Many nurses go into the nursing field seeking a fast-paced, collaborative-care environment. Some have hopes of working in a prestigious medical facility — perhaps a Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins. However, the competition for such positions is often fierce. Even jobs in smaller "traditional" hospital settings can be difficult to find.
It's easy to feel discouraged, especially after working so hard to earn a nursing degree. Even more so for registered nurses (RNs) who have put in the time and effort to elevate their education by pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.
For those looking to use their nursing skills in settings outside the hospital, there are a handful of other job options. The following are alternative nursing care settings where RNs can put their skills and talents to work.
1) Nurse Health Coach
If you're a good leader, a nurse health coaching position may be a good fit. These nurses typically work in healthcare facilities, insurance companies and social service agencies intending to help employees achieve goals and stay on health track. For example, a nurse health coach might develop individualized diet plans, provide instruction on various fitness routines and act as an overall motivator for their clients.
Important qualities for nurse health coaches include confidence, initiative, optimism and excellent communication skills. These nurses may also be tasked with developing and leading health/wellness seminars and trainings; therefore, it also helps to be personable.
2) Public Health Nurse
Nurses are essential to any community, whether working in a clinic, hospital or any other setting. Public health nurses have a great opportunity to "give back" by working with underserved or low-income populations. They also often work in government agencies, schools and nonprofits.
Responsibilities typically include educating community members about local health risks, attending public health events and even establishing specific programs to address specific risks within certain sects of the community. The best public health nurses have perfected their outreach and public speaking skills.
3) Insurance Firm Nurse
Working for an insurance firm may not sound like the most exciting job, but for those who like solving problems on an analytical level, being an insurance firm nurse could be an interesting career path.
These nurses routinely interview clients and resolve complaints, but they may also help design and analyze benefits packages. Some insurance firm nurses advise case managers on approvals for different processes. There is also an opportunity for these RNs to provide more "hands-on" care by conducting insurance physicals.
4) Hospice Nurse
All nurses are "healthcare heroes" in their own right — brought even more to light during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, hospice nurses perform a duty that most individuals would shy away from. In most cases, the role is not to "fix" the patient but rather help people live as comfortably as possible — with the least amount of pain — as they navigate their last days.
Hospice nurses also work with family members to provide educational and emotional support. For example, they might assist in any practical details that accompany caring for a dying loved one. Or, they might serve as a liaison between the patient and physicians, as well as one's desired spiritual adviser(s). While not for everyone, hospice nursing can be a very fulfilling career.
5) Cruise Ship Nurse
While cruise ship nurses have not been in high demand during the pandemic, travel is returning to pre-pandemic levels, and there will be more demand for professionals in these roles.
Nursing at sea is not drastically different from nursing on land; however, it does require a "special" type of person. It's important to consider the close quarters in which cruise ship nurses live for the duration of their six-month- or year-long contract. They are also away from loved ones for that length of time, so if you're someone who gets homesick, this may not be the job for you.
That said, there are many perks to being a cruise ship nurse — particularly for individuals who enjoy seeing more of the world. These nurses get "all-expense-paid travel" perks and an accelerated experience — due to the large workload and minimal staff — and short-term or recurring contracts for those who prefer such an arrangement.
6) School Nurse
Sometimes, a special need arises during a crisis and nurses must step up and gain even greater experience in areas not necessarily in their daily "line of duty." This was the case across Missouri's public schools. During the pandemic, school nurses really expanded their role to address growing needs among community members, including:
- collaborating with public health agencies and healthcare experts about the virus
- performing COVID-19 testing
- mitigating the rising need for mental health care
- administering flu shots
- monitoring chronic health conditions
Overall, these Missouri school nurses provided much-needed support for families at a time when it was lacking. "It's amazing how many of them volunteered to help coordinate the food deliveries, make porch visits, so their kiddos with known high-risks or with social emotional needs had contact with their school nurse, and making phone calls to parents or grandparents to see what supports they needed," shares Linda Neumann, Director of the Missouri Association of School Nurses.
The Options Abound
Of course, the list doesn't end here. Other outside-the-hospital nursing opportunities extend to roles like academic nurse writer, legal nurse consultant, research nurse, informatics nurse, forensic nurse, parish nurse and so many more. With all the options available, nurses can be assured that a rewarding nursing career doesn't have to exist within the confines of hospital walls.
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