After receiving your hard-won nursing degree and license, you, like most new nurses, rightfully feel excited about your future. You can already imagine your first days in your new nursing position, putting your studies and clinicals to work at your local hospital. However, many nurses leave nursing school groomed for positions in a traditional hospital, only to find that these jobs are sometimes difficult to find. New graduates saturate the job market, and the plethora of underemployed nurses or even unemployed nurses may come as a surprise. Some new graduates, expecting to work in a prestigious medical facility, find their dreams shattered by fierce competition, along with other factors, that preclude immediate employment.
In fact, some newly minted nurses, facing months of unemployment, may eventually begin to look for jobs outside of the nursing field. However, note that predictions for job growth in the nursing profession remain higher than for any other occupation, and conditions are expected to improve as older nurses begin to retire. So, before you look at jobs other than nursing for employment, think “outside the hospital” to find a position in an alternate nursing care setting. Research lesser-known nursing specialties and non-traditional roles, and you will begin to understand the breadth of options available.
Legal Nurse Consultant
Legal nurse consultants are professionals who help build a bridge between the legal and medical worlds. Since lawyers do not always understand medical jargon, and doctors don’t usually understand “legalese,” miscommunication can occur. A legal nurse consultant works as a “middleman” to help clarify information and avoid any misunderstandings that could lead to legal complications.
Working as a legal nurse consultant means you have the opportunity to work freelance or with a company; in fact, you may even find employment at a law firm. Opportunities depend on your personal preferences. The job requires both a nursing license and degree in nursing. You also must be certified as a legal nurse consultant through a national organization such as the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants.
Occupational Health Nurse
Occupational health nurses help corporations and companies improve the safety of their workforce. After following a specialized career path, these nurses focus on building and maintaining safety programs and protocols within a business setting. Your primary goal as an occupational health nurse is to identify the potential risks to workers and employees within a company and take measures to increase safety by reducing those risks. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that nursing positions with corporations and businesses are limited at the time of this publication.
Job responsibilities vary based on the company. In many positions, you work in crisis intervention, hazard detection, case management, and risk reduction, but the exact role depends on the business and the types of risks associated with the work. You must have a license to practice nursing in your state to work as an occupational health nurse and to advance in your career, you may need a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
Nurse midwives assist women during their pregnancy, working directly with pregnant mothers, obstetricians, and gynecologists. As a nurse midwife, your primary responsibility is assisting at every stage of pregnancy, during the birth, and post-delivery. Nurse midwives may help doctors determine potential health risks to the mother and unborn child. Additionally, a nurse midwife may work with men with reproductive health issues or who have a sexually transmitted disease.
A nurse midwife is a specialized career path, which means working in the field requires a specialized education. After you acquire your undergraduate degree in nursing and obtain a license to practice in your state, you move into master’s programs in nurse midwifery. An associate’s degree in nursing may qualify you for an RN-to-BSN program that allows you to qualify for upper-level classes in nurse midwifery in a shorter time frame. After completing your education, you must obtain a certified nurse midwifery license.
Mental Health Nurse
A mental health nurse plays a pivotal role in helping individuals with a psychiatric condition. Job responsibilities include assisting psychiatrists and psychologists with diagnoses, tests, and patient care. You may work in a variety of positions, including addiction treatment facilities and psychiatric facilities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that since nearly 16.3 percent of nurses work in a substance abuse facility or psychiatric facility, opportunities are available.
You’ll need more education to work in the mental health field than is necessary for many other positions. Requirements include a master’s degree or doctorate, a license in your state, along with specialized courses. In this role, you may assist with psychiatric care and counseling as well as in medical care. The higher education requirement may lead to opportunities to teach and work in research.
Working as a nurse educator means you assume the role of a teacher. You won’t work in a traditional hospital or medical facility; instead, you work in a classroom environment in a college, university, or educational program. Nurse educators work with other faculty to ensure that educational material is consistent.
The job responsibilities of a nurse educator relate to education, teaching students, and working within the educational program to establish curriculum. To find employment in this role, you need a higher education, a nursing license issued by your state, and some experience working in a medical facility.
Public Health Nurse
If you want to give back to your community, then a job as a public health nurse may appeal to you. A public health nurse often works in an underserved community, reaching out to patients who need treatment, typically with low-income populations. Your responsibilities may include working at events to educate community members about health risks in your local area. For example, in the event of an outbreak of a virus or sickness in the area, you may provide a list of symptoms to community members.
A public health nurse must have a nursing license in the state, and, in some cases, higher education. Since you take on an outreach role, public speaking and basic outreach skills will improve your ability to serve your local community. You also may establish programs to educate the community or address specific risks within portions of the local population. The specific standards and skills needed depend on your state and the risks to people in your community.
Working as a nurse writer is a unique position in that you’ll be working in a creative field while using your nursing knowledge and education. The exact career path depends on your interests and your goals for your writing career. A nurse writer may work with magazines and journals or in medical writing; the responsibilities vary, depending on the publisher. For example, writing medical texts and medical documents requires formal writing skills and a specific tone. You will need a high level of education and knowledge to work in this role. However, working for a journal or magazine may not require a high level of technical and writing skills, but, instead, the ability to connect with a specific type of audience.
The standards for your education depend on the publisher. An undergraduate degree or an associate’s degree in nursing may qualify you for this position, and you won’t need a nursing license.
