The many faces of nursing: A closer look at specialized roles


Nursing has many specialties to choose from. If you are a nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, you have a wide range of career paths to choose from. In this article, we will discuss some of the different specialties available to nurses with a BSN, along with examples of the roles and tasks involved.

Certified midwife

Certified midwives are registered nurses who have received additional education and training in midwifery. They provide care to women throughout pregnancy, labor and delivery, as well as postpartum care to both the mother and the newborn. Certified midwives can also provide gynecological care to women of all ages. Some of the tasks involved in this role include monitoring fetal development, providing education and counseling to expectant mothers and administering medications during labor.

One reward of being a certified midwife is the opportunity to provide support that aligns with the midwifery model of care. This focuses on a woman’s autonomy and involvement in the decision-making process throughout her pregnancy and birth. Midwives strive to provide personalized, holistic care that meets the unique needs and preferences of each woman.

In addition to building relationships and providing personalized care, certified midwives also have the professional satisfaction of being able to make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of both the mother and newborn. By closely monitoring fetal development and providing care during labor and delivery, certified midwives can help ensure that both the mother and newborn are as healthy as possible.

Of course, being a certified midwife has its challenges too. The role requires significant emotional and physical stamina, as midwives may be on call for long periods and need to be available to provide care at all times. Additionally, midwives may need to make difficult decisions in high-pressure situations, such as during a complicated delivery. However, for those who are passionate about the role and the rewards it provides, these challenges can be overcome. 

Learning to overcome difficult challenges in nursing can come through education and training.

BSN accelerated programs are designed for anyone who already holds a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field and provides the opportunity to transition into the nursing field in a short amount of time. BSN accelerated programs, such as those offered by Elmhurst University, can be a great option for those who want to move into a nursing career and pursue specialized roles such as certified midwife. This full-time program helps prepare students to provide direct patient care in just 16 months. Elmhurst University’s clinical placement team will help you secure quality placement sites within your local community as well.

Neonatal nurse

Newborns who are born prematurely or with health complications are cared for by neonatal nurses. They are responsible for monitoring the infants’ vital signs, administering medications and providing care to support their development. Neonatal nurses may work in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) or special care nurseries. They need to be knowledgeable about a wide range of medical conditions that affect newborns and be able to provide specialized care to meet their unique needs.

While certified midwives and neonatal nurses both work in the field of maternal and child health, there are some significant differences in their roles and responsibilities. The main focus of a certified midwife is providing care to women throughout pregnancy, labor and delivery. Neonatal nurses work specifically with newborns who require specialized medical care. 

Despite these differences, there are also some similarities between the roles of certified midwives and neonatal nurses. Both roles require a deep understanding of the physiology and development of newborn babies, as well as a compassionate and empathetic approach to patient care. Both also require strong communication and collaboration skills. As healthcare professionals, they must work together and with others to provide the best possible care to the mother and baby.

Neonatal nurses must be knowledgeable about a wide range of medical conditions that affect their young patients. This includes understanding the developmental needs of premature infants and providing complex support.

Pediatric nurse

Pediatric nurses have a more diverse workload. Their patients can range from newborns to adolescents, and all ages in between. They may work alongside other professionals to care for infants who are born prematurely or have health complications. They may also work with children who have chronic health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or cystic fibrosis, providing ongoing care and support to help manage their symptoms, so they can live their lives to the fullest.

In addition to medical care, pediatric nurses also provide emotional support to both their young patients and their families. They must be able to communicate effectively with children of all ages and their caregivers, promoting good health practices and ensuring proper adherence to treatment plans. Pediatric nurses may also be involved in palliative care, providing end-of-life care and support to children and their families during difficult times.

Pediatric nurses may encounter a variety of challenging situations in their work, such as caring for a child with a life-threatening illness or providing support to a family during a difficult diagnosis. They may also work with children who have experienced trauma, such as different types of abuse. Nurses must be able to provide compassionate care in these situations.

