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11 Great Nursing Careers in a Patient Care Setting

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Updated June 21, 2022

There are many great opportunities for patient-focused nursing care that are unique and not often considered by new graduates.
11 Great Nursing Careers in a Patient Care Setting

Not all patient-facing nursing roles are at the bedside on a medical-surgical unit. While this is an excellent place to get your first two years of experience after graduating, there are over 100 other nursing specialties nurses can work.

Yet, in each case, successful nurses working in a patient-focused position must use some of the same key skills. Nurses may learn the foundation of these skills in their nursing program and continue to gain experience and hone them as they move into the field.

Many of these skills are also transferable, increasing the nurses' value in the marketplace should they ever want to move out of the patient care setting. Some of the key skills that help nurses to thrive in any patient care setting include:

  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution and diplomacy
  • Mental stamina
  • Compassion and empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Teamwork
  • Attention to detail
  • Time management
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Collaboration
  • Leadership
  • Work ethic
  • Ethics
  • Professionalism
  • Commitment to learning
  • Decision-making

As you consider the type of patient-focused care setting you may want to pursue, consider the following unique opportunities for registered nurses.

1. Home Health

Nurses who work in home health thrive in an independent setting. They do bedside nursing in a patient's home, providing one-on-one care for ill or patients living with disabilities. Patients may be recovering from an illness, a surgery, or an accident.

Nurses who enjoy building long-term relationships with their patients and working in a patient-focused role in a nonclinical setting may find this position fulfilling.

  • Skills

    Without added support in the home, home health nurses must be adept at assessment, planning, and intervention. They need to communicate well with their patients and have strong diplomacy skills as they often work in the home with the patient and their families.

  • Salary

    Average annual salary is $65,700. (April 2022/Payscale)

2. Travel Nursing

Travel nursing offers you the opportunity to take your skills and work nearly anywhere in the world. Nurses are well compensated for the inconvenience of traveling and working away from home for months at a time. They fill short-term vacant positions in hospitals and clinics where there is a shortage of nurses.

  • Skills

    Travel nurses must be highly flexible and adaptable, with great mental stamina. Filling a short-term position in a hospital also requires diplomacy and a willingness to learn new processes and procedures.

  • Salary

    Average annual salary is $84,000. (April 2022/Payscale)

3. Wound Care

Wound care nurses may work in hospitals, clinics, or long-term care settings. They are responsible for collaborating with wound care specialists to assess and plan treatment for chronic wounds. Roughly 6.5 million people in the U.S. have chronic wounds, and more than $25 billion is spent on treating complications.

  • Skills

    Wound care nurses must maintain specialty certifications and stay up-to-date on the most current wound care treatments. They must have compassion and empathy. They should also be strong communicators to teach their patients lifestyle changes that affect wound healing.

  • Salary

    Average annual salary is $74,370. (April 2022/Payscale)

4. Lactation Consultant

Lactation consultants help new mothers learn how to chestfeed their newborns. In addition to bedside nursing in a hospital or birthing center, they may also see new mothers as outpatients to offer support and suggestions. This can help increase the time infants are chestfed.

  • Skills

    Nurses spend many hours teaching and supporting new mothers. They must have strong communication skills, compassion, and a desire to collaborate with the new mother to find the best strategies for the mother's situation.

  • Salary

    Average annual salary is $57,950. (April 2022/Payscale)

5. Dialysis

Dialysis takes over the responsibility of the kidneys, removing harmful waste products in the blood in those who have kidney failure. The role is part of a larger specialty known as nephrology nursing. Nurses administer peritoneal or hemodialysis, often in a free-standing dialysis clinic or center.

  • Skills

    Dialysis nurses spend many hours teaching their patients about their condition and helping them to make lifestyle changes to improve their health. These nurses must have strong communication and collaboration skills to work with patients and their families. Dialysis requires attention to detail and assessment skills.

  • Salary

    Average annual salary is $76,540. (April 2022/Payscale)

6. Emergency Room or Intensive Care Unit Nurse

Nurses working in critical care areas, such as the intensive care unit (ICU) or emergency room (ER), must be ready for changes in their patient's condition from minute to minute. Nurses in the ER cannot predict the types of patients seeking care during their shifts. These nurses may encounter life-or-death situations several times each week.

  • Skills

    Nurses in these patient-focused care settings must be strong and efficient communicators, critical thinkers, and independent workers with a strong team ethic. The healthcare team relies on their assessment skills and ability to communicate patient status changes quickly.

    These nurses must thrive in a fast-paced environment.

  • Salary

    Average annual salary is $72,860 for an ER nurse and $72,106 for an ICU nurse. (April 2022/Payscale)

7. Labor and Delivery

Labor and delivery nurses spend hours with patients in labor. Nurses must be able to comfort a patient whose child was born with defects, or even died, and immediately walk next door to celebrate with another patient who is bringing their newborn home.

Bedside nurses in labor and delivery spend long hours with patients who are in pain, teach new mothers or guardians how to care for their infants, and must be knowledgeable in chestfeeding and newborn care.

  • Skills

    Nurses in labor and delivery must be compassionate, empathetic, strong communicators, and have efficient time management skills. They must be patient, flexible, and ready to adapt to rapidly changing situations.

  • Salary

    Average annual salary is $68,970. (April 2022/Payscale)

8. Pain Management

Pain management nurses work together with a patient's healthcare team to develop strategies that address chronic pain issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 20.4% of U.S. adults experienced chronic pain in 2016. Pain reduces the quality of life and productivity. It can also contribute to depression and anxiety.

Nurses educate patients on treatments, alternative remedies, and lifestyle changes that can impact pain management.

  • Skills

    Pain management nurses must be strong communicators and teachers, able to collaborate with the pain management team, and have effective conflict resolution skills as patients in pain can be frustrated and combative.

  • Salary

    Average annual salary is $82,750. (April 2022/U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for all RNs)

9. Complementary Health Nursing

These nurses are also called holistic nurses and can provide or recommend alternative forms of treatment alongside traditional approaches to care. These treatments can include meditation, acupressure, acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and aromatherapy.

Complementary and alternative approaches are rooted in nursing history, and many come from traditional healing approaches.

  • Skills

    Nurses practicing complementary medicine must be strong communicators and teachers. They collaborate with their patients on developing treatment strategies and require critical thinking to evaluate the overall picture to have a greater impact on treatment.

  • Salary

    Average annual salary is $82,750. (April 2022/U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for all RNs)

10. Flight or Transport Nurse

Flight and transport nurses are a unique blend of nursing and emergency care. They work in medical aircraft of mobile transport units, away from bedside nursing, to provide emergency care to patients often being transported to Level III trauma centers. Flight and transport nurses specialize in working with some of the youngest patients to adults.

  • Skills

    During transport, nurses must use critical thinking skills, accurate and efficient communication, effective decision-making, and teamwork to work seamlessly with the transport team.

  • Salary

    Average annual salary is $73,470. (April 2022/Payscale)

11. Hospice or Palliative Nurse

Nurses in hospice or palliative care provide holistic treatments to patients with terminal conditions, often in their homes. The goal is to minimize pain and keep patients comfortable during their last days and weeks.

The career is attractive to nurses passionate about alleviating suffering from terminal disease and working closely with patients and their families.

  • Skills

    Hospice nurses must be compassionate, merciful, ethical, and focused on providing emotional support during a challenging time in a patient's and family's life.

  • Salary

    Average annual salary is $68,840. (April 2022/Payscale)

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