Home Health Nurse
Home health care service is a growing field in nursing. A home health nurse, as the name indicates, provides care to people in their home. The exact nature of the care and your responsibilities depend on the health of the individual and the reasons he or she needs a nurse. Roughly 12.8 percent of nurses work in home health care services, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which means this field offers opportunities to help patients outside of a traditional hospital or medical facility.
Specific treatments depend on the individuals you treat; for example, you may visit an individual’s home to provide wound care or treat injuries. Other nurses work with families who are assisting frail or elderly family members in their homes. In that situation, your duties may be more complex, and, for certain positions or responsibilities, you’ll need a license in your state as well as additional education to administer specialized care. The standards depend on the patients you assist at home, and the primary factor is your willingness to visit their home for treatment.
To work with children while giving back to your local community, school nursing is a good middle ground. You may work in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, or even universities. Your role as a school nurse means you are the face of medical care in the school or school district.
Your responsibilities may range from giving students basic vision and hearing tests to providing care when students have an illness or are injured during school hours. In some cases, you provide the initial care and recommend additional treatment from a doctor. School nurses also may teach health courses; their job responsibilities depend on the school district. You will need a degree, and you must be licensed in your state.
Informatics Nurse or Informatics Nurse Specialist
Technology is changing the way medical facilities provide services to their patients. If you enjoy technology, a job as an informatics nurse or informatics nurse specialist may be the role for you. An informatics nurse is a specialist who helps information technicians select, set up, evaluate, and implement technology in a medical facility. A simple way to think of the role is working with IT to use technology that improves safety and the accuracy of tests. You act as a middleman between the medical and the technological sides of nursing.
The role requires an education in nursing, a license, and additional training in informatics. This type of training allows you to specialize in the work, but you also can find employment as an informatics nurse by working in the field and accruing experience.
Research nurses play a vital role in the research, development, and improvement of medical treatments. Your role in clinical research depends on the specific company or research group of which you’re a part. For example, you may provide care to patients during an experimental treatment; in that situation, you work directly with patients to help ensure their safety and maintain their health. You also may compile data, research trends, build a database for the information, or assess the data from the research.
A research nurse also may recruit volunteers for a clinical study. You will need an undergraduate education in nursing, licensure in your state, and, for some positions, certification for specialized skills. Standards and requirements depend on the nature of the research, so you may need to consider further education when evaluating your options.
Medical Sales Representative
Most people who earn a nursing education never dream that they may find a career in sales. However, job opportunities exist in sales in nursing just as any other discipline. You may find work as a medical sales representative in which you will advertise and distribute medicine or other medical products. In this role, you’ll utilize your knowledge of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment as you present medications or products to doctors and medical facilities. Your medicinal knowledge must encompass, not only the effects of the medication and how it’s better than previous or competing medicines, but also its benefits to patients.
Working as a medical sales representative requires travel to sell the product. Public speaking skills, a license in nursing, and specialized training in pharmaceuticals also are necessary. You may need to take continuing education to keep up with changes in the industry.
A traditional job as a nurse means working in competition with a large pool of other nurses; whereas, as a nurse administrator, you perform administrative duties. As a manager in a medical facility, you will create schedules for nurses in the facility, develop work policies, handle performance reviews, and resolve disputes.
A nurse administrator must stay current with the complex legal standards that govern compliance and ethics. To perform effectively in this position, you must be highly organized and detail oriented. Typically, a nurse administrator needs a master’s degree or postgraduate work as well as licensure in the state of residence. You may work in a variety of medical facilities, ranging from hospitals to long-term care facilities and nursing homes.
Working in forensics nursing is an interesting career. A forensic nurse steps in after a crime has been committed, but the specific area of specialization impacts the nature of the work. Those who specialize in death investigations may work with a medical examiner or as a coroner. Forensic nurses gather evidence after a death to determine the cause of death and collect any evidence on the body. Additionally, these nurses interact directly with the family members of a deceased individual. In other cases, you may work with victims of a crime and collect evidence from their body. For example, you may gather evidence of a crime after a rape or sexual assault has been committed and treat the victim of the crime.
A forensic nurse often works to help solve crimes. They also may find work within a prison or correctional facility, creating a plan of care. The exact nature of the work varies, depending upon the job. In most cases, requirements include an undergraduate degree in nursing, a license to practice in the state of residence, and specialized training and certification in forensic nursing. The sub-specialization area affects certification. Forensic nurses find employment with law enforcement on the local, state, or federal level.
Case Management Nurse
A case management nurse works in a specialized position that combines nursing with social work. Roughly 16 percent of registered nurses work in case management, so career opportunities are available. In this career, you will employ your nursing skills with those required of a social worker. Case management nurses develop and implement personalized care plans for high-risk individuals or families and evaluate the effectivity of those plans during the course of treatment.
As a case management nurse, you will serve as a patient advocate, acting as a middleman between patients and health care providers. This career requires a degree in nursing and licensure in the state of residence. The minimum qualifications are an associate’s degree and a nursing license. The job allows you to work in a variety of settings, ranging from a traditional medical facility to a nursing home, home health agency, or even a health insurance company.
A nursing degree does not automatically mean you must follow a traditional path, and a hospital or doctor’s office is not the only place to find employment. You can work in a variety of different environments to develop your skills and build your resume. The key is getting out of your comfort zone and looking into alternatives that provide a chance to use your degree and enjoy an interesting career ‒ all while serving others.