Fast-Paced Nursing Specialties

May 26, 2015

Although it may not be for everyone, some nurses thrive working in a fast-paced environment. Working in certain areas of nursing can be exciting and challenging, which is exactly what some nurses are looking for. Nurses in fast-paced specialties have the opportunity to use advanced technology, perform various procedures and help patients through a difficult situation.  If you think you are cut out for a career in such an environment, consider one of the fast-paced specialties listed below.

Emergency Room Nursing

Nursing students ready for a day on the wards with their mentor! If you are looking for an area of nursing with complexity and variety, working in the emergency room is something to consider. ER nurses care for patients of all ages from babies to the elderly. They also treat patients with a wide range of illness from a sore throat to cardiac arrest.

Although not all patients who walk through the door will be experiencing a true medical emergency, a crisis can occur at any time. Nurses in the emergency room may care for patients with serious injuries, such as broken bones, traumatic brain injuries and severe wounds. They may also treat people with life-threatening medical conditions, such as sepsis, strokes and heart attacks.

ER nurses should have excellent assessment and time management skills. They should also be able to multitask and remain calm in a crisis. Being able to switch gears quickly is also critical.

Some hospitals may hire new nurses right out of school and train them to work in the ER. In other instances, you may have to get a few years of experience under your belt before you can work in the emergency room.

Critical Care

Critical care areas include the intensive care unit including adult, pediatric and neonatal units. Critical care nursing may also include the burn unit, coronary care and post-anesthesia. Regardless of which area you work in, critical care nursing involves caring for patients who are seriously ill. In some cases, patients may have life-threatening conditions.

As a critical care nurse, you may be caring for patients who require extensive medical support. Some patients will be on a mechanical ventilator, dialysis machine and have multiple intravenous lines.

A nurse working in critical care should be someone who learns quickly and is a good problem solver. Since patients in critical care areas are usually very sick, nurses need to have good personal coping skills to deal with tragic situations on a regular basis.

Nurses interested in pursuing critical care nursing should get at least a year experience working in areas, such as medical-surgical nursing. Earning additional certifications, such as advanced cardiac life support, will also make you more marketable.

Transport Nursing

Transport nurses work on ambulances, helicopters and small airplanes moving patients from one location to another. They may arrive on the scene of an accident and transport patients to the hospital. Nurses may also transport patients between facilities when needed.

Shadowing in the obstetrics and gynaecology department In many cases, transport nurses care for patients who have complex injuries or medical needs. Responsibilities may include performing lifesaving interventions on route to the medical facility.

Transport nurses should work well independently since they will not have an entire medical team around them as they do in the ER.  It is also critical to have good judgment and confidence in your skills. Transport nurses have to make split second decisions and need to trust their judgment.

Although new graduates are not hired as transport nurses, there are things you can do to prepare for this fast-paced specialty. Gain some experience working in the emergency room or intensive care unit. Additional certifications are often required including pediatric advanced life support and neonatal resuscitation.


Another area of nursing, which can be fast-paced, is surgery. Nurses may be involved in routine or complex surgery. But even in cases where surgery is routine, emergencies can occur, and nurses need to be prepared.

Nurses who work in the operating room may have different functions and roles. For example, some nurses prep the patient and set up equipment. In other cases, nurses pass equipment to the surgeon and perform other duties as needed.

If working in the operating room sounds like something you would enjoy, you should be a team players and be able to move from one task to the next quickly. Some hospitals have surgical nursing training programs periodically for staff who are interested in transitioning into this specialty.

Is a Fast-paced Specialty Right for You?

Working in fast-paced areas of nursing sounds exciting, but it can also be stressful. In order to decide if you have what it takes ask yourself a few questions.

How well do you work under pressure? Think about how you react in an emergency situation. If you are someone who panics, you may not be ready for fast-paced specialties just yet.

Can you juggle a lot of responsibilities at one time? Nurses who work in fast-paced specialties often have to go from one hectic situation to another. They may also have to handle multiple things at one time.

Are you able to work quickly? You cannot be a slow poke when a person’s life is on the line. Nurses who work in critical areas need to think quickly and move fast. You don’t have a lot of time to second guess your decisions.

Do you have good communication skills? Nurses who work in areas, such as the ER and ICU need to be good communicators. You have to communicate clearly with doctors, patients, family members and other allied health team members during high-stress situations.

Can you go with the flow? Nurses in some fast-paced specialties, such as the emergency room or transport, never know what will come up next. Your workload can increase quickly.

Are you able to leave work at work? You may see things in certain specialties, such as transport nursing, which are difficult to witness. Watching people suffer from severe injuries and witnessing some of them die is not easy. Nurses need to be able to cope well with the emotional aspects of working in critical care areas.