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Types of Nursing Disciplines

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Nurses work in conjunction with doctors and other health care professionals to provide optimal care to patients. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic's Occupational Outlook Handbook, job opportunities in nursing are expected to continue to grow at a much faster than average rate during the second decade of the 21st century. Both Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) may choose to work in a number of subspecialties within the nursing field.

Emergency Care

Emergency, or trauma, nurses work in emergency rooms in hospitals or medical centers. The vast majority of emergency nurses are RNs. They provide many important functions, including triaging patients and performing life-saving procedures. Triage nurses assess individuals as they come into the emergency room to determine the severity and extent of the patient's injury or illness and the type of care that may be needed. They set up rooms with equipment for medical procedures, monitor patients' vital signs, administer medications and even perform procedures such as intubation. ER nurses work under the guidance of an emergency physician, administering treatment according to his, but must be able to work independently in high-pressure situations.


Pediatric nurses provide care to infants, children and/or adolescents, working in settings from rehabilitation centers and childrens' hospitals to private pediatric practices. RNs and LPNs provide direct patient care such as administering medications, starting and maintaining intravenous lines, monitoring vital signs and assisting with personal care. In a doctor's office setting, nurses also give vaccinations and may help educate parents on issues of child development and health.

Labor and Delivery

Labor and delivery nurses provide care to women in the time prior to, during and immediately after childbirth. They are responsible for caring for women through the majority of their labor, as most physicians are not called until birth is imminent or there is an urgent need. It is the RNs who perform examinations to assess labor progress, monitor the condition of the mother and baby, and provide support to women in labor. Labor and delivery RNs also educate mothers about labor, delivery, breastfeeding and newborn care.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Neonatal Intensive Care Units are special hospital wards that provide critical care to newborns, primarily premature infants. Nurses monitor the infants and perform routine medical procedures such as inserting feeding tubes, starting IVs and initiating phototherapy for the treatment of jaundice. Nurses also provide for the infants' daily care needs, including diaper changes, grooming, cleaning and feeding. NICU RNs work under the supervision of a neonatologist, who formulates the treatment plan for each infant.

Nurse Anesthetists

Nurse Anesthetists are RNs with extensive additional training (generally three years of graduate coursework) in the administration and management of anesthetics. They work independently, but under the direction of an anesthesiologist, to deliver anesthesia services to patients who are undergoing surgery or other painful medical procedures. They are responsible for monitoring the condition of the patient before, during and after surgery.

Nurse Practitioners

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are Registered Nurses who have completed two to three years of advanced graduate training in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. NPs are able to provide the majority of services that a regular family care practitioner can, such as regular physical examinations and care for chronic and acute illnesses. NPs can perform routine medical procedures such as suturing, and have the authority to prescribe medication for patients. NPs, on average, spend more time with each individual patient and stress wellness and patient education in their care.


Dayna is a freelance writer, artist and former high school teacher. She has been writing professionally for three years, and hold degrees in physical anthropology, art and special education. Her particular areas of interest include anthropology, health and nutrition, fitness and beauty and skin care.

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