The Nurses Lounge

Time for a Change: Alternatives to Bedside Nursing and How to Get There

It’s 7pm and you’ve just clocked out thinking, “I can’t do this anymore.” During your shift, you’ve had no less than five patients at a time due to inadequate staffing, multiple admissions, and complicated discharges. You’ve been spat on, pooped on, and the lady in room 12 just will not cooperate with any of the treatment plans. You didn’t get to eat lunch, your stat labs have not been drawn yet, and you may just have a UTI from the one liter of coffee and Red Bull that’s been sitting in your bladder for the past thirteen hours.

Sound familiar? Days like these come around often in many patient care environments, leaving some nurses feeling overwhelmed and exhausted both mentally and physically. While for some, an adrenaline rush of a busy shift can be somewhat exciting, over time, reoccurring stressful days can take a huge toll on someone’s ability to achieve fulfillment at work. This can cause nurses to leave their organization or even the nursing career all together. Think of it as a wooden deck that’s been worn out from constant use, sun damage, and weather beatings. Over time, the wood becomes discolored, warped, and eventually unsafe without adequate support and/or renovations.

Thankfully, there are several specialty areas and environments for nurses to thrive in other than the bedside (e.g., acute care, long-term care, ambulatory, etc.). While bedside nursing may still be deemed extremely valuable in obtaining clinical skills, or even a lifelong career for some, it does not have to be the finish line for every nurse. Therefore, I wanted to highlight a few nursing areas to consider transitioning to before you burn out and give up on such a diverse career as nursing.

While most organizations require at least an Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN), NCLEX certification, active licensing by their state, and multiple years of clinical experience to practice within these specialties, some states also require additional courses within that specialty up to a PhD before you are eligible to apply. Therefore, check with that organization for their requirements before you jump ship blind-folded!

School Nurse

There are some nurses who are passionate about providing care to young adults or children, but don’t necessarily want to work in a standard clinical setting. School nurses most times work within a public, private, or charter school/college, while administering first-aid, medication regimens for youth with acute or chronic illnesses, and wellness programs. The good thing about this role is that you can have summers off like the teachers– unless you choose to get a second job or work a summer program during breaks.

Nurse Informatics

Are you tech savvy? Do you have a knack for showing others how to navigate the electronic medical records (EMR) systems? Do you often help discover best ways to document nursing practices and policies? Then nursing informatics may be for you! These nurses are usually on the front line when it comes to training and integrating computer systems and processes. You may see them on your first week at an organization during orientation or you may know them as “super users” when you need help searching for the tab to chart drainage outputs. These nurses are exceptional in modernizing the nursing field and bridging the gap between technology and healthcare.

Nurse Administration

Nursing administration can include a multitude of roles including management, executives, and educators. Each level or subgroup in nursing administration within a hospital, school, or other healthcare settings play a different role, with different motives. Nursing executives normally try to do what’s best for the nurses within that organization, as well as the organization itself. This includes budgeting and clinical processes and policies. Nurse management are similar, except maybe in a smaller role within one department or facility. Bedside nurses should be working with their management often to establish and maintain unit/department committees, quality measures, staffing, and job satisfaction standards. Educators can practice in several environments including schools/universities, acute care, public health, and solely online. Your audience can be virtually anyone young or old, whether they are a nurse or not. Educators work to promote wellness, clinical skills, and patient education for chronic illnesses and community resources.

Occupational Health Nurse

Occupational health nurses work to assess and treat the health and wellness of the employees within an organization. They work in various public or private companies, including government agencies, industrial sites, hospitals, and cooperate sectors. These nurses promote and maintain wellness programs, surveillance, vaccinations, case management, workers compensation and safety, and infection prevention. Occupational health and safety nurses are essential to organizations wishing to maintain a healthy workforce for the sake of the employees and the good of the organization.

Other Nurse Occupations

There are several other nursing careers to choose from other than standard bedside nursing. Forensic nursing is a smaller, yet impactful career. Forensic nurses normally work alongside law enforcement to help investigate criminal cases. Flight nurses work in high intensity environments to help transport critical patients to trauma appropriate facilities. These nurses often have a years of experience in critical care and/or military. The nurse consultant is a versatile title. Nurse consultants are usually contractors, functioning as their own business, but some may also be actual employees of public or private organizations. Many consultants are entrepreneurs who consult multiple organizations at once on the nursing practice, giving them more control over their income and practices.

While all of the careers listed above are within the nursing field, each one involves different qualifications, education, work schedules, and even compensation. While their isn’t much data on the compensation of each nursing specialty on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website, the mean salary for a Registered Nurse in the U.S. is $77,460. Depending on your passions, you can choose which field is right for you and cultivate a fulfilling career.

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