Specialisation in Nursing – a double edged sword

Diversity in nursing has a number of different components.  Often, we focus on the diversity in our patients and how to care for them in a culturally competent manner.  We focus on the diversity in our workforce and how to ensure we welcome team members from a variety of backgrounds.  However, we also need to be aware of our clinical diversity and the risk of segregation in this area. 

Increasingly, nurses are specialising earlier in their career.  A much-asked question at any nursing career forum is “how can I get into this field?”.  Specialisation is needed in nursing, the same as medicine.  ED nurses need specific skills in triage and trauma assessments. Cardiac nurses need skills in ECG and telemetry interpretation.  Theatre nurses need to know how to assist correctly during procedures and monitor in the recovery stage.  We need nurses who know how to provide the best care possible and this often requires specialised knowledge and training.  However, a medical nurse still needs to know how to care for a surgical patient.  A cardiac nurse needs to know how to manage a patient with hepatic encephalopathy.  A dialysis nurse needs to know how to look after someone who has suffered a stroke. 

By specialising early in their career, a nurse can miss out on the invaluable experience of caring for patients with a diverse range of illnesses.  Each body system does not work independently and an issue in one can often cause another to fail.  We need to know how one system impacts the other and how to care for the patient holistically.  Therefore, whilst the main focus of our continuing professional education should be on our specialities, we should also be cognisant of maintaining our knowledge in other fields as well.  Furthermore, when the situation arises to ‘float’ or fill-in on another ward, this should be welcomed as an opportunity to expand or refresh our skills in another area.

**Laurie is a regular columnist for the Australian College of Nursing “The Hive” Magazine offering her perspective as an early career nurse. This column was originally published in the Spring 2018 issue ***

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