Healthcare facilities in the U.S. are grappling with significant nursing shortages across departments and specialties. Even before the pandemic, there were indications that chronic illnesses, an aging population, retiring nurses, and nursing faculty shortages would create a critical shortfall. Now, faced with dire circumstances, nurse recruiters are searching for employees in all corners of the country and across the globe. 

Whether you already hold credentials in a nursing specialty or are trying to decide on a new one for a career in the U.S., there are some focus areas that are in particularly high demand. From RNs that were already in short supply before the pandemic to nurse practitioners taking on physician responsibilities throughout the country, there are specialties that can be a fit to your skills, your passion, and your aspirations. Choosing well can be both rewarding and lucrative. Below are 5 in-demand nursing specialties you may want to consider if you hope to build a career and a future in the United States.

Acute Care Nurse

At the heart of nursing is direct patient care and as an acute care nurse, you perform it every day. You provide nursing care to patients with acute conditions, such as pre- and post-operative care. Or you might assist with invasive diagnostics like biopsies, excisions, and endoscopies.

Among your other responsibilities are:

  • Diagnose acute or chronic conditions
  • Assess urgent health conditions and interpret diagnostic test results
  • Perform emergency medical procedures such as basic and advanced cardiac life support 
  • Administer intravenous infusions
  • Manage patient pain relief and sedation
  • Monitor patient condition and adapt care plans as needed
  • Operate and monitor medical equipment and devices
  • Enter patient information into health records
  • Qualifications to be an Acute Care Nurse

To be an acute care nurse, you must to be a registered nurse with appropriate state licensure after passing the NCLEX-RN exam. While some hospitals only require an associate degree, an initiative put forth by The Institute of Medicine and American Nurses Credentialing Center set a goal for 80 percent of nurses to have a BSN by 2020. Even though it hasn’t yet been achieved, many facilities look for the BSN in their new hires. You will also need acute care experience and can advance your career by obtaining certification from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.

As with most nursing positions, where you live and work will have great bearing on how much you earn. While the national average for acute care nurses is $95,000, cities like New York and Boston pay much more.

Neonatal Nurse

As a neonatal nurse, you care for newborns and infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). In addition to monitoring their overall progress, you attend to the hour-to-hour needs of the babies in your care. That may include administering medications, changing feeding tubes, performing intubations, or carrying out tests ordered by obstetricians and other specialists. You’re also responsible for regular infant care, such as feeding, bathing, and changing diapers. And you help educate parents on how to care for their ill child. In addition, you may be required to maintain the equipment used in the NICU.

Qualifications to be a Neonatal Nurse

In addition to the skills you already possess as a licensed registered nurse, you need training on infant procedures and neonatal equipment. You also need the right disposition to cope with babies who are very ill. Neonatal nursing is considered a stressful job, so your ability to work under pressure will help you succeed. But there are different levels of neonatal care. Level I is for relatively healthy babies who require minimal care, Level II for more intensive needs, and Level III is the most intensive stage, where you’ll care for infants requiring significant care for a long period of time.

In addition to a nursing license, employers will expect you to be familiar with NICU equipment and may require you to have Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) certifications. Salaries for neonatal nurses average more than $100,000 annually but pay can vary dramatically depending on your location, skillset, and experience.

Nurse Midwife

Before babies are born, they need help coming into the world. As a nurse midwife, you are involved in all aspects of a woman’s pregnancy and delivery. Even before a woman knows she’s pregnant, you might offer family planning services and gynecological exams. During the pregnancy, you provide prenatal care. When it’s time, you deliver babies or provide assistance to physicians in case of cesarean births. And post pregnancy, you teach new parents about breastfeeding, infant care, and the healthy transition to being a new parent. Many of your responsibilities mirror those of OB/GYNs, but your focus is more holistic, with an emphasis on natural birthing techniques.

Qualifications to be a Nurse Midwife

To become a nurse midwife, you will must be a licensed RN with a BSN. Then, you need to complete an accredited nurse midwifery graduate or postgraduate program. Additionally, you’ll need to have nurse midwife certification. Salaries vary by location and employer, but the median annual wage for nurse midwives in 2021 was $112,830.

Nurse Practitioner

Taking on many responsibilities once reserved only for physicians, nurse practitioners often have their own patients and practices. Also, like doctors, you can serve as a general nurse practitioner (GNP) or specialize. As a GNP, you provide overall healthcare to your patients, from regular checkups, diagnoses, and treatments to referral to specialists. You offer medical advice and patient education. And while many states do not require you to work under the supervision of a physician, you may consult and collaborate with doctors and other healthcare providers.

Qualifications to be a Nurse Practitioner

To be a General Nurse Practitioner, you will need a BSN and an MSN with a Nurse Practitioner focus. You must also be a registered, state-licensed nurse with a passing grade on a national Nurse Practitioner board certification exam. Some healthcare facilities may require you to hold a Doctorate of Nursing Practice, and if you specialize, you will need further training, experience, and certification. Ranked as the number 1 healthcare job in the U.S., nurse practitioners are well-paid, earning a median salary of more than $120,000. And with the physician shortage, nurse practitioners are in very high demand, particularly in high populations states like New York, California, Texas, and Florida.

Nurse Anesthetist

Alongside the anesthesiologist, a nurse anesthetist administers intravenous and inhaled medications to patients undergoing surgery and other procedures. If you choose this career path, your responsibilities will include:

  • Administering general, regional, local, and moderate sedation during surgery and other procedures
  • Providing IV therapies for a variety of required medications
  • Monitoring patients before, during, and after procedures
  • Educating patients about anesthesia and potential side effects and risks
  • Serving as a consultant to the healthcare team for high-risk patients
  • Responding to emergencies by providing airway management, life support, and administration of fluids and medications
  • Operating and maintaining a variety of anesthesia equipment and monitors

Qualifications to be a Nurse Anesthetist

Although some healthcare facilities will require a master’s degree of their nurse anesthetists, you may be able to find a position if you are a licensed RN with a BSN and certification as a Registered Nurse Anesthetist. You’ll also need basic and advanced cardiac life support certification and knowledge of the American Society of Anesthesiologists Classification system. Ranked as a top 10 U.S. healthcare profession, Nurse Anesthetists are also among the best compensated, with a median annual salary of more than $180,000.

Are you looking for a path to a nursing career in the U.S.? Partner with an international nurse agency that will consider your long-term goals and unique skills. At Global Nurse Partners, we can help you find a focus and a job that fits your aspirations. From credential evaluation and licensure to job match, we’re here to help. Request a consultation today.