5 RN Specialties You Can Pursue With an Associate Degree

NursingJune 13, 2024

Did you know there are nearly 100 nursing specialties, according to Johnson & Johnson? Nursing is a diverse field focused on treating, educating, and coordinating care for patients of all ages and in all areas of medicine. Registered nurses (RNs) can choose a specialty that focuses on a specific patient group to align their skills with their interests and open the door to other career opportunities. 

Options for RN specialties range from roles requiring direct patient care, such as pediatric nurse or home health nurse, to those that don’t, like nurse educator or healthcare consultant. Ultimately, the specialty a nurse chooses depends on their long-term goals, preferred work setting, passions, and education level.

To get started as an RN, individuals must first qualify for the national board exam for registered nurses by earning a degree such as an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Then they can gain licensure and pursue one of the many RN specialties that are suitable for individuals who have an ADN.

Benefits of Earning an ADN

For prospective nurses eager to start working, one benefit of earning an Associate Degree in Nursing is the short program length. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree programs typically take four years to complete, but ADN programs often can be completed in two years or less, allowing aspiring nurses to pursue licensure sooner. 

An ADN is the minimum education required to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Because it can almost always be completed more quickly than a BSN program, an ADN program can be less expensive in tuition cost.

Despite the shorter time frame, individuals can still develop essential RN skills in an ADN program. These programs teach students the needed competencies to become excellent nurses with minimal general education requirements.

Types of RN Specialties for ADN Graduates

With an ADN, a passing score on the national board exam, and an RN license granted by their state, graduates can apply for entry-level nursing positions to gain experience, either in a general or specialty area of medicine. 

Nursing specialties generally concentrate on either a certain area of medicine, such as oncology, or a certain patient demographic, such as children. Therefore, nurses who specialize usually have to learn how to perform certain procedures or operate specific equipment to care for their patients. 

For RNs who want to become certified in their area of expertise, organizations such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center offer a number of professional certifications.

1. Staff Nurse

Staff nurses are RNs who are trained to provide care to patients ranging from infants to older adults. They’re commonly employed by hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, and long-term care facilities. 

Staff nurses are responsible for duties such as assisting physicians during treatments or diagnostic tests, administering medications and immunizations, identifying abnormal or normal laboratory test results, greeting patients and preparing them for transfer or discharge, and collaborating with other healthcare professionals on patients’ care.

2. Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric nurses specialize in treating patients from birth to early adulthood. These nurses typically work in health clinics, pediatric physicians’ offices, or hospital pediatric departments. Their primary patient duties include taking and recording vital signs (such as blood pressure measurements), drawing blood, administering medications and immunizations, and assisting doctors with exams. 

Their other responsibilities may include evaluating patients for signs of neglect or abuse, comforting family members, and checking patients for developmental abnormalities. Pediatric nurses should be knowledgeable about child growth and development, and age-appropriate medications and treatments.

3. Home Health Nurse

Home health nurses treat patients of all ages in their homes. Their patients can range from women recovering from childbirth to individuals who need assistance managing chronic pain to older adults who require hands-on assistance with daily living tasks. 

The care these nurses provide depends on a patient’s health condition or impairment. However, common tasks they perform include recording and assessing patients’ health status, managing their medication intake, providing wound care, administering any of various therapies, and educating patients and their families on their condition and treatment. 

4. OB-GYN Nurse

Obstetrics and gynecology (OB-GYN) nurses care for women during pregnancy, labor, and childbirth, and postpartum. They also assist women with reproductive health issues and those in need of routine gynecological care, such as annual exams and birth control counseling. 

The specific duties of OB-GYN nurses may include educating patients on childbirth, monitoring fetal development, assisting physicians with prenatal examinations, and helping mothers and newborns with nursing. 

5. Public Health Nurse

Public health nurses choose an RN specialty that is not focused on direct patient care. They work in community health centers, schools, nonprofit organizations, city health departments, and local government offices. Many of these nurses work in at-risk or underserved communities in order to improve the health of the residents of the community and advocate for health equity. 

Public health nurses focus on assessing a community’s health needs; collaborating with local, state, and federal stakeholders; developing health education programs; and conducting various types of outreach initiatives. They also educate the public on disease prevention and management, and support communities during natural disasters.

Prepare for Your RN Specialty by Earning an ADN

Before nurses can pursue an RN specialty, they must first earn a nursing degree to become a registered nurse. An ADN degree program offers a combination of clinical rotations and classroom learning, and it allows individuals to start their nursing careers quickly. 

By enrolling in the Saint Paul’s School of Nursing Associate Degree in Nursing program, you can learn about nursing fundamentals, medical/surgical nursing, pharmacology, microbiology, and nutrition, among other subjects. In as little as 20 months, you can be prepared to take the NCLEX-RN. Prospective students can complete the ADN program at the school’s Staten Island or Queens campus in New York City. 

Interested in learning more? Explore what Saint Paul’s School of Nursing has to offer to help you begin your nursing career. 

Recommended Readings
7 Critical Soft Skills You Need in Nursing
Reasons to Consider Advancing Your Career to Become a Nurse Practitioner
Five Alternative Nursing Careers Outside of Bedside Nursing

Indeed, “Pediatric Nurse Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications”
Indeed, “20 Top Nursing Specialties (With Career Descriptions and Salaries)”
Indeed, “21 Types of Nurses (With Salaries, Duties and FAQS)”
Indeed, What Does an OB/GYN Nurse Do?
Johnson & Johnson, Nursing Specialties
LinkedIn, “Explaining the Different Types of Nursing Specialties and What They Involve”
National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Active RN Licenses
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses
Zippia, What Is a Staff Nurse and How to Become One