14 Alternative Careers for Nurses

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If traditional nursing is not for you, but you still want to help people in a medical setting, there are many options available to you. These alternative careers for nurses include both bedside and non-bedside nursing jobs that can be fulfilling and leave room for career growth.

two nurses in blue scrubs sitting and talking

Alternative careers for nurses include a position as a flight nurse, a forensic nurse, a public health nurse, a medical-surgical nurse and more. Alternative careers for registered nurses can include jobs both at and away from the bedside and generally require a BSN from an accredited institution, like Madonna University.

As demand in the field of nursing continues to rise, more and more opportunities are opening for registered nurses. What opportunities you choose to explore in your career is dependent on the educational pathway you pursue. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is becoming the preferred standard academic qualification in healthcare facilities. This advanced degree has several benefits, including job security and a variety in types of nursing, both in hospitals and beyond the bedside.

There are a few pathways toward earning your BSN. One path that is designed for career-changers who already have a non-nursing degree or a minimum of 60 credits is Madonna University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program in metro Detroit.

As stated previously, having a BSN degree offers many benefits. This includes career opportunities that may seem out-of-the-box both inside a hospital setting and beyond the bedside. If you’re interested in a specialized nursing position, check out these alternative careers for registered nurses.

BSN Career Options Inside a Hospital Setting

Madonna nursing student using stethoscope on patient

If you want to become a registered nurse and work in a hospital, there are still plenty of non-traditional roles you can fill if you’re looking for something a little different. Let’s look at a few alternative bedside nursing roles:

1. Medical-Surgical Nurse

According to the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses, the role is the single largest nursing specialty in the United States. As a medical-surgical nurse, you’ll work with patients admitted with nonsurgical (medical) and surgical conditions. You’ll provide pre- and post-operative teaching, assist physicians on the surgical floor of a hospital and care for patients in the recovery room.

You work with teams of other nurses and surgeons to offer best possible outcomes to all of your patients. Surgical settings are rigorous and fast-paced, so it’s crucial that you know how to juggle multiple priorities at once.

2. Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse

As a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse, you’ll work with premature and sick infants born with an array of conditions. These could be anything from congenital disabilities, infection, prematurity surgical problems and other body malformations. NICU nurses even get to participate in labor and delivery if the situation calls for it.

In addition to performing life-sustaining care, you’ll offer advice and support to parents, perform tests, document patient history, administer medication, and more.

3. Quality Improvement Coordinator

The primary goal of a quality improvement coordinator is to promote the improvement of hospital quality. In this registered nurse position, you’ll collaborate with hospitals directors and clinic medical directors to develop, maintain, and implement plans to achieve goals.

You’ll need to educate, train, and motivate nursing staff to not only conform to legal and hospital standards but also to provide exceptional care, too. This will ensure best outcome for patients and improve the workflow for hospital staff.

4. Pediatric Nurse

nurse talking to child patient

If you love kids, a career as a pediatric nurse could bring you a lot of joy. As a pediatric nurse, you’d treat children of all ages in the hospital or family care clinic. Pediatric nurses tend to injuries, chronic conditions, and other ailments that children may be facing. They provide support and education to families when needed.

Pediatric nursing can be more difficult than other specialties because children’s bodies are different than those of adults, so you must be knowledgeable. You also must have the right temperament to work with children and comfort them through the process.

5. Telemedicine Nurse

A telemedicine nurse uses their nursing skills via telecommunication methods such as video call, phone, etc. in order to reach patients over distance or situations where in-person interactions would not be practical.

With the rise in popularity of telehealth treatment, the need for telehealth nurses has risen as well. Telemedicine Nurses can work from a hospital or a non-hospital setting. There are also many remote options available to anyone interested in telehealth nursing.

Nurse speaking virtually to patient on tablet

Still wondering if telehealth nursing might be an option for you? Read more about telehealth nursing here.

6. Quality and Safety Nurse

Quality and safety are of the utmost importance in the field of nursing as they are a domain 5 competency. Many facilities have positions with individuals who focus solely on promoting quality and safety in the workplace, in interactions with patients and treatment.

This job requires evaluating treatment plans, and documenting patient care details. They work across departments to make sure that risk is minimized, and the highest quality care is provided. In this position, you will be collaborating with other nurses to help maintain high levels of care.

7. Nurse Health Coach / Nutrition & Fitness Coach

Nurse health coaches help their patients pursue a healthier lifestyle and or lifestyle goal. They create plans, both exercise and diet, to help their patients in their pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.

