Are you ready to become a nurse practitioner? Need to decide on a specialty? Here are some tips for choosing the specialty that’s perfect for you.
Nursing focuses on people, not body parts
Nursing is a wonderful field in that you choose your specialty by population, rather than organ. In medicine, you choose a specialty by honing in on one area of the body… such as dermatology, gastroenterology, neurology, ear-nose-throat, etc. With the exception of psych-mental health, nursing focuses on populations. The choices include pediatrics, family, midwifery, women’s health, adult gerontology, adult acute care, and pediatric acute care. Because they specialize by population, nurse practitioners naturally have a more holistic approach to care – taking the patient’s life circumstances, background, and overall wellbeing into consideration. It is patient-centered care, rather than organ-centered care.
So, where do you even start? How do you know what population is the best fit for your practice? Here are some tips to choosing your specialty…
Reflect on What You’re Passionate About
Do you love kids? Can’t stand them? Do you have a personal story that connects you to working with the elderly? Maybe you are a mother (or father) and now dream of delivering babies for a living. Or maybe your a badass feminist who wants to stand for womens’ health rights. Do you feed off the adrenaline rush of working in an ER or the intensity of an ICU? Or maybe you pass out at the site of gushing blood and boiling skin and wouldn’t be able to hand acute care.
In my case, I absolutely love working with children but didn’t want to narrow my scope so much that I can’t work with adults – so I chose family. I also knew that I want to be on the more preventative side of health and wellness, rather than in the emergency or acute care setting.
Try writing down the pros and cons of each specialty to get it narrowed to two or three options.
Shadow – and then shadow some more
This is the best advice I have ever been given. I had heard about shadowing before but I never felt humble enough to actually get out there are do it… Until my best friend came along. I was completely stuck on what I wanted to do in life but then I utilized this advice.
Unsure what specialty is best for you? Push your own limits and get out there and do it for a day. Find someone in acute care to shadow… See if you can handle the high-stress environment or critically ill patients. Seek out a midwife to shadow and see if the birthing process is your forté. Pick up a volunteer position at an in- or outpatient practice. The best way to decide is to see it, feel it, experience it first-hand. Trust me, you will know within the first hour if it is the right setting for you.
Don’t limit yourself
If you’re absolutely positive you want to be a nurse practitioner but you’re unsure what population is your niche, choose family practice. This specialty has a wonderful reputation for allowing flexibility once in practice. The FNP role will prepare you to work with all ages and all genders, which is the perfect recipe for no regrets. There is plenty of time throughout your career to figure out EXACTLY what and who it is that you want to work with. If your passion is helping people, that’s a wonderful start!
I personally chose FNP because I want to work with kids, adults, families, and all genders. At least at the beginning of my career. Who knows, maybe I will end up at a women’s health clinic… Or maybe I will specialize in a certain disease process. I’m super passionate about endocrinology and autoimmune disorders. FNP allows these doors to stay open for me and it inspires me to explore the endless opportunities and keep an open mind. I encourage you to do the same!
“You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.”. – Steve Jobs