10 Tips in Choosing a Nursing Specialty


Don’t Just Drift Along, Choose a Specialty.

I used to change jobs every two years as I used to get bored with each nursing job I had. I was lucky to find a position that I was happy to stay with (I have been in my current role for 10 years now). While I was fortunate to end up in a position that finally suits both me and my family life, I realised that if I had put a little more thought and effort into my career earlier on, it could have been a shorter journey to end up working in the area that I enjoy.


If you are new to nursing, you may want to consider the following tips to help save you working in areas that you don’t enjoy and to help you select a nursing specialty area and then fast track your career path in your chosen area of expertise…
1. Consider what areas of nursing you enjoy working in (e.g. paediatrics, surgical, maternity). Do you have a ward or department that you seem to have a natural flair for?

2. Consider specialising in that particular area by talking to the Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS), Clinical Nurse Consultants (CNC) and Nurse Unit Managers (NUM) in that field to get tips on a career path you might follow. Have a prepared list of questions and ask them what they like about that speciality. I heard a tip once that said if you don’t aspire to one day take on your bosses’ job, you’re in the wrong job.
3. Apply for a position in your chosen specialty (if not already working in that area). Find out from the NUM what you can do to enhance your chances of being a successful applicant.
4. Check what courses are available at University and TAFE (Technical and Further Education). Courses may help boost your chances of attaining CNS status or for getting a go as the acting NUM when the boss goes on holidays. Filling in for someone and walking in their shoes for a while can help you decide if you really do want to take on their role one day.
5. Set a goal of working in a certain specialty to be achieved by a certain date. You should be working towards achieving goals in your nursing career. E.g. I will be a CNS in Paediatrics by Dec 2009.
6. Take an active role in the ward. Volunteer to run a quality assurance project for the department. Be interested and enthusiastic about your work and be a role model for your peers.
7. Become a resource person for your department. Conduct research at home on the internet to see what research, break throughs, technology is being introduced into your specialty area. You don’t have to be the ward geek or walking encyclopaedia but being armed with interesting facts and trivia will show that you are more than interested in your specialty.
8. Attend conferences and seminars that relate to your area of expertise. Even if you have to pay your own way (you can get a tax break on your out of pocket expenses). Attending these will keep you up to date with the latest and greatest in your area and you will be one of the first to know of the new and exciting directions your chosen specialty is heading in. this will also help to feed your enthusiasm for your area of expertise.
9. Do one Personal Development course each year. This is so that you are achieving your life AND career goals and such are maintaining a healthy balance.
10. If it’s not working out for you don’t stress as you can always change specialties. I have found that is one of the biggest benefits of nursing, you can have many jobs in the one career.

Do you have any tips to add to help any newbies in their quest to both find one and then be able to advance in a nursing specialty?



  1. Choosing a nurse specialty These are good points. If you are a student nurse, wondering where to go – don’t be afrain to go to your specialty area first year out. If you like old people and or chronic health, then there is Aged Care or Community Health, if you like well people that are acutely ill, then Surgical nursing might be for you. Whilst, students are getting a wider variety of practical placements these days, they should generally have a feel for what inspires them by the end. However, there is just as much benefit from pool nursing to start with to experience every ward in the hospital, in order to find where you like best. Some nurses do permanent pool nursing to maintain the variety. So to all the nursing students don’t worry – you can always move on if you don’t like where you end up post TAFE/Uni.

  2. Be careful that you don’t specialise too well IF you intend to work in the country! Cardiothoracic was useless for me. However, Gastro and paeds, ICU, Urology, gynae, cancer care, midwifery and others are a real asset in the country . See what is around and what gives you the most flexibility if you want to travel. Neuro-surgery could be a bit limiting!!

  3. I am curious, I am about to begin my new grad year (providing the 1 outstanding subject result is good), and I have heard many pieces of advice for choosing a speciality (when the time comes). But my question is, If you have never stepped foot in a speciality area, for example, in my case I have not had experience in maternity, Paeds, ED, etc…on prac (and doing my degree and therefore placements in a rural setting also limits what I have been able to see). How would you advise me to go about finding out if any of those specialities are what I may wish to pursue in the future. The first year of the program I have been accepted into is general med-surg but the second year is speciality, so I have some time up my sleaves.

  4. Hi jessica,

    As part of your New Grad program do you know if you will be able to speak to other new grads about what they are doing? if you have already been accepted into a Hospital for a new grad, perhaps it would be worthwhile to ring a few of the NUMs/CNE’s to walk you around the ward for a minute or two and answer a few questions you may have about that particular specialty. While on the Med surg ward take the time to escort patients to different areas (eg to Dialysis if they are a renal inpatient, or to Xray or theatre etc)
    Once you are in the hospital, talk to other New Grads, Last years new grads and other more experienced nurses about things they may have done.
    Im a fledgling nurse to and have no idea what to specialise in either, I like a lot of what I’ve seen so far except one specialty – Paeds, and that’s because seeing children unwell makes me sad.

    Good Luck with your exam and see you on the floor 🙂

  5. i guess yoou never know until you try all of them when i first started my training all i wanted was to be an ED Nurse now know im a surgical nurse through and through, my speciality was decided through what i didnt like i hated aged care and rehab nursing it wasnt for me i liked medical and maternity but when given a choice i realised that i liked the surgical nursing its basically comes down to what you are interested in where you want to end up and how much effort you want to put into it… Good luck


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