Career specializations for nursing practitioners

The nursing industry has been evolving continuously, opening new opportunities for practitioners to impact their patients directly. The American healthcare system has given nurse practitioners the green light to run their practice in 20 states.

Within these states, nurse practitioners can assess patients, diagnose conditions and even prescribe without a physician. In other words, nurse practitioners receive much more autonomy than the typical nurse. This increased autonomy also comes with a significant pay bump. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a nurse practitioner earns an average of $123,780 annually, a substantial increase from the median RN.

However, for nurse practitioners to become effective at their jobs, they must first determine their area of specialization. By zeroing in on a specific field, they can improve their skills, demonstrate their expertise and find ways to improve the practice. This article will discuss the emerging areas of nursing specialization and how nurse practitioners can contribute to these areas of practice.


Demand for healthcare is growing due to the increasing age of baby boomers. Numbers reveal 76 million people were born between 1946 and 1964. Also known as the baby boomer generation, its oldest members retired in 2012, while others are expected to reach the social security age by 2030.

Most individuals within this age range will rely on medical programs for post-retirement healthcare. This ultimately calls for the need for adult-gerontology nurses, who provide healthcare to seniors from their later years till the end of life.

The requirements of this demographic are special as the body’s resilience and capacity to repair both diminish with age. Changes that come with age include decreased respiratory strength, lower bone density and increased susceptibility to infection.

Gerontological nurses concentrate on the effects of aging and work to preserve, restore and enhance their clients’ health and quality of life. This care includes prevention of sickness and damage, assistance during recovery, relief from disease symptoms and advocacy for the well-being of the elderly.

So, where nurse practitioners fit into this, and how can they contribute to this area of practice? Nurse practitioners take a holistic view of patient care. They address the social, emotional and social components of aging in addition to treatment and disease avoidance. By taking a holistic view of health, nurse practitioners can provide a care plan easily understood by patients of all ages and embraced by their family members.

As an adult-gerontological nurse practitioner, you can also choose to work in acute or primary care. Working in primary care allows you to prescribe medications and create treatment regimens while applying your skills to critical care as you deal with sensitive cases.

Nurse practitioners assist older patients by giving them science-based, patient-centered care that promotes overall health and well-being. As a result, they empower older adults to sustain mobility, independence and high quality of life.

Family Nursing

Family nursing is a field known for its emphasis on collaborative care. Dissimilar to gerontological nursing, this subfield of nursing is not patient-centered since it focuses on the care of the family unit.

As the world adapts to the changes brought by recent events, family nursing is starting to encompass an extensive range of practices. As a result of this diversity, the interest in family nursing has grown significantly, leading to the immediate demand for family nurses.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that roles for nurses, especially those in family nursing, will grow by 9% from 2020 to 2030. Nurse practitioners within this field offer long-term care to patients of different ages, from newborns to the elderly.

Care planning for patients with severe or long-term diseases and prenatal care for expecting mothers are everyday duties for these nurses. This includes performing diagnostic and laboratory examinations, conducting routine assessments, writing prescriptions and tending to minor injuries. Through this process, nurse practitioners can prevent long-term health issues that can adversely impact patients, such as fatigue and depression, while also managing the prevalence of diseases in wider families.

As they are so well-rounded, family nurse practitioners can fill a critical need in areas with a shortage of physicians. Because of their extensive training and background in areas such as medical evaluation, pharmacology and more advanced principles of anatomy, family nurse practitioners are frequently sought out for the role of primary care physician.

Oncology Nursing

Oncology nursing is another way wherein nurse practitioners can have a significant impact. With cancer being one of the leading causes of death, the need for experts to conduct cancer screenings, administer treatments and conduct research to improve healthcare delivery is becoming more critical than ever.

Since nurse practitioners have advanced training and specialized knowledge, they are authorized to conduct specific tasks traditionally reserved for physicians, such as prescribing medications and ordering diagnostic tests. 

Although skills and qualifications can always differ depending on your chosen healthcare institution, top oncology nurse practitioners have found a balance between being critical thinkers and having excellent communication skills. To become an effective oncology nurse practitioner, you must gain your patients’ trust so that they can be completely forthcoming about their symptoms.

The advantage of being an oncology nurse is you can contribute to multiple areas to improve healthcare delivery. Moreover, you are also responsible for educating patients and their families about many aspects of treatment throughout the care process.

But perhaps where oncology nurse practitioners are most needed is in the field of research of more innovative cancer treatments. With the amount of cancer research taking place, the role of oncology nurse practitioners is continuously evolving into uncovering knowledge to build the foundation of clinical practice.

