Thinking of Changing Your Nursing Specialty?

Written by Health Providers Choice on Thursday, February 02, 2023 Posted in Education & Career Advancement


As nurses begin to chart the trajectories of their careers in healthcare, many find themselves drawn to a particular specialty. What interests them early in their career may not be what they’re passionate about after several years in the field. Often, they begin to ponder a change in specialty — and with it, a new career trajectory. It’s more common than you might think, but that doesn’t mean the switch is easy. It can be especially daunting for travel nurses.

What it takes to specialize

When a nurse decides to specialize, they develop deep experience and skills in a particular area of nursing. There are countless nursing specialties to choose from — from emergency care (ER) nursing to dialysis nursing, nurse-midwifery, and many more. Nurses often choose to specialize after discovering a passion for a particular patient group or building skills in a focus area.

Typically, nurses must pursue continuing education to specialize. Credentialing organizations offer courses and exams aimed at helping nurses earn a certification in their specialty. A number of clinical experience hours are typically needed as well. Nurses put a lot of time, energy, and monetary investment into specializing — and the payoff often includes specialty pay and priority travel placement.

Specialty interests can change over time

Both new and experienced nurses can specialize, but what many nurses find over the course of their careers is that their interests change as they gain more experience and exposure to the field. These evolving interests might lead a nurse to change their nursing specialty.

An ER nurse might become burned out after years in a high-pressure department and long for something more relaxed. Or a critical care nurse might discover an affinity for kids and want to switch to a pediatric specialty.

After so much time and investment, making the leap to a new specialty may feel scary. But it’s important that nurses follow their interests and specialize in the areas they feel most passionate about. After all, passion makes for a more attentive and patient-focused nurse!

There are ample opportunities within the nursing field. If you feel your specialty doesn’t suit you anymore, there are bound to be others that will. Don’t think about switching specialties as throwing away your career progress — consider it another step forward.


How to change your specialty as a travel nurse

If you’ve decided a change in specialty is in order, you’ll want to start with consideration and research. Think about the specialties you may want to pursue. Are there any similar to your current specialty, where your skills will easily transfer? Are you already qualified for a different specialty given your experience and education? Or are you interested in a more radical change of direction?

With a new specialty in mind, take time to research its requirements and determine whether it’s really the right fit for you. You may need to get certified or build more hands-on experience to formally make the switch.

Travel nurses must take special caution when changing their specialty, given the nature of their jobs. If you’re making a big shift in specialty, you might need to pause on traveling while you build up the necessary experience. Some travel nursing positions might allow you to cross-train for a new specialty on assignment, and many travel nurses get the opportunity to test out different units while on assignment.

Fortunately, travel nursing gives you the flexibility to learn a new specialty between assignments. Just remember to communicate with your recruiter, remain flexible, and give yourself space to pursue your nursing passions.

Your nursing specialty will come to define your career trajectory — especially if you’re intent on remaining a travel nurse. If you’re seeking to solidify your specialty, reach out to your Health Providers Choice recruiter to discuss assignment options well suited to your professional development. Contact us online or call us today at 888-299-9800.

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About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.