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When you think of a nurse, you might imagine the person who leads you into a room when you go to see your doctor. They take your vital signs, such as your blood pressure and body temperature, and ask questions about your symptoms and overall health. But there are dozens of types of nurses, each with a unique role or area of expertise.
There are also several paths to becoming a nurse. Many nurses start by getting either an Associate of Science in Nursing or Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Some go on to pursue graduate degrees or certifications in specialized areas of medicine.
Nurses are categorized by a variety of factors, including:
- their level of education
- their medical specialty
- the communities they work with
- the type of facility they work in
For an overview of some nursing specialties, read on to learn about 25 types of nurses that work with different groups in a variety of settings.
1. Pediatric registered nurse. Pediatric nurses work in the pediatric department of hospitals or in pediatricians’ offices. They care for infants, children, and adolescents with a range of medical needs.
2. NICU nurse. NICU nurses work in the neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital. They care for newborns and premature infants.
3. Labor and delivery nurse. These nurses work directly with women throughout the birthing process. They perform many important tasks, including administering epidurals or other medications, timing contractions, and showing new mothers how to do everything from changing a diaper to feeding a baby.
4. PICU nurse. PICU nurses work in the pediatric intensive care unit caring for babies, children, and teens with a variety of serious medical conditions. They administer medicine, track vital signs, and provide support to ill children and their families.
5. Perinatal nurse. Perinatal nurses are specially trained nurses who work with women through pregnancy, birth, and the first months of their infants’ lives. They focus on encouraging healthy pregnancies and supporting new families.
6. Lactation consultant. Lactation consultants are nurses who are trained to teach new mothers how to breastfeed their babies. They also help them overcome any issues, such as pain or poor latching, that might make breastfeeding difficult.
7. Neonatal nurse. Neonatal nurses work with newborns during their first weeks of life.
8. Developmental disability nurse. Developmental disability nurses work to assist children and adults with disabilities, such as Down syndrome or autism. Some provide home care, while others work in schools or other settings.
9. Certified nurse midwife. Nurse midwives provide prenatal care to pregnant women. They may also assist in the birthing process and provide care for newborns.
10. Pediatric endocrinology nurse. Pediatric endocrinology nurses help children with a variety of endocrine disorders, including diabetes and thyroid disorders. They often work with children and teenagers with delayed physical and mental development.
11. Infection control nurse. An infection control nurse specializes in preventing the spread of dangerous viruses and bacteria. This often involves educating healthcare providers and communities about ways to stop the spread of infection.
12. Forensic nurse. Forensic nurses are trained to work with crime victims. This includes performing a physical examination and collecting forensic evidence for criminal cases.
13. Emergency room nurse. Emergency room nurses handle a variety of medical problems, from sprained ankles to severe traumas. They treat diverse groups of people across all ages and help with intake and emergency care.
14. Operating room nurse. Operating room nurses help people before, during, and after surgery. In addition to assisting surgeons, they inform people and their families about postsurgical care.
15. Telemetry nurse. Telemetry nurses treat critical care people who require constant medical monitoring. They’re certified to use advanced technology, such as electrocardiogram machines.
16. Oncology nurse. Oncology nurses work with people with cancer or those being screened for cancer. They help administer medications and treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, to people of all ages.
17. Cardiovascular nurse. Cardiovascular nurses work with people who have heart and blood vessel disorders. They often monitor people in the intensive care unit following a heart attack and work closely with cardiologists.
19. Psychiatric nurse. Psychiatric nurses are trained to treat people with a variety of mental health problems. They help administer medication and provide crisis intervention when needed.
20. Pain management nurse. Pain management nurses help people who have either acute or chronic pain. They work with people to develop strategies for managing daily pain and improving their quality of life.
21. School nurse. School nurses work at public and private schools to provide a range of medical care for children and teenagers. In addition to treating injuries and illnesses, they also help students manage ongoing conditions, such as diabetes, and administer medication.
22. Refugee nurse. Refugee nurses operate around the world with organizations, such as the United Nations and Doctors Without Borders. They provide medical and psychological treatment to refugee families and immigrant communities.
23. Military nurse. Military nurses work with current and former service members in military clinics around the world. Commissioned military nurses may provide treatment for active service members in war zones.
24. Prison nurse. Prison nurses provide medical care for inmates. This may include treating injuries, providing prenatal care, or managing chronic illnesses.
25. Public health nurse. Public health nurses often work in research-based positions or with vulnerable communities to develop advancements in medical care.
Wondering what it’s really like to be a nurse? Check out these three memoirs written by nurses providing care in unique environments:
- “Weekends at Bellevue” details the life of a nurse working in a high-traffic psychiatric emergency room in New York.
- “Critical Care” chronicles the experience of an English professor who became an oncology nurse.
- “Trauma Junkie” is written by an emergency flight nurse who finds herself on the front lines of emergency medicine.