As a nurse health coach, you might also work with patients who have chronic health conditions form lifestyle habits that meet their unique needs. This role differs from that of a dietitian or nutritionist because you have more extensive medical knowledge and can help treat the patient’s body as a whole through nutrition and fitness.

nurse helping older patient with a stretch band

Non-Bedside Nursing Jobs

If you’d rather be a nurse that does not work directly at the bedside, there are many other options available that could meet your lifestyle preferences. These range from a career as a flight nurse, travel nurse, or forensic nurse. Let’s explore these and more non-bedside positions:

1. Flight Nurse

As a flight nurse, you’ll administer comprehensive critical care on helicopters and airplanes for patients of all kinds. Your main goal will be to ensure safety and comfort throughout the entire course of the flight, until landing.

You’ll care for patients in emergency situations, so it’s essential that you know how to make decisions quickly. This is a high stress job because you are exclusively dealing with life-and-death circumstances every day. If a high-paced, high-stakes job sounds exciting to you, work as a flight nurse may be a perfect fit.

2. Travel Nurse

If you are a registered nurse with one or more years of experience working in a hospital, you can consider applying to become a travel nurse. Travel nurses work with travel nursing agencies to find a location and position that they are interested in. This can mean helping to fill nursing shortages in hospitals, lending your specific specialization to a hospital in need, or just finding a great fit.

Travel nurses generally get a housing stipend and payment incentive, spending about 3-6 months in each location. If you like to travel and gain experience in a variety of different settings, travel nursing may be a great option.

Madonna ABSN student standing in hallway

If travel nursing sparks your interest, read more about life as a travel nurse and how to become one.

3. Public Health Nurse

According to the National Library of Medicine, public health nurses are the largest group of public health workers in the industry. As a public health nurse, you’ll provide critical healthcare services to specific communities. This role differs from traditional nursing since it is focused on illness prevention and health maintenance rather than treatments.

Drawing on your education as a registered nurse, you’ll relay reliable, useful information on how to lead a healthy lifestyle. Also, you’ll perform health screenings and administer medications within county health departments, city health departments, federal health organizations and mobile health care service units.

4. Forensic Nurse

Forensic nursing is a cross between a healthcare profession and a judicial system profession. As a forensic nurse, you’ll spend your days investigating sexual and physical assault crimes as well as accidental deaths.

These patients have experienced recent trauma and forensic nurses are often the first point of contact in finding justice for the abuse. You’ll get cases of domestic, elder and child abuse, so it’s vital that you show empathy toward the patients and families you encounter. You can expect to work in laboratories and law courts.

5. Nurse Educator

Nurse Educators are the ones that mentor and teach aspiring nurses in nursing schools. They act as professors and mentors in classes and simulation labs. Nurse educators also must have experience in a clinical setting to pass on real-life knowledge to students.

nurse speaking to classroom of other nurses

While this role requires additional certification and schooling, it is a rewarding profession. You will work to support students as they, themselves, journey to become a nurse. Many nursing schools and universities also offer research opportunities and cooperate with local hospitals.

6. Healthcare Administrator

Administrators are responsible for coordinating activities in a healthcare facility to create an efficient operational workflow. Duties include supervising administrative staff, managing records, optimizing budgets and even overseeing maintenance of equipment.

While this is a behind-the-scenes position, it is critical to the effective operation of the healthcare facility. Your role as a healthcare administrator will be to advocate for the workers and patients alike and balance the needs of everyone. As an added bonus, the current job outlook according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is 28%, which is much higher than most other careers.

7. Pharmaceutical Nurse

Pharmaceutical nurses are found in big pharmaceutical companies. They design and implement patient support programs as well as serve as pharmaceutical representatives – they market and sell new pharmaceutical products in different sectors of healthcare.

As a pharmaceutical nurse, you will also likely be involved in clinical trials. This may include overseeing that the trials are done properly, administering medications and more.

How Madonna’s ABSN Program Can Get You Started

nursing student working in simulation lab

Pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree provides you with an important investment for your future and opens the door to a variety of career paths, both at the bedside and beyond. Madonna University understands that and offers a high-quality accelerated BSN degree for career changers with at least 60 college credits from a regionally accredited college or university.

Madonna’s ABSN program combines online coursework, hands-on labs inside a state-of-the-art learning center and diverse clinical experience inside top area hospitals. Students can leverage their previous education and earn their BSN in as few as 16 months and enter their alternative careers for nurses sooner.

Does Madonna University’s ABSN program sound like a fit for you? Start on your future today! Contact a Madonna ABSN Admissions Representative today to find out more.