What Specialties Are Nurses Happiest In? (2024)

A career in nursing can be incredibly rewarding. Happy and healthy nurses have the potential to make meaningful differences in the lives of others, and this can be highly satisfying. With multiple specialty areas available where nurses may practice, the flexibility and versatility of this occupation are substantial.

At the same time, some nursing roles may carry ongoing job stress that can eventually lead to burnout if not managed appropriately. So whether you are an aspiring nurse or someone with a degree in another field besides nursing, you can keep in mind the happiest nursing specialties as you think about the direction of your future career path.

The purpose of this blog is to highlight several nursing specialties that are available to pursue with a specific focus on the specialties where nurses tend to be happiest.

Trends in Nurse Burnout

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many studies conducted to survey nurses on their job satisfaction and factors related to stress on the job. This new focus on the prevention of burnout, creating positive work environments, and providing new and more robust resources is an exciting pivot in healthcare. Nurses who are satisfied in their jobs and who experience maximum happiness while at work are likely to enjoy long and fulfilling careers.

Nationally, there are more than 3.1 million nurses in practice, and there is continued movement into the profession and in the workforce to pursue helping careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is projected to be nearly 33% job growth in the fields of home health and personal care aids as well as medical and health managers between 2020 and 2030. During the same timeframe, there is a projected 52% increase in the employment of nurse practitioners and a 9% projected increase in the employment of registered nurses.

Reasons for these difficult and sometimes traumatic encounters leading to nursing burnout include:

  • missing self-care opportunities
  • nurses experiencing aggressive work environments
  • overload due to the intent of nurses to leave the profession or change jobs
  • compassion fatigue and inability to say “no” despite exhaustion

In the best nursing specialties, nurses will regularly use their skills of compassion and critical thinking as they engage in their daily job responsibilities. This can become emotionally and mentally taxing when working long hours caring for many patients and families.

Highest job satisfaction may be found when there is alignment between the purpose of the job and the employee’s personality. Personality tests and personality inventory tools can help foster self-awareness that may be useful to help align personal traits with practice environments to maximize satisfaction.

Burnout is a trend but does not have to be inevitable. Fortunately, there are some nursing specialties with greater job satisfaction than others.

Happiest Nursing Jobs

Nurses are employed in school systems, health care facilities, community organizations, and many other environments. Some nurses work with children while others work with adults and families. Some work in outpatient clinics, while others work in hospitals. But what makes a nursing specialty area satisfying? Let’s take a look at some nursing specialties where nurses report being happiest.

School Nurse

Nurses in schools are available to help care for students who are presenting with an illness or who require assistance with medication administration for a previously diagnosed condition. Sometimes, school nurses will also provide health education in the classroom setting and are also responsible for maintaining accurate records and conducting health screenings.

Nurses in the school environment often have a somewhat flexible schedule with regular work hours. Many of these positions include evenings, weekends, holidays, and summers off. With these perks, it’s no wonder the role of a school nurse is one with higher job satisfaction than others. Many have their own offices within the school and enjoy the relationships developed with teachers, parents, and children.

Labor and Delivery Nurse

Although labor and delivery environments may be subject to stressors affecting acute care and hospital settings, participation in the birth of a child is frequently a happy and exciting event. The specialty also includes general obstetrics and postpartum care - helping support child-bearing persons through the entire pregnancy and beyond. Supporting new parents as they navigate the months leading up to the birth of a child can be very satisfying for nurses in this specialty.

Case Management Nurse

Long-term care environments frequently have nurse case managers who work with patients and families to provide support through the development of care plans and assistance with managing a disease process effectively. Case managers typically view their roles as a calling with great purpose and are often satisfied with the personal and meaningful nature of their professional roles.

A case manager is responsible for incorporating holistic nursing principles and will consider both patient and environmental factors as essential to the overall process and outcomes of care. Within the realm of case management, nurses frequently find subspecialties in oncology, pediatrics, hospice, palliative care, or HIV/AIDS. A large portion of the case management role is collaboration with an interdisciplinary team to coordinate care and services based on patient needs. Case managers may facilitate the care of patients when they are in a hospital environment and also when patients may return to their home or assisted living community.

