Should You Specialize as a New Grad

As a nursing student, you are bound to hear at some point that your first job should be on a Med-Surg unit so that you can “get experience” and then move on to the specialty of your dreams.  But is that truly the best way to go?  More importantly, is that the best option for you?  Read on to discover the factors that you should consider before seeking to specialize immediately after school.

Congrats RN! You've graduated from nursing school and the job hunt has begun! Should you take the Med-Surg job or the one of your dreams? Read on to learn why you should pursue your dream job!

Do You Plan to Become an Advanced Practice Nurse?

You may find that some MSN or DNP programs require you to have experience in a specialty area before applying to your advanced track.  And that is a great reason to go ahead and get into your specialty right away, especially if you know for certain the path that you want to take.  For example, let’s say that since you began nursing school, you knew that your dream was to be a Nurse Anesthetist.  You know that you cannot get accepted into a Nurse Anesthetist program without having ICU experience, so naturally you want your first nursing job to be on an ICU.

Do You Have Experience on a Specialty Unit?

Once you know which type of unit interests you the most, if you plan to work during school, try your best to work as a Nursing Assistant on that particular specialty unit.  For example, if you think that Labor and Delivery would be a good fit for you, you should try your hardest to land a job as a Nursing Assistant on a Labor and Delivery unit.  This will allow you to begin to develop connections that will help you land your dream job later.  In addition, working on a unit that you are interested in will help you actually gauge whether or not that is truly the best fit for you, since you will see every time you work what the nursing responsibilities for that unit are.

Employers may also be willing to hire you onto a specialty unit if they see that you have completed your senior practicum on a similar unit.  If you are thinking that you will want to work in a specialty for your first nursing job, be sure to ask for that specialty as your senior practicum.

Where Do Your Priorities Lie?

If it doesn’t matter to you where you work or you didn’t find a unit that you were super interested in during school, then it may be a good idea to start out in a general Med-Surg unit to get your feet wet.  Or if you desire to perform a wide variety of skills each shift, Med-Surg is definitely the way to go. If, however, you know that your heart is set on a particular specialty, then you have every right to pursue that to begin your career.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to hone in on a very specialized skill set. 

You Only Have One Life

I’m not trying to make this super deep or anything, but you do only get this one life.  If a general unit would make you miserable, then do yourself and the patients a favor and select a different unit.  You should follow your heart and go after what you want.  Why would you want to be miserable at work everyday just because you listened to someone else who told you that the best thing to do is “get experience?” There isn’t a law stating that all new grads must have Med-Surg experience, so you have to do what ultimately will be best for you, and only you know what that is.  Depending on your location, there may be lots of specialty positions open as you begin your job hunt.  It is up to you to at least give it a shot and go after what you want.

Our Experience

Many of our peers landed jobs in specialty areas, and some of them even precepted on a general Med-Surg unit.  I was able to land a job in a specialty and my preceptorship was actually on a completely different unit!  Kendra also works on a specialty unit that was similar to her preceptorship.  We did not work as Nursing Assistants during school!

The bottom line is that you have to decide whether or not you want to specialize right away.  Whether you want to pursue a specialty because it’s vital for your plans in the future or just because that’s where your interest lies, you should go for it!

Are you currently looking for a job in a specialty area?  Have you identified which area of nursing you absolutely love?  Be sure to comment below and let us know!