A Comprehensive Guide to Nurse Practitioner Specialties

Nurse Practitioner Specialties

As a registered nurse, you have probably considered various ways to grow your career over the years. Becoming a nurse practitioner is a popular next step for many practicing nurses. Nurse practitioners benefit from a handsome earning potential and favorable job autonomy, and there are many different specialties to choose from. The question is, which specialty is the best for you? Here is a comprehensive guide detailing the different types of traditional and non-traditional careers you can have as a nurse practitioner.

The Role of a Nurse Practitioner

The fundamental role of a nurse practitioner (NP) is the same, no matter what specialty you choose. NPs provide primary and preventative care, which can involve examining and assessing the health of their patients, diagnosing conditions and illnesses, and prescribing and administering treatment and medication. Their responsibilities are similar to physicians, and in certain states, they can practice without the supervision of a physician. To become a nurse practitioner, registered nurses must obtain a relevant advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). In addition to a relevant degree, you need advanced clinical work experience, and you need to obtain the correct certification and state licensure before you can practice legally.

Also read: Adult-gerontology nurse practitioner

Traditional Careers for Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners need to choose a specialty before entering an advanced-level degree program to gain specialist knowledge that will help them provide proper care for their specific patient population. Common focus areas for nurse practitioners include family care, adult gerontology, psychiatric and mental health, women’s health and gender-related, neonatal, and pediatrics. In addition, there are many sub-specialty areas to choose from, such as cardiovascular, emergency and neurology.

Family Nurse Practitioner

Family care is a popular focus area for many prospective nurse practitioners. And family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are primary and preventative healthcare providers with a family-centric focus. Their patient populations include individuals, families, groups, and communities. They are often the first point of call for many people, and they often remain the primary healthcare provider for their patients for a long period—in some cases, this means throughout their patient’s life. One particular advantage a family nurse practitioner has is developing meaningful relationships with their patients throughout a lifetime. This specialty is particularly fulfilling for registered nurses who enjoy their work’s social side and like getting to know their patients.

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

Gerontology is the scientific study of the aging process, which examines the process’s biological, psychological, social, cultural, and cognitive aspects. In turn, adult gerontology nurse practitioners’ patients range from young adults to adults in later life. This patient population has unique needs. After the age of maturity, they may experience changes such as reduced respiratory strength, decreased bone density, and more prone to infection. Older patients are also more susceptible to developing several conditions simultaneously. Diabetes, hypertension, and obesity are common conditions in older patients. In this focus area, NPs can choose to further specialize in acute care or primary care.


Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners (AGPCNPs) offer comprehensive medical patient care over a long period. This includes assessing the health of their patients, health care promotion, and helping their patients manage long-term illnesses and health conditions. AGPCNPs provide counseling to their patients and teach them how to maintain good health and prevent disease. As with other NP roles, nurses need to enroll in an advanced-level degree program that is specific to this specialty. An online AGNP MSN program is a great option for nurses with a BSN and an unencumbered RN license.


Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AGACNPs) provide care to patients with episodic, deteriorating, complex or critical conditions. These types of NPs manage the health of patients from the time they are admitted to when they are discharged, as opposed to AGPCNPs, who offer care to patients for long periods. AGACNPs focus on timely care delivery to prevent further complications and stabilize patients requiring urgent and emergency care.

Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) work with patients of all ages with psychiatric and mental health issues. These issues include psychiatric disorders, substance abuse issues, and behavioral problems. PMHNPs can offer care with a therapeutic approach and can prescribe medication.

Women’s Health and Gender-Related Nurse Practitioner

A women’s health and gender-related nurse practitioner provides women with comprehensive care. This specialty centers on various aspects of women’s health. This can include specializing in genealogical and reproductive health, which supports women who may have conditions in these areas, or require support with anything from birth control, to IVF. Obstetrics is another area covered here, which is where midwives take over the care of pregnant and new mothers.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners focusing on neonatal health offer high-quality care to sick premature babies and newborns. Their duties include diagnosing illnesses and conditions, creating treatment plans, and prescribing medication. In some instances, neonatal nurse practitioners are also involved with the delivery of babies.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

PNPs provide comprehensive care to kids from infancy to young adulthood and can further specialize by body or service system. For example, they can focus on pediatric cardiology or surgery.
Alternative Career Paths for Nurse Practitioners
Traditional nurse practitioner roles often involves delivering patient care in a clinical setting. In addition to the conventional career paths highlighted above, advanced practice nurses can provide care in less traditional ways. Here are a few alternative career paths for nurse practitioners.

Travel Nurse Practitioner

A travel nurse practitioner isn’t tied down to just one location. Instead, they have the chance to work in many outpatient and inpatient facilities across several clinics, hospitals, and private and government institutions. This role is suited to nursing professionals who want the freedom to work in different places.

Nurse Practitioner on a Cruise Liner

As with the travel nurse practitioner role, a cruise line nurse practitioner is also well-suited to someone who enjoys combining work and travel. This role involves providing care to patients on a cruise line, which means you get to enjoy months of traveling to tropical destinations and experiencing new cultures while you work. This role can involve offering cardiac care and care in emergency situations. In addition, duties can include performing safety checks, health checks, and lab checks. Nursing professionals need to be comfortable with staying at sea for long periods, and the work hours for cruise line NP roles can be long.

Forensics Nurse Practitioner

The forensics nurse practitioner role combines the forensics and nursing sciences and criminal law to offer care to their patients. A forensics NP may already have a specialty, such as a pediatrics, acute care, or primary care, which will help them offer care in specific scenarios. Their patients are often assault victims, and forensics NPs usually work in the emergency room. Duties can include treating gunshot wounds, collecting fingerprints, analyzing evidence, and preparing reports. Forensics NPs help with investigations and are involved with a statement taking, providing testimony, and documenting evidence. In addition to providing high-quality care to their patients, they also help their patients stay safe. Becoming a forensics NP is not for all nursing professionals, as the nature of this role can be distressing. To become a forensics NP, registered nurses need to complete a specialist nursing program related to forensic nursing.

Foreign Service Health Practitioner

If you want to provide care to patients worldwide and serve your country at the same time, you may want to consider working as a foreign-service health practitioner. This role involves offering primary and preventative healthcare to US diplomats and their respective families and offering solutions to healthcare and medical issues. This role can be incredibly diverse, and in some instances, you may be presented with the challenge of working in harsh, hostile conditions. You must tick several boxes to work for the US Department of State as a foreign service health provider. Conditions of employment include being a US citizen, having availability for worldwide service, and obtaining a Top Secret Security Clearance, an appropriate Foreign Service Medical Clearance, and an appropriate Foreign Service Medical Clearance.

Nurse Practitioner for Movies

Nurse practitioners who enjoy movies and have always been interested in the film industry can apply to become an NP on film sets. As part of an on-set medical team, nurse practitioners are on call to provide healthcare and medical care services to the cast and the crew in accident or health emergency situations. Duties can be quite diverse, and in some instances, film nurse practitioners may also need to carry out general check-ups or first aid if necessary. Offering high-quality care in a timely manner can help keep proceedings running smoothly during a movie’s shooting.

Hopefully, this guide to different nurse practitioner specialties has given you some inspiration for the next steps of your nursing career, or perhaps even to start a nursing career if you were looking for a reason to change your vocation. It is tough but rewarding work, no matter what specialty to decide to take on.

Also read: What You Should Know About the Making Learning Platform

Hub Spotes

Learn More →