Nursing is a flexible career choice. That’s one of the profession’s greatest strengths. Within the nursing field, a number of subspecialties allow nurses to focus on practice areas for which they have particular aptitudes and affinities.
By and large, these specialties are regulated by professional organizations that issue certification to outstanding practitioners. For the most part, this credentialing process is voluntary, and it’s still possible to become a specialist through work experiences alone.
Medical experts expect these three nursing specialties to grow in 2013.
1. Home Health Nursing
In 2010, Medicare spent well over $19 million on home health services, providing care for 3.4 million beneficiaries. Though the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act specifically reduces the amount of funding available for home health services through Medicare, home health services are expected to continue growing. After all, although the elderly may comprise the largest segment of the population receiving home health care services, they’re not the only patients cared for in the home. Patients are being discharged from hospitals far earlier in the clinical treatment cycle than in previous years, partly in response to financial pressures and partly as a safety precaution to protect patients against nosocomial infections. In many instances, these patients still need nursing services, and home care nurses provide those services.
Home health care nurses work with patients in their homes. They work with patients who need both acute and chronic care, providing medical services such as vital signs, wound care, blood draws, medication administration, and patient education. They document medication regimens, patient progress, and other care parameters.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the home health care field will grow by a whopping 70 percent between 2010 and 2020. Home health care nurses work for home health care organizations, hospitals, nonprofit community agencies, and government assistance agencies.
As one might expect, the geriatric population uses a disproportionately large portion of medical resources in the United States. The elderly use almost half of all hospital services and 70 percent of all home care services. They also comprise 80 percent of the population in skilled nursing care facilities.
The elderly population has specialized nursing needs in addition to specialized medical needs. Providers must be able to provide management of acute and chronic conditions associated with aging, many of which inevitably carry a level of functional impairment.
Nurses who specialize in geriatric care must know how to manage therapeutic interventions in situations where retaining optimal functioning is a desirable goal. Eventually, however, with the concurrence of the family and other members of the medical support team, palliative care may be the appropriate response to functional decline.
Geriatric nurses work for hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and assisted care centers, hospices, and home health care agencies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this specialty will grow 23 percent by 2016.
3. Nursing Informatics
The 2011 Recovery and Rehabilitation Act, also known as the federal economic stimulus package, contained a rider stipulating the complete adoption of electronic medical records by 2016. The federal government sees as such a conversion as an important way to improve the delivery of health care services. In fact, medical informatics, involving the digital management of health information, is an increasingly important trend in all areas of American health care.
Nursing informatics combines computer science with nursing management skills. Nursing informatics will help caregivers aggregate and analyze patient information, to see what types of nursing interventions and other treatment options are most effective.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects nursing informatics to expand by 18 percent between now and 2016. Specialists in this field are most often registered nurses who’ve gone on to receive specialized training in computer sciences. Graduates of such programs work for health care organizations, the federal and state government, and private sector businesses, like insurance companies.