Nurse Educator

There are several types of nurse educator roles available with high job satisfaction. Nurse educators are sometimes found working with patients and families, such as the role of a diabetes educator who guides patients in goal setting and lifestyle modification through motivational interviewing and individualized support.

Nurse educators are also often found in clinical practice leadership positions with roles that are focused on the development of other nurses assigned to a particular unit. One example of this is a seasoned nurse who provides training and in-services to newer nurses within a specialty area. This mentorship role is fulfilling as it focuses on improving the quality of nursing care delivery through sharing valuable skills, knowledge, and experience with colleagues.

Parish Nurse

Faith community nursing or parish nursing is an especially fulfilling nurse role for those who have a deep faith commitment and desire to serve the congregation or members of a church community. The intentional alignment of nursing care with religious beliefs and values is a unique specialty area and very meaningful as a life calling with purpose.

Parish nurses may be fulfilled through serving their faith communities while keeping God at the center of their lives and practices. In situations where trauma-informed care is required to adequately support patients and families, respect for deeply held religious convictions is important for the health care process and outcomes.

Travel Nurse

The role of a travel nurse can be fulfilling for those who enjoy variety and the potential for short-term assignments. At the same time, traveling nurse positions are not stress-free for many individuals. By nature, travel nursing positions are often meant to fill voids in staffing or temporary needs within established agencies and often come with long work hours. The uncertainty of future assignments coupled with a changing home environment can foster feelings of loneliness and instability.

However, for those who want a traveling environment with greater consistency in assignments, the roles of a flight nurse or cruise nurse may be equally fulfilling. Nurses may enjoy the potential to visit different destinations and the feelings of independence and freedom that may accompany these positions. Happiness can also be found by working as a nurse in a theme park or other tourist attraction.

There are pros and cons to every nursing position. To have a happy and healthy career, it’s a good idea to focus on a specialty area that is personally fulfilling with relatively low stress. Next, let’s take a look at the nursing specialties where high levels of stress are frequently reported.

Reducing Stress in Nursing Roles

While every nursing specialty has the potential to be fulfilling and rewarding, some specialty areas are naturally more stressful than others. Pursuing these valuable and needed subspecialties will require an awareness of how to mitigate the effects of stress in the workplace. Nurses in the emergency room or intensive care settings are tasked with caring for patients whose lives may be in danger and where interventions are time-sensitive. Similarly, operating room nurses can experience the pressure of critical health care situations that may be highly emotional at times.

While stressful nursing jobs may be the best choice for some, high stress increases the likelihood of nurse burnout. Nurses can proactively manage stressful work environments with the following tips:

  • prioritize rest and regular periods of time away from work
  • engage with a support system of family and friends
  • set boundaries between personal activities and work responsibilities
  • consider changing nursing specialties to reduce stress and improve mental health

If you are considering a second degree in nursing, you can focus on searching for organizations that have supportive environments to maximize your happiness in your future job.

Learn more about our Online ABSN program

Nursing Education Programs

In today’s fast-paced environment, online and hybrid nursing education programs make it easier to obtain a nursing degree with quality training. Holy Family University offers an accelerated second degree program with outstanding value to optimize your transition into a nursing specialty role.

Starting with a Bachelor’s degree in any field, you can become a competent and compassionate nurse in a relatively short period of time. An immersive curriculum aims to thoroughly equip graduates with critical thinking skills, professionalism, and clinical experience necessary to provide evidence-based nursing care to patients of all ages.

Begin your career as a nurse with a Second Degree Distance Hybrid Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Holy Family University.

What Specialties Are Nurses Happiest In? (2024)


What Specialties Are Nurses Happiest In? ›

Occupational Health Nurse

Some consider a position in occupational health one of the least stressful nursing jobs. Occupational health (industrial health) nurses are hired by large corporations, HMOs, insurance companies, and factories to provide workers with first aid, preventative care, and safety services.

Which nursing specialty is the least stressful? ›

Occupational Health Nurse

Some consider a position in occupational health one of the least stressful nursing jobs. Occupational health (industrial health) nurses are hired by large corporations, HMOs, insurance companies, and factories to provide workers with first aid, preventative care, and safety services.

