Specialties of Nursing: Which Ones Are in Highest Demand?

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By Jenny Hart

February 18, 2022



What Specialties of Nursing are in Highest Demand?

Are you looking into becoming a nurse? The nursing field is currently bursting with opportunity. 

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates nursing demand will increase by almost 10 percent between 2020 and 2030. That number is even higher for specialties of nursing, like nurse practitioners (45 percent).

If health and wellness are important to you, now is an excellent time to pursue a nursing career. Some of the most in-demand specialties include neonatal nursing and renal nursing.

Specialties of Nursing in High Demand:

Neonatal Nurse

Neonatal nurses take care of babies who are born prematurely or who have a variety of medical ailments, such as congenital disabilities, cardiac malformations, infections, and other functional problems. The first month of life is considered the neonatal period. Babies born too early are predisposed to health issues. When the babies are healthy enough, they are able to go home with their parents.

These nurses often work in the NICU (newborn intensive care unit). Jobs require a bachelor’s degree in nursing and sometimes a master’s degree.

Renal Nurse

A dialysis nurse, or renal nurse, works with people who have chronic kidney disease or end-stage renal failure. Dialysis patients require care because their kidneys no longer function. When loss of kidney function occurs, a dialysis machine is used to filter waste from the blood.

Dialysis nurses treat patients receiving hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. These positions require a bachelor’s degree, and nursing students pursuing this field should look for courses focusing specifically on dialysis. 

Nephrology nurses, who specialize in kidney care, look after patients who have kidney-related health issues stemming from diabetes, high blood pressure, substance abuse, or other causes.

Clinical Nurse

Clinical nurse specialists (CNS) work in a wide variety of health care settings. For example, a CNS may have specialties in:

  • Type of care, such as psychiatric or rehabilitation
  • Type of problem, such as pain, wounds, or stress
  • Population, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or women’s health
  • Setting, such as critical care or emergency room
  • Disease or medical subspecialty, such as diabetes or oncology

The four primary roles for a CNS are expert clinician, educator, researcher, and consultant. A CNS has advanced degrees and training. A master’s degree is required.

Nurse Practitioner

As a result of a shortage of doctors in the U.S., nurse practitioners are among the most in-demand jobs in healthcare. In fact, according to the BLS, employment of nurse practitioners is projected to grow 45 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all other occupations. 

Nurse practitioners typically work under the supervision of a doctor, and administer tests, prescribe medications, and diagnose certain ailments. Depending on the state, nurse practitioners can have their own standalone practices.

Nurse practitioners are required to hold bachelor’s and master’s level degrees in nursing and pass a licensing examination.

They may also be referred to as ARNP (Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner) or APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse).

Nurse Advocate

Instead of providing care, a nurse advocate represents the interests of a patient’s family in a care setting. These nurses work to maintain quality care and protect the patient’s rights. They also intervene should concerns arise and resolve issues. Nurse advocates also help clarify questions about care, billing, or treatments.

A bachelor’s degree in nursing, a few years experience, and successful completion of the NCLEX-RN exam are required for licensure to become a nurse advocate.

Eldercare Nurse

A geriatric or eldercare nurse specializes in the care of older adults. They typically care for frail or elderly patients with long-term, chronic medical conditions that are not related to an acute illness or injury. Eldercare nurses work to maximize patient comfort, ensure safety, prevent deterioration and maintain function.

This role is common for entry-level nurses.

The most common career paths for eldercare nurses include:

  • Geriatric Nursing Assistant
  • Geriatric Staff Nurse
  • Geriatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Home Health Nurse
  • Hospice Nurse

A certification in gerontology is available through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and is awarded to registered nurses who meet specific requirements, including having at least three years of experience working with aging patients.

The need for this role is expected to increase dramatically over the next few years as the population of older adults grows. For instance, in 2019, the U.S. population of people age 65 and older numbered 54.1 million – a 36 percent increase from the 39.6 million counted in 2009.

Mental Health Nurse

Nursing students who wish to work in mental health can become Psychiatric-Mental Health (PMH) registered nurses (RN) or advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). People in this role enjoy career flexibility and strong compensation as a result of the high demand for their services. Mental health nurses represent the second largest group of behavioral health professionals in the U.S. 

Mental health nurses employ a range of expertise within their role, including nursing, psychosocial, and neurobiological. 

Mental health nurses have the following roles:

  • Conduct intake screening, evaluation, and triage
  • Provide case management
  • Coordinate care
  • Partner with individuals to achieve their recovery goals
  • Provide health promotion and maintenance
  • Teach self-care activities
  • Administer and monitor psychobiological treatment regimens
  • Practice crisis intervention and stabilization
  • Engage in psychiatric rehabilitation and intervention
  • Educate patients, families, and communities
  • Work within interdisciplinary teams

Each of these specialties of nursing is in high demand. Those looking to explore travel nursing can find increased job security by pursuing one of these specialties. 

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