Pediatric nurses may work in fast-paced and often emotionally demanding environments, but the rewards of their work are significant. They have the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of young patients and their families during difficult times.

Critical care

Typically working in intensive care units (ICUs), critical care nurses provide care to those who are critically ill or injured. They monitor patients’ vital signs, dispense medication and provide advanced life-support measures, such as ventilator support and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Critical care nurses must be highly skilled in assessing patients, as they are responsible for monitoring patients’ vital signs and detecting changes in their condition quickly. They must also be knowledgeable about a wide range of medical conditions and be able to provide care to patients with complex needs, such as those with multiple organ failure or sepsis.

Communication and teamwork skills are also crucial for critical care nurses, as they work closely with other healthcare professionals, including physicians, respiratory therapists and other nurses. They must be able to communicate effectively with patients and their families, providing education and counseling during stressful and challenging times.

Critical care nurses must also gain significant experience in the field to be able to provide the highest level of care. This experience allows them to develop a deep understanding of the complexities and challenges of critical care nursing, as well as the ability to anticipate and respond to potential complications or emergencies. For this reason, critical care nurses, as well as nurses in other specialties, frequently work with more experienced healthcare professionals while they gain experience. 

Despite the challenges of working in critical care, the rewards are significant. They have the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of critically ill patients and their families, providing vital care and support during the most challenging times in their lives. The work requires a high level of dedication, but it is also very fulfilling.

Nurse case manager

With a unique role in nursing, nurse case managers often coordinate and collaborate with other healthcare providers. They must work effectively with physicians, nurses, social workers and other healthcare professionals to ensure that patients receive the appropriate care and services to meet their needs.

One key difference between nurse case managers and other nursing roles is the level of responsibility they have in coordinating patient care. Nurse case managers develop care plans that meet the needs of individual patients and monitor patient progress to ensure these are effective.

Another difference is the focus on patient advocacy. Nurse case managers work closely with patients and their families to ensure that they receive the care and services they need and may advocate on their behalf to ensure that their needs are met. This can involve advocating for patients’ rights and helping them navigate the healthcare system. For some patients, the experience can be confusing and daunting.

There are similarities between the roles of nurse case managers and other nurses. Nurse case managers must have a strong foundation in general nursing skills, as well as specialized knowledge in their area of practice. They also need to be highly skilled in making assessments, communication and teamwork.

Psychiatric nurse

Caring for patients who have mental health conditions or behavioral disorders is the responsibility of psychiatric nurses. They provide care in hospitals, mental health clinics and community health centers. Psychiatric nurses may perform tasks such as managing medications, providing psychotherapy and developing care plans to help patients manage their conditions.

They play a crucial role in the care of patients with mental health conditions or behavioral disorders. Mental health disorders can have a significant impact on a person’s overall health and wellbeing, and can often go undiagnosed and untreated. Psychiatric nurses work to ensure that patients receive the appropriate care and treatment to manage their conditions and improve their overall quality of life.

One of their key responsibilities is assessing patients’ mental health status and developing treatment plans that address their specific needs. Psychiatric nurses must also be able to recognize signs of mental health crises and intervene to prevent harm to the patient or others.

Another important aspect of the role of psychiatric nurses is patient education. Many patients with mental health conditions don’t fully understand what is happening to them or may feel stigmatized regarding their illness. This may cause them to feel afraid and isolated. Psychiatric nurses work to provide education and support to patients and their families, helping them to understand their conditions and how common their health problems actually are, manage their symptoms and navigate the healthcare system. 

This role is becoming increasingly important as mental health disorders become more recognized in society. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults in the United States experienced mental illness in 2021. Specialized care and support is required to help patients manage their conditions and improve their overall health.

Orthopedic nurse

Patients with musculoskeletal conditions, such as fractures, joint replacements or spinal injuries are cared for by orthopedic nurses. They work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers and outpatient clinics, and perform tasks such as delivering pain medication, providing wound care and assisting with physical therapy.