What nursing specialty has the best work life balance? ›

Occupational Healthcare Nurse

This fascinating, fast-paced field is ideal for professionals who want to work regular business hours and have their weekends free. Typically, occupational health nurses are found in hospital systems, private businesses, and public health clinics.

Which nursing specialty has the highest burnout rate? ›

Critical Care and Neurology nurses have the highest rate of burnout at 48%. While the physicians with the lowest rate of burnout are those in plastic surgery, at only 23%.

What is the most relaxed type of nurse? ›

Institutional Nurses

These nurses administer more basic care and typically don't have to work long hours and overnight shifts, so this field of nursing tends to be low-stress. Even with less excitement, these nurses find fulfillment in providing basic and family care to those in need.

What type of nurse is most respected? ›

1. Certified registered nurse anesthetist. Nurse anesthetists are in one of the most well-respected fields in nursing, and it requires years of education, training, and experience to become one.

What is the easiest type of RN? ›

10 Of the easiest nursing jobs available
  • Clinic Nurse. ...
  • Traveling Nurse. ...
  • School Nurse. ...
  • Summer Camp Nurse. ...
  • Nurse Administrator. Average Annual Salary: $68,000. ...
  • Public Health Nurse. Average Annual Salary: $56,000. ...
  • Researcher Nurse. Average Annual Salary: $62,000. ...
  • Home Health Nurse. Average Annual Salary: $64,000.
Jun 22, 2023

What is the hardest field in nursing? ›

Most Stressful Nursing Positions
  • Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurses. ICU is an extremely high-pressure environment and these nurses work with patients who have significant injuries and disease with added morbidity risks. ...
  • Emergency Department nurses. ...
  • Neonatal ICU. ...
  • OR nursing. ...
  • Oncology Nursing. ...
  • Psychiatric Nursing.
Jan 27, 2021

What nursing specialty has a shortage? ›

Geriatric nursing: Geriatric nurses care for senior patients by specializing in specific disease treatment and coordinating with other professionals, such as social workers and senior living facility managers.

Where do the smartest nurses work? ›

Case in point, within all general areas of nursing, the Medical ICU, Trauma ICU, Peds ICU, Neonatal ICU, are perceived to require the highest skill set of nurses.

Which nursing specialties have the lowest turnover rate? ›

Registered Nurses working in surgical services, pediatrics and women's health recorded the lowest turnover rate, while nurses working in telemetry, step down and medical/surgical services experienced the highest.

Where is the highest paying RN? ›

Top 10 Best Paying States for RNs in 2023
  1. 1. California. With an average salary of $124,000 annually, the Golden State takes the prize for being the highest-paying state for registered nurses. ...
  2. Hawaii. ...
  3. Oregon. ...
  4. District of Columbia. ...
  5. Alaska. ...
  6. Massachusetts. ...
  7. Washington. ...
  8. New York.
Mar 13, 2023

Which nursing speciality is hardest? ›

Here are just a few of the specialties our readers mentioned — along with a little insight into what makes these nursing jobs so difficult.
  • Oncology. There's no surprise that this specialty is near the top of the list. ...
  • Hospice. ...
  • Medical-Surgical. ...
  • Geriatric Care. ...
  • Emergency Room. ...
  • Psychiatry. ...
  • Correctional Nursing.

What is the most sought after nursing job? ›

All RNs are in demand more than other occupations. The BLS projects 6% job growth for all RNs between 2021 and 2031, compared to 5% job growth for all occupations. Some specialties that are in especially high demand are neonatal nursing, surgical nursing, and critical care nursing.

Is nursing the most emotionally rewarding career? ›

A career in nursing can be an exciting and emotionally rewarding experience. That's because every single day, nurses make an impact on the lives of others by caring and advocating for their patients.

What are the lowest paying nurse specialties? ›

School Nurse - $61,727

However, school nursing is also one of the lowest-paid nursing specialties. ZipRecruiter reports that the median annual salary for school nurses in the US is $61,727. However, this range also ranges widely -from as low as $25,000 to as much as $96,000 per year.

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