Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) have many of the same options as degreed nursing graduates (RN) for places of employment; however, your options in career specialization are limited with this level of education.
For the Registered Nurse (RN)
Hospitals and Health Systems – This is where most nurses work. The hospital setting provides the most diverse specialization opportunities because of the wide-range of patient services provided. You have the opportunity to develop your own career in areas that are most appealing to you.
You can specialize in:
Critical Care Nursing
Medical/Surgical Nursing in a variety of specialty areas including, oncology, cardiac, orthopedic,
neurology or pulmonary
Neonatal Intensive Care
Behavioral Health Nursing
Special Procedures Nursing
Operating Room Nursing (Perioperative)
These are just some of the many career specialization opportunities RNs have available to them. Our Nursing Career Spotlight features more detailed information on five nursing career specializations.
Rehabilitation Hospitals – These facilities typically treat patients who are medically stable and can benefit from intensive rehabilitation in a hospital setting. As a rehabilitation nurse you would work as a member of a highly qualified Rehabilitation Team that includes:
Physical and Occupational Therapists
Speech and Language Pathologists
Rehab facilities provide inpatient and outpatient programs for patients suffering from:
Head and spinal cord injuries
Arthritis and Osteoporosis
Patients suffering from chronic or acute pain
Home-Health – As a home-health care nurse you typically have a caseload of patients you visit on a regular basis implementing a physician prescribed treatment plan. Patients may have a variety of health problems or be in various stages of recovery from an accident or illness. You often need to develop innovative treatment plans around individual patients’ home environments and provide patients and their family members with education and instruction on treatment procedures.
Nursing Home and Long-Term Care Facilities –
As a nursing home or long-term care nurse you would
typically work with geriatric patients and patients
who are not able to live and care for themselves. You
would be involved in resident assessment, help in developing
treatment plans and supervise the care provided by licensed
practical nurses and other assistant personnel. You
also work with patients with more complex disease processes
requiring more complex nursing procedures.
Ambulatory Care – This type of health care includes a number of different treatment facilities such as outpatient surgery centers, urgent care centers and physician’s offices. There are a variety of nursing functions available at these locations. If you are employed at outpatient surgical facilities you would prepare patients for surgery, follow them through post-surgery recovery and release. You would also assist physicians in performing surgical procedures. Urgent care centers are designed to treat patients for injuries that require immediate attention but not the level of treatment found at hospital emergency rooms. The public also uses these types of facilities as a quick visit option to scheduling an appointment with their primary care family physician, as most of these facilities treat walk-in patients. At the primary care physician’s office you would assist physicians and/or nurse practitioners with patient exams, providing medications, immunizations and routine lab work. You would also provide patients and families with treatment education, maintain patient records, respond to patient inquiries and schedule appointments. Job functionality at physician’s offices is dependent on the size and make-up of the office.
Public & Occupational Health – There are employment opportunities with public health clinics, schools and retirement communities. As a public health nurse you would provide a wide range of skills designed to meet the needs of a diverse population. You would manage emergency situations, implement health screenings, develop health education and disease prevention programming, and provide counseling and referral to help meet the health care needs of specific community groups. You would work closely with social service agencies to ensure that essential health care services, case management and referrals are provided.
As a nurse working in occupational health you would be working for businesses to provide health care services to employees. You would be providing emergency care to employees, prepare accident reports, arrange follow-up for employees injured at work and manage workman compensation claims. You may be involved in employer sponsored health examinations, health promotions and screenings (including the management of employee drug testing programs) and assessing the work environment to identify and reduce potential health and safety problems.
Nurse Educators – If you have an itch to share your nursing skills with future generations of nursing students, you may want to consider a role in nursing education. There will be plenty of career opportunities as the current workforce of nursing educators approaches retirement and will need to be replaced. For most nursing educator positions you will need a Master’s degree in nursing to teach at the college level. Additionally, you will need direct patient care experience as well as supporting teaching credentials for most programs. This may not be a nursing career you can jump right into directly after college graduation but, if teaching and nursing are in your blood, it is something you can work toward as you gain direct patient care experience and advance your education.
Others – Even if your interest in nursing is not directly related to patient care, it is a good idea (and in many situations it is required) to have experience as a direct patient care nurse. You can find a number of nursing employment opportunities unrelated to direct patient care. There are management-level positions in nursing available at hospitals and health systems as well as with state and federal government agencies. Additionally, you could use your degree in nursing to secure positions with research facilities, pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, consulting companies, and professional and health-related associations.