Orthopedic nurses play a vital role in the care and recovery of patients with the above conditions. They need a thorough understanding of anatomy, physiology and the biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system. They also need to have up-to-date knowledge of the latest surgical techniques and technology used in orthopedic surgery. Orthopedic nurses work closely with orthopedic surgeons and other healthcare providers to develop care plans that meet the unique needs of each patient. They may also provide education and counseling to patients and their families on how to manage their conditions to prevent future injuries.

Orthopedic nurses work with a variety of patients. For example, if a patient has had a total hip replacement, an orthopedic nurse would be responsible for monitoring the patient’s pain levels, administering medications and helping the patient with mobility and physical therapy exercises. If a patient has a spinal cord injury, the nurse would monitor their neurological status and ensure proper wound care, while assisting with rehabilitation exercises.

Pharmaceutical nurse

Pharmaceutical nursing is a highly specialized field that requires extensive knowledge and skills related to pharmacology, research methodology and patient care. One of the most rewarding aspects of this role is the opportunity to contribute to the development of new treatments. These new treatments have the potential to improve the lives of patients in the future.

Pharmaceutical nurses work closely with research teams to design and implement studies, collect and analyze data and report findings. They play a critical role in ensuring the safety and efficacy of new drugs and may have the opportunity to work on ground-breaking projects with the potential to revolutionize healthcare.

Additionally, pharmaceutical nurses may work with a diverse range of stakeholders, including scientists, physicians and patients, and be involved in educating healthcare professionals about new treatments or medications. Their work can ultimately lead to the development of more effective and safer treatments for patients, making it a highly rewarding career path for those interested in the intersection of nursing and research.

Perioperative nurse

With a crucial role in surgical settings, perioperative nurses work closely with the surgical team to ensure that patients receive safe and effective care during their procedures. Some of the specific duties of perioperative nurses include preparing patients for surgery by reviewing their medical history and ensuring that they have been properly informed about the procedure and any risks or preparations they need to make. They also assist with the administration of anesthesia and monitor patients’ vital signs throughout the surgery.

During the surgery, perioperative nurses are responsible for ensuring that all the necessary equipment and supplies are available and in good working order. They must also maintain a sterile environment in the operating room and assist the surgeon by passing instruments and supplies during the procedure. After the surgery, theatre nurses provide post-operative care to patients, such as monitoring vital signs, managing pain and providing wound care.

Perioperative nursing is a highly rewarding career for those with a passion for surgical care. The role offers opportunities for continued learning and professional development, as well as the satisfaction of helping patients improve their quality of life. 

Geriatric nurse

Elderly patients, who often require specialized attention due to conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are cared for by geriatric nurses. Geriatric nurses must be knowledgeable about these conditions to provide effective care. They also need to be aware of the physical and emotional changes that occur as patients age and be able to provide compassionate care to those who may be experiencing pain, confusion or other upsetting symptoms.

In addition to medical care, geriatric nurses also play a critical role in providing emotional support to their patients and their families. Many elderly patients require assistance with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing and eating, and geriatric nurses often provide this care with patience and empathy. They may also help patients and their families navigate difficult decisions about end-of-life care or long-term care options.

Geriatric nursing is a rewarding career for those who have a passion for helping elderly patients. Nurses who excel in this role are typically patient, compassionate and have strong communication skills. They must also be able to work well as part of a team, as geriatric care typically involves collaboration with physicians, social workers, and other healthcare professionals.

Wrapping up

As you can see, nursing is a diverse field with many specialties available for BSN-accredited nurses to choose from. Each specialty has its unique roles and tasks, requiring specialized knowledge and skills, but most roles require the same underlying skills and qualities, alongside other specific knowledge. By exploring different specialties, qualified nurses can find the path that best suits their interests and passions. 

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