Some Career Paths for Graduates of the ECU Department of Nursing

Students who graduate with a bachelor's degree in Nursing are prepared for a variety of career paths. We list the following types of specialty areas to illustrate the wide range of possibilities that exist. Please note that the BS degree you earn from ECU in Nursing will qualify you for any and all of the career paths listed below.


Cardiology Nurse - Cardiology nurses care for a range of clients, some acutely ill and some who are stable and in rehabilitation. The cardiology nurse must master a wide range of skills, from interpreting ECG tracings, mixing and administering potent medications to working with clients on life support. Client and family psychological and emotional support is a key element of this practice area.

Critical Care Nurse - Critical care nurses practice in a fast paced environment with clients whose conditions can change by the minute. The work setting includes any of the Intensive Care Units (ICU) and the Emergency Room (ER). Critical Care Nurses must be prepared to respond to sudden client changes, to think critically and respond in a way that often determines whether a client lives or dies. As nurses gain experience, they are often placed in charge of critical care units and quickly become responsible for training "new" nurses in the skills of critical care. Working with the families of the critically ill client can be a challenge and high level communication skills are a must. Nurses assess the client for changes, monitor vital signs and readings from the equipment, and ensure that appropriate treatments and medications are administered. Nurses who work in these areas can become certified in Critical Care Nursing (CCRN).

Forensic Nurse - Ever watch CSI on TV? Forensic nurses work in the same type of environment and are responsible for collecting and analyzing evidence. Forensic medicine is the science that deals with the relationship between medicine and the law. Forensic nurses also work with the victims of abuse, prison populations and even perform the role of medical examiner in certain locations. They collaborate with sociology, psychology, social work, political science, medicine, law enforcement, and the judicial system often testifying in court cases. In addition to domestic violence and sexual assault, forensic nurses deal with food and drug tampering, non-medically supervised abortions, inappropriate medication administration, traumatic injuries and suicide. Nurses in this field can become certified in Forensic Nursing and also train to become certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) nurses.

Geriatric Nurse - We have a rapidly aging population in the US that will require more health care. The demand for geriatric nurses is tremendous and it is a field that will always need dedicated and skilled nurses. Some of the skills used by geriatric nurses are the evaluation of the unique symptoms sometimes displayed by older clients, assessment for changes in mental and functional status and evaluating clients for financial needs to make appropriate referrals to agencies for support. Nurses who practice in this field can become certified as geriatric nurses.

Neonatal Nurse - Neonatal nurses work primarily with new born babies. They have a range of responsibilities from the new born nursery to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to working with women who are giving birth in the delivery room. They attend all high risk deliveries, including premature births, fetal complications and cesarean sections. They also help transport infants for specialized care to higher level facilities. Neonatal nurses assess and monitor their tiny clients and provide highly specialized care as required. Emotional support the parents and teaching care of their little ones is an integral part of the work a neonatal nurse performs. Nurses can become certified in several categories of neonatal care.

Occupational Health Nurse - The practice areas for occupational health nurses is varied ranging from hospitals to schools to businesses and even factories. The position requirements can vary depending on employment setting. Some functions they perform include conducting health screenings, reviewing employees for immunizations, administering flu shots, testing workers for eye and hearing examinations, providing pre-placement physicals, developing wellness plans for a whole organization and teaching wellness and exercise classes. The pay for Occupational Health Nurses can be substantial.

Oncology Nurse - Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the US, however improvements in treatment in the recent past have increased the survival rate of many clients. Some of the skills used by oncology nurses include mixing and infusing often dangerous chemotherapeutic IV medications, monitoring clients for side effects of the medications, teaching clients about radiation and chemotherapy and monitoring clients' blood work and general physical status. Oncology nurses must learn how to communicate with clients who may not survive their cancer and their families who are experiencing emotional grief. They also often celebrate favorable results with clients and families who survive cancer. Nurses who practice in this field may attain one of several certifications, both in Oncology Nursing and Chemotherapy Administration.

Palliative Care/Hospice Nurse - Clients who are in the terminal stages of disease processes often decide that they would rather remain at home rather than in the hospital. Because there is no cure for these clients, the focus of the hospice nurse's practice is pain control, symptom management and emotional support for the dying client. Many nurses find the one-on-one long term relationships they establish with the clients and the overall hospice work environment to be very rewarding. Good communication skills and emotional stability are a must for this position.

Pediatric Nurse - Although current belief is that it is better to care for children at home as much as possible, many children still require hospitalization. Pediatric nurses care for children in a variety of settings such as outpatient clinics, emergency rooms and hospital pediatric units. Some larger facilities even have Pediatric Intensive Care Units (PICU) where acutely ill children receive care. Working with children requires special nursing skills including being able to "down size" the thinking process for medication administration and procedures. Pediatric nurses must be able to work with families, teach a wide range of skills and establish trust with their little clients through good communication. There are several types of certifications available for nurses who work in the pediatric setting.

Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse - Psychiatric nurses focus the care they provide on the mental and emotional needs of clients. The primary tool psychiatric nurses use to help their clients is themselves and their communication skills. Clients can range from those with acute mental illnesses such as schizophrenia to those with drug addiction problems, eating disorders or depression. In the mental health setting, these nurses provide individual counseling, conduct in or outpatient group therapy sessions, monitor clients for the effects of psychotropic medications and provide teaching at schools and organizations for the identification of mental health problems.


Nurse Anesthetist - Nurse anesthetists administer general, regional or local anesthesia or sedation before and during surgery or obstetrical procedures. They constantly monitor important body functions and vital signs, changing medication to maximize the safety and comfort of the client during and after surgical procedures. NA programs are difficult to get into, usually three to four years in length and require an extensive internship under the supervision of a MD. They must pass a certification test before beginning practice.

Nurse Educator - Nurse educators teach nursing students the theoretical knowledge and nursing skills they must master to practice nursing safely after graduation. The nurse educator has many responsibilities in addition to teaching. An educator's day includes advising students, meeting with other faculty to plan and evaluate curriculum, preparing for new courses, conducting research, writing for publications, serving on college committees, conducting community service and working with student organizations. The minimum requirement is a MS with a major in Nursing (2-3 year program), however at the University level, a Ph. D is required at some point.

Nurse Midwife - The nurse midwife works with the entire family. They perform routine prenatal exams, such as testing using for protein, testing glucose, blood pressure, measuring the fungus, and fetal heart sounds. Also, midwives attend to clients with obstetrical and gynecological problems. Midwives consult for annual gynecologist exams, pap smears, birth control, hormone replacement and infertility problems. Not only do midwives work in the home, but also in freestanding birth centers and hospitals. Most programs for Nurse Midwife are now Master's degree and require two to three years plus an extensive internship. They must pass a certification test before beginning practice.

Nurse Practitioner - Nurse Practitioner is a general category of advanced practice nurses that includes specialized areas such as Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP), Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Geriatric Nurse Practitioner (GNP), Obstetrical and Gynecological Nurse Practitioner (OB/GYNP), Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (MHNP), and others. The nurse practitioner is educated to perform skills that are usually associated with family practice physicians. Nurse practitioners can prescribe medications, perform minor surgical procedures, refer clients to specialists and any other skill they have been trained to perform. Nurse Practitioners work in a variety of settings including hospital ERs, Public Health Clinics, physicians' offices and even can establish their own fee standing clinics due to their independent licensure. To become an NP, the nurse must attend a master's degree program in the selected specialty area. Depending on the specialty area, these programs can range from two to four years. They must pass a certification test before beginning practice.

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