Nurses who specialize in a specific niche have the opportunity to become experts in their field and influence practice, education and healthcare outcomes. Each specialty is a leadership designation, though specific qualities and interests shape the area in which a nurse advances professionally. Pursuing a specialization is not only beneficial for career advancement but also for shaping the future of the health care industry.
The Importance of Specialization
Many nurses may find themselves in this position given the major changes underway in the American health care system. They may want to pursue leadership or educational roles, which will allow them to not only impart their experiences to a new generation of nurses, but also to facilitate change from within the health care organization. The decision to specialize and advance professionally is a commitment that generally requires a Master's degree in nursing; however, the benefits are far-reaching making continuing education a worthy pursuit.
Areas of Specialty
There are many areas of specialization within the nursing profession (oncology, mental health, neonatal, etc.), each of which provides opportunities for nurses to advance. Specializing provides the opportunity for nurses to pursue career ambitions in leadership roles. Nurses qualified to fill these specializations will continue to be needed as the health care climate evolves following passage of the Affordable Care Act.
Patient Services Administration
Patient Services administrators in nursing work toward improving nursing practice as well as making care more affordable. Administrators approach nursing from a business perspective dealing with finance, business management, technology and program evaluation. They implement policies and procedures which focus on quality and achievement of outcomes, within the mission and strategic plan of the institution. Nursing Administrators are knowledgeable and well-versed in the accreditation process and state and federal guidelines.
Professional nurse educators teach future nurses to handle patients in an ever-changing health care system. Nurse educators stay abreast of changes and updates in health care to disseminate this knowledge to nursing students. According to the National League for Nursing, qualified nurse educators are critical for ensuring a competent nurse workforce and there is currently a high demand for such professionals due to discrepancies in the ratio of students to educators. In addition, the changes related to requirements for entry into practice has created much demand for further educating our existing nurses in this country. A professional nurse educator can work as faculty in a college/university setting or in the acute care or long term environment as a Professional Staff Development Nurse Educator.
Clinical Nurse Leadership
The Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) designation was created as a collaborative effort by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and other important health care entities to better prepare nurses to be leaders within their field and to determine how to improve patient care. CNLs are overseers in a health care setting; they are planners, developers, and implementers of patient care. CNLs directly advocate for patients and work closely with other health professionals to ensure quality patient care.
Choosing a Specialization
Each specialization is a leadership designation. Patient services administration is most appealing for those with a proclivity for business, while the CNL specialization is more suitable for go-getters who wish to continue working primarily with patients. Meanwhile, nurse educators facilitate progress by preparing future nurse practitioners to handle changes in health care.
Though all specializations qualify as leadership roles, there are certain personality traits, interests, and qualities that are more suitable in some areas than in others.
- Patient services administrators: Individuals that have to be good leaders who work well with others as they will deal directly with patients, corporate entities and policymakers. They should possess solid communication skills both orally and in writing. The ability to keep confidential information (patient records, financial information, etc.) as such is essential.
- Nursing Educators: These professionals should be compassionate and understanding toward students. They need to enjoy research and pedagogy and possess the confidence to be considered an authority in the nursing profession.
- CNLs: Often function as team members and team leaders. They must be knowledgeable, have solid skills, and exercise good judgment. Equally important is that CLNs be team-oriented capable of collaboration with peers and with other health care professionals.
There is a specialization for every nurse whether they are working with other future nurses, patients, or business professionals. The ability to lead, communicate, and work well with others are qualifiers for nurses looking to advance professionally. Nurses in these leadership roles are in high demand, so nurses interested in impacting both patients and the future of nursing should pursue specialization.
Sacred Heart University's Online Master of Science in Nursing offers nurses the opportunity to earn an advanced degree with an emphasis in nursing education, clinical nurse leadership, or patient services administration. By specializing, nurses are able to professionally advance into impacting leadership health care roles. Sacred Heart's online program enables nurses geared toward career advancement to take the next step while continuing to remain part of the workforce.