Which Nursing Specialism Should You Choose?

After taking the decision to embark upon a nursing career, you can practise generally or can choose to develop their expertise into a specific medical field. However, how do you know which specialism to choose?


Taking into account your personality, natural abilities and areas of interests, here is a guide to all the specialisms that a nurse in training can decide to pursue.


Nursing Specialisms: The Guide


All those who begin their training will need to choose between one of four fields to study:


  • Adults – Working with patients over the age of 18 with the ability to practise generally or specialise in a wide variety of areas
  • Children – Working with children, teenagers, parents, carers and families across children’s hospitals, baby care units and adolescent units
  • Learning Disabilities – Helping those with a range of abilities and needs live well and independently
  • Mental Health – Working collaboratively with patients, families and other healthcare professionals in a number of settings.


Which Healthcare Field is Right for You?


Whilst you can retrain later on in your healthcare career, choosing the right specialism for you at the very beginning can make your job much more rewarding, fulfilling and beneficial to those you support.


Adult Nursing


This field is ideal for those who enjoy collaborative working and wide variation in their day-to-day jobs. Caring for adult patients means building relationships, working closely with many colleagues across different departments and often travelling between physical settings such as care homes and prisons as well as hospitals.


Adult care offers the ability to specialise in areas such as:


  • Neonatal/Midwifery – Roles in this area involve caring for mothers and babies before, during and after birth. Pregnant women and new mothers will need support with breastfeeding, nutrition, bonding and their own general health. Newborn infants, especially those who are premature, can require support with respiratory difficulties, jaundice, bowel problems and less serious issues such as fevers and colds. Working in intensive care units, mother and baby wards and in the community, this area offers a real chance to support both physical and emotional wellbeing of many parents and babies.


  • A&E/Theatre/ODP – Emergency care and surgical procedures can be some of the most stressful elements of a career in the health sector. A high-pressure environment requires checking vital signs, communicating and advocating for patients and helping those under your supervision feel as relaxed, comfortable and well as possible during their hospital stay.


  • Occupational Health – Focusing on the safety and wellbeing of individuals in their workplaces, this nursing vocation presents the opportunity to work with many different people. Occupational health offers the choice of supporting those across a variety of industries, from retail and manufacturing to engineering and education, as well as worksites, from offices, shops and factories to farms, schools and airports. Responsibilities involve monitoring and giving advice on general health, administering vaccinations and delivering counselling and training.


  • Oncology – Working across different hospital departments and visiting patients in home and hospices, this profession involves any and all aspects of the human body. Cancer treatment has advanced rapidly in recent years, and due to significant ongoing investment and continual medical breakthroughs, oncology means constantly learning and improving standards of treatment. Duties involve assessing patients before, during and after chemotherapy, providing education and emotional support and helping to co-ordinate treatment and tests.


Covid-19 has resulted in significant delays to cancer treatment, elective surgeries and other lifesaving and lifechanging care. The UK currently has a shortage of 40,000 nurses – register with us to find the right nursing role for you.


Children’s Nursing


Whilst potentially a more challenging area, working with children can prove an enjoyable and rewarding vocation. Those with a natural ability to form emotional connections, understand body language, communicate in many different ways and work with multiple people of different ages simultaneously will particularly excel.


This role offers flexibility and the chance to support whole families in addition to each patient through specialisms such as:


  • Paediatric – Working in a close team with doctors, psychologists and social workers, paediatrics can involve the short-term or ongoing support of children at any age and providing close support to their parents and guardians. A vital role, this specialism means staying alert for signs of illness, which in young people can mean rapid deterioration, and interpreting behaviour and body language to assess those who are unable to verbally communicate their symptoms.


  • Intensive/Critical Care – A highly stressful position, these professionals truly make the different between life and death, every single day. This job means working with a range of technical equipment, carrying out complex procedures, performing emergency care and creating patient recovery plans.


  • Health Visiting – Health visitors promote healthy lifestyles and provide education to families to prevent illness or injury. These professionals aim to give babies and very young children the best start in life, and work with many different health and social care workers across different settings. Responsibilities include providing advice on nutrition, recognising signs of abuse or neglect, supporting parents with behavioural techniques and assessing growth and development needs.


Learning Disabilities


Caring for those with learning disabilities requires an adaptable and positive personality, with the ability to cater communication and treatment to the needs of each individual patient. Those under your supervision may have additional mental and physical health needs, originate from a wide variety of backgrounds and have varying levels of support in place from their families, social workers, charities and the NHS, which will require collaborating alongside all these groups.


  • Autism – Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is itself hugely varied, and autistic adults and children may have additional needs, mental health challenges or learning difficulties. Although late diagnosis is common, around 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with autism. Specialists in this field will conduct assessments to establish a diagnosis, advocate for patient needs, help individuals understand their own needs through varying forms of communication, and create personalised strategies to help parents manage behaviour and emotional wellbeing.


  • Epilepsy Management – Focused on neurology and requiring additional qualifications, this role involve advising, prescribing and working with individuals, healthcare staff and employers to promote wellbeing in all parts of work and life. Specialists in this area help patients understand their diagnosis, manage their medication, adapt activities such as driving and travel to individual needs and assist with surgery, safety and first aid.


Mental Health


Mental Health specialists require a significant amount of patience and empathy, and an ability to remain calm in high-pressure situations. This profession involves day-to-day and emergency care, with long-term and short-term treatments. Being successful in this field relies on the ability to build strong relationships and brings the reward of helping patients transform from their most life-threatening and upsetting situations through to developing their best emotional wellbeing.


  • CAMHS – Child & Adolescent Mental Health nurses help young people who do not yet have the awareness or ability to control their own wellbeing, by empowering them with support, advice and encouragement. Common mental health issues in younger age groups include anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Specialists must be resilient and responsive to deal with self-injury and suicidal thoughts and actions, and often help young people improve their self-esteem, physical health and relationships with their families.


  • Substance Misuse – This position involves practicing in a range of high-pressure environments such as prisons, hostels and private homes and working with disadvantaged and vulnerable people of all ages. This is a vital role which supports those with addictions and helps them on the path to recovery through prescribing, conducting assessments, emergency care, vaccinations, detoxing and personal advice and guidance.


  • CMHN – Community Mental Health/Psychiatric specialists provide long-term care, manage crises and support a wide range of people. Working predominantly outside of hospitals, this job requires travelling between GP surgeries and patent homes to provide direct support to individuals, from discussing their problems and helping to build solutions to prescribing medicines and monitoring side effects.


Take the Next Step in Your Nursing Career


Prospero Health & Social Care provide jobs, training and support for healthcare workers across the UK – register with us to find the right nursing role for you.


Looking for a new challenge? Discover 5 Reasons to Move to the UK and Work in the NHS.