Choosing a Nurse Practitioner Specialty

Choosing Nurse Practitioner Specialty

If you’re considering a career as a nurse practitioner, it’s important to know what options are available to you. After completing your Bachelor of Science in Nursing and successfully graduating from a Master of Science in Nursing program, you’ll be well-equipped to obtain the license and certification that enables you to operate as a nurse practitioner.

You can prepare for the NCLEX with Career Employer’s free study guide or take intensive courses midway through your final semester in nursing schools.

From there, you’ll also have the chance to specialize in a particular field. With many options to choose from, a career as a nurse practitioner can be as varied or specialized as you choose. To get an idea of which route might be right for you, take a look at some of the most popular nurse practitioner specialties:

1. Family Nurse Practitioner  

As a family nurse practitioner, you’ll deliver a wide variety of care to people of all ages. This diversity gives you the opportunity to specialize, while still treating people of ages. A family nurse practitioner may be responsible for providing routine care to infants, such as administering inoculations, diagnosing medical issues in adults, and implementing long-term healthcare management plans for seniors, for example. You can read more about the tasks involved for the role of family nurse practitioner here.

Many family nurse practitioners enjoy the variations that the role brings, which may explain why it’s the most popular nurse practitioner specialty. In addition to this, the increasing demand for healthcare services from family nurse practitioners ensures there is plenty of scope for employment and job opportunities.

2. Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

If you thrive in high stress environments, then an acute care specialty might be just what you’re looking for. Acute care nurse practitioners manage and treatment emergencies or conditions with a sudden onset. To qualify as an acute care nurse practitioner, you’ll typically need to choose a subspecialty too. You may want to specialize as a pediatric acute care NP, for example, or a geriatric acute care NP. 

Due to the varying needs of different populations, these subspecialties are becoming more commonplace throughout the nursing profession. While any nurse practitioner can choose to focus on a particular subspecialty, acute care NPs are routinely required to do so. 

3. Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

If you want to focus on delivering healthcare services to the adult population, you may to choose to specialize and become an AGNP (adult gerontology nurse practitioner). As an AGNP, your primary duties will include:

  • Diagnosing and treating acute and chronic medical issues with an evidence-based approach
  • Providing guidance, disease prevention and health promotion education to adult patients
  • Administering and ordering diagnostic tests
  • Referring patients to other healthcare professionals, when it’s necessary to do so

According to the AANP, adult-gerontology is the second most popular specialty amongst NPs, with more than 20% of nurse practitioners choosing to work in this field. As an AGNP, you can work in a variety of settings, such as from your own practice, in a doctor’s office, and at hospitals. 

4. Geriatric Nurse Practitioner

The needs of an aging population have seen an increase in the number of nurse practitioners who choose to specialize in geriatric care. By focusing on diagnosing and treating members of the elderly population, your role may include managing long-term health complaints, ordering diagnostic tests, making referrals to appropriate medical professionals and care authorities, and assisting with plans for end-of-life care. 

Geriatric nurse practitioners routinely see patients in a clinical setting, such as in a doctor’s office or in hospital. However, you may also be required to consult with patients in a home setting or at an assisted living facility, if their condition means they are unable to travel easily. 

As older patients are more likely to experience more than one medical issue, geriatric nurse practitioners are highly trained on the comorbidities of certain conditions as well as the increased risk factors patients may face. Furthermore, geriatric NPs are highly trained in devising appropriate medical regimens for geriatric patients, taking into account the various drug interactions which can occur when numerous treatments are required. 

Choosing the Right Specialty

While most NPs choose to specialize in either family, acute care, adult gerontology or geriatric care, there are other options available. Pediatric, neonatal and psychiatric specialties are becoming increasing popular, for example. 

If you’re not sure which specialty is right for you, there’s no need to worry. As you gain experience as a nurse practitioner, you’ll have the opportunity to develop your skills and discover where your interests lie. This experience will help you to determine which demographics you enjoy working with the most and which fields of medicine you are most interested in. 

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