Taking part in cancer research also empowers oncology nurse practitioners to shape healthcare policies. By controlling how these policies and protocols are built from the ground up, oncology nurse practitioners can prevent costly mistakes and poor communication around medical decisions.

Participating in research also empowers oncology nurse practitioners to identify disparities in how cancer is being treated. When nurses spot these gaps, they can make the necessary adjustments for their treatment to deliver the best possible results and ensure patients do not suffer any consequences that could exacerbate their diseases.

Mental health nursing

Mental health nursing is another nursing subspecialty where nurse practitioners can put their skills to use. Also known as psychiatric nursing, this specialized nursing practice involves caring for mentally challenged individuals by assisting them throughout recovery and improving their overall quality of life.

Most often, these nurses have advanced knowledge of evaluating, diagnosing and caring for psychiatric disorders. They usually work with other medical team members to support and educate patients and their families.

When it comes to mental health, the work of nurse practitioners goes beyond finding immediate solutions to improve health outcomes. They perform comprehensive medical experiments to establish a patient diagnosis and develop the most effective care plan. When developing a care plan, mental health nurse practitioners employ innovative psychotherapy and psychopharmacology methodologies to fill the gaps and ensure holistic healing.

Like oncology nurse practitioners, mental health nurses can participate in policy formulation and healthcare reform. The pandemic has changed several components of healthcare by emphasizing the mental health problems people face. Although new legislation and policies are required to solve these issues, mental health nurse practitioners can be involved in establishing pressing psychiatric initiatives.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 51 million Americans suffer from mental health issues, and having nurse practitioners to facilitate positive changes is no longer optional for curbing the mental health crisis. By participating in policy-making, mental health nurse practitioners can voice out the immediate patient needs within their field. This allows healthcare leaders to establish policies tailored to address those needs.

What makes participating in policy-making an excellent opportunity for mental health nurses is the benefits that come with it. The reality is the advantages are twofold. Not only will you have a chance to improve patient health outcomes, but it also allows you to improve the mental health nursing profession.

To get started with policy-making efforts, there are several ways to approach this process. One of the most common is to join a nursing organization. These organizations often have lobbyists that bring issues to political leaders and policymakers.

Alternatively, mental health nurse practitioners can write their state representatives about issues regarding healthcare policy. Together, your efforts can help create a framework that benefits patients and the general practice.

Pediatric Nursing

A pediatric nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse who uses family-centered care techniques to assess, plan and deliver treatment. A family-centered approach allows pediatric nurse practitioners to treat each child individually while supporting family values and promoting positive patient outcomes. 

The importance of pediatric nursing is too hard to ignore. By taking a proactive and preventative approach to delivering care, pediatric nurses can mitigate health issues before they occur. 

The role of pediatric nurses differs depending on the health institution they work in. However, they all diagnose and treat medical conditions in children and adolescents. In some rare cases, they administer minor procedures as needed. In addition, pediatric nurses deal with the demands and anxieties of parents by helping them treat their child’s disease or injury.

Like other specialized nurses in this article, pediatric nurse practitioners can also become policy advocates for change within the spectrum of pediatric healthcare. There is so much more to pediatric nursing than treating children. As a pediatric nurse practitioner, you must understand the social and community influences impacting the practice.

This understanding allows you to determine how to serve children better and achieve better value-added health outcomes. Implementing the appropriate healthcare policies can have after-effects beyond an individual child’s health to economic welfare, education and other aspects of the patient’s life.

To become a pediatric nurse, you’ll need to enroll in a comprehensive program, like with all other nursing professions. For example, you can consider the Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner degree program offered by Spring Arbor University. While studying pediatric nursing, you will learn about the methods used to evaluate changes in the health status of children, different corrective actions and the appropriate way to assess health issues.

Upon completing an accredited nursing program, you must pass the National Council Licensure Exam to get your license. After passing, you can apply to work at a healthcare institution that caters to pediatric patients. Many of these organizations provide internships or orientations that will give you insight into how to work with children in a clinical setting.

Pediatric nurse practitioners can also earn certifications to boost their resume and professional reputation. Although the process can vary, the general criteria for consideration for certified pediatric nurse eligibility include possessing a valid RN license and a minimum of 1,800 hours of clinical work.

Work experience that counts towards these hours includes home healthcare for children, administration, teaching, direct patient care and pediatric clinical research. Some organizations that provide these certifications are the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.

Becoming a nurse practitioner today

Nurse practitioners have several opportunities available to them once they become certified. Work your way towards these opportunities by enrolling in a degree program today.