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The Hottest Up and Coming Nursing Specialties


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By Melissa Wirkus, associate editor

Nursing jobs in the intensive care unit, emergency room and pediatrics will always be staples of the profession, but changes to the evolving health care system will also determine which nursing specialties will grow at an accelerated pace.

Health care reform, technological advances and our nation’s aging population all have an impact on the nursing profession and the direction it will take in the future. With President Obama’s overhaul of the health care system on the horizon, nurses trained in health information and technology and other highly specialized segments will be needed and in high demand.

Judy Ozbolt, RN, Ph.D., FAAN, FACMI, FAIMBE, program director for the University of Maryland’s Nursing Informatics program, said that nurses specializing in informatics, which combines nursing science with computer and health sciences to integrate systems and help health care providers document care and record evidence of their practice, will be in greater demand as technology and health care become more integrated.

“Nursing informatics is a field that is certainly in growing demand,” Ozbolt said. “The Recovery and Rehabilitation Act covers $1 billion a year for projects that will help acquire and implement electronic health records. There will be an acute need for nurse informatics once this is implemented.”

Graduates of nurse informatics programs most often go on to work in health care organizations to help maintain and develop systems that support everything from patient information to care documentation. Nurse informatics graduates also work at companies that develop these systems as well as branches of the federal government.

“Health care reform is going to depend very heavily on electronic tools to improve the safety and quality of care,” Ozbolt said. “People trained in nursing informatics will be needed to help get good, useful systems in place. Because nurses are at the heart of the information flow in health care, they really have excellent insights into which kind of information systems will work well.”

Nursing specialties focusing on technology, geriatrics and the acute-care patient population are all expected to expand in the near future, according to Mary Jean Schumann, RN, MSN, MBA, CPNA and chief programs officer for the American Nurses Association.

“I think critical care will always be an area that will be in demand because of the complexity of the patient population—that’s where the sickest patients are,” Schumann said. “Another area that is typically in demand is the ER, because it requires not only a specialized skill set, but a mindset as well. NICU is also in demand because more and more people are giving birth to premature babies with problems.”

Specialties centered upon more complex clinical cases are also expected to grow in demand as patients become sicker with chronic illness and disease. “Due to the economy, we are going to see more of these kinds of patients with complex needs because they are waiting to see the doctor and receive care.”

As the baby boomer generation continues to age, we will also see an uptick in the need for geriatric, home health and hospice nurses, Schumann explained.

“Geriatrics is a growing need because there aren’t enough of them (nurses),” she noted. “We are going to see an increased need for home care and hospice care.”

Genetics nursing has also seen an increase in interest, as various colleges and nursing schools are now offering programs dedicated to the specialty. Advances in science and technology have contributed to the increased awareness of this specialty.

“I think genetics could be an interesting area,” Schumann said. “As we acquire more and more knowledge about how genetics will impact care, we will need more nurses.”

The University of Iowa College of Nursing offers a Master of Science in Nursing program focusing on genetics nursing. The school also offers other programs in up and coming specialties, including nursing informatics and gerontological nursing.

Many advanced practice degrees and specialty certifications can now be completed online, giving nurses the opportunity to continue working full-time while pursuing higher education and more specialized clinical knowledge.

Related Links

Read more about Informatics nursing
Read more about Genetics nursing
Read more about Geriatric care managers

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