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The different nursing specialties

By Dan Allard

​Within the four nursing specialisms, there are many ways to diversify your career and move into clinical specialities.

Why do nurses specialise?

Some nurses choose to work in rotational posts, across a variety of wards and clinics, giving them a good variety of experience. However, others choose to specialise in key areas in order to develop niche experience. This can help them to rise through the NHS banding system and move into more senior roles that consider their specialist expertise.

Many nurses working in locum nursing roles find that clinical specialisms can make them highly sought after. Some roles, such as district or community nurses, are in short supply which means that you can improve your employability whilst working in roles that suit your interests and match your career goals.

How should I find the right nursing speciality for me?

Throughout your training and your preceptorship, you will work in a variety of posts. These will allow you to find out your strengths and develop your passions. Before you move into a clinical speciality, you may wish to think about your previous placements and ask yourself what you enjoyed and why. It helps to take a long-term look at your career. If you move into a particular acute setting, will it offer you opportunities for training and career progression? Did you enjoy working with that particular group of patients? Does the work meet your strengths? Is it something you can see yourself doing for the majority of your career?

Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, you can start to look at the opportunities available to you. Here are some common examples of clinical specialities available for nurses.

  • Adult nursing specialities

If you work in a hospital, you could choose to focus on areas such as cardiology, diabetes, oncology, or neurology. You could also work as a theatre nurse or within intensive care units.

If you wish to work in a district or community nursing role, you may need to complete a specialist practitioner qualification. This will give you strategic insights into how nursing care in the community is delivered.

Community nurses may work within GP practices or as part of palliative or end of life care within hospices or care homes. Some nurses move into prison nursing roles, where they play a hugely important role within offender health.

  • Paediatric nursing specialties

Like adult nurses, those working as a paediatric nurse within an acute setting can choose to specialise in a wide range of wards. Options include nutrition and asthma as well as areas such as cancer care or theatre nursing.

Within the community, paediatric nurses may choose to specialise in health visiting or work as a school nurse.

  • Learning disability nursing specialities

As specialists in helping patients live as independently as possible, learning disability nurses can specialise in specific conditions. Some may choose to focus upon conditions such as Autism or Downs Syndrome, whilst others may move into broader areas like sensory disability.

  • Mental health nursing specialities

You may choose to specialise in mental health from the start of your training. Or you may complete a postgraduate community mental health specialist practitioner nurse programme. This will give you the skills to move into areas such as team leader roles, caseload management, or matron roles.

We have written a selection of pieces around starting and navigating your nursing career, or to kickstart your nursing career, please upload your CV.