills and bravery. This advanced practice earns the average psychiatric nurse more per year than the national average. Psychiatric nursing is not only a fascinating field of practice and study, it is also both emotionally and financially rewarding.

School Nursing

Nurses who wish to work in a non-medical facility may enjoy school nursing. This advanced practice of nursing involves the medical treatment of students, faculty and staff with the intent to foster a healthy learning environment. A certification in school nursing must be obtained by a registered nurse (RN) in order to enter this specialized field.

The duties of a school nurse include the examination and diagnosis of ill or injured students, faculty and staff. Also, a nurse must administer first aid treatment where applicable. School nurses will act as an instructor of sorts, sharing information on healthy living with the students. Nurses who work in a grade school will be limited in how he/she can administer nursing to the students. This is standard practice, particularly at public schools, as the district must protect itself from potential lawsuits.

The field of school nursing can be very rewarding, as nurses will be instrumental in facilitating a healthy and safe environment for students. Also, there is currently a shortage of certified school nurses, which means there are many open positions available. This shortage also influences a school nurse’s salary, which is expected to rise in the projected future.

Travel Nursing

Travel nursing is a popular career choice for those who enjoy a variety in their daily job, not to mention traveling to interesting locations. A travel nurse is a temporary nurse who moves from one location to the next. Those who are single or who won’t mind constant travel will probably enjoy this exciting field in nursing. A travel nurse is hired by a travel nursing company that arranges all of his/her positions. Registered nurses (RNs) with work experience are qualified to become travel nurses and, based on expertise, will be fitted with appropriate temporary positions.

One of the many benefits of travel nursing is the ability to choose where one moves to next. A nurse can list preferences for travel and be fitted with the most suitable open positions. For example, a nurse may wish to work in sunny climates near the beach. The travel nursing company will accommodate by placing the nurse on the coast or in Hawaii. This example demonstrates why the career is so appealing to many.

A typical position will last approximately 13 weeks for a travel nurse before he/she moves onto the next assignment or is rehired at the same medical facility. The need for travel nurses began in the 1980’s when hospitals started to experience a shortage in experienced nurses. Since then, nursing “temps” began to find regular jobs and the travel nursing industry was born. This career allows nurses to enjoy new surroundings while gaining experience for future positions.