Ask a Nurse: What Jobs Can Nurses With Physical Disabilities Get?
In our Ask a Nurse series, experienced nurses provide an insider look at the nursing profession by answering your questions about nursing careers, degrees, and resources.
Question: What types of jobs can nurses with physical disabilities get?
Answer: Are you a nurse or want to become a nurse and have physical limitations? You aren't the only one! Job prospects are looking strong for all nurses, including nurses with physical disabilities:
26% of all adults in the U.S. have some disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There could be upwards of 800,000 disabled registered nurses that may need job accommodations.
There are many types of physical disabilities. Many nurses with physical disabilities become disabled or develop chronic health conditions after receiving their license, and adjusting can be challenging. Learning new skills and using new equipment is the first step, but finding employment with a disability can seem intimidating.
One of the great things about nursing is that you have options, and likely more options than you realize!
There are many ways to find support as a nurse with disabilities, including knowing your rights, joining professional nursing organizations, and understanding the importance of workplace inclusion.
You Have Several Job Options if You're A Nurse With a Disability
It is important to remember that employers are interested in your nursing experience and knowledge rather than your physical abilities. Several nursing jobs may fit your needs depending on your physical strength and capabilities.
For instance, telehealth and telemedicine have been a part of medicine since 1879, but the evolution of home care received a boost in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. Video visits and telemedicine were suddenly expanded, which increased the number of doctors and nurses needed to fill these roles.
Telehealth nursing may seem like an obvious choice, but there are other jobs that might meet your skill set, especially in the nonclinical arena. Check out 15 nursing job options below.
1. Remote Monitoring in the Intensive Care Unit or General Health
One virtual intensive care unit (ICU) can successfully monitor several locations to help improve patient outcomes. These RNs are called eICU nurses and serve a diverse critically ill adult population from a remote location.
In this position, you rely on your clinical experience and technology in real time. Depending on the company, you often have two-way audio and visual communication to alert the bedside ICU team when immediate help is needed.
You are required to be licensed in your state with current Basic Life Support and American Heart Association Advanced Course in Life Support Certifications. Most companies prefer nurses with three years of critical care experience and a Critical Care Registered Nurse Certification.
2. Remote Cardiac Monitoring
Patients who have a device implanted to manage their heart rhythm, like a pacemaker, need to have that rhythm monitored. These devices can gather and share vital information when they sync with a transmitter.
Nurses with cardiac experience and certifications, such as a Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, monitor incoming signals from the devices, evaluate the rhythm, and report any unusual activity.
3. Nurse Researcher
Nurse researchers identify and help solve research questions to improve care through clinical trials or case studies. Many nurse researchers are teachers in an academic or clinical setting. As a nurse researcher, you can partner with other medical professionals, such as physicians, pharmacists, nutritionists, and public health experts, to address complex challenges in healthcare.
You can begin your career as a research assistant or clinical data coordinator. Nurse researchers often have their doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing but may begin their career with a master's.
4. Health or Wellness Coach
Nurses are in a unique position to take advantage of their medical expertise. Your medical knowledge, training in research, and ability to apply research means you have the skills to become a nurse health or wellness coach.
You can consult with clinics and doctors' offices to help patients achieve their health goals. To work as a wellness coach with a holistic approach, additional education and certification from holistic healthcare schools may be necessary. Other options include fitness coach, telehealth consulting, and medical career coach.
5. Discharge Planners
Hospitals sometimes need to discharge patients before they can fully care for themselves. Nurse discharge planners ensure a patient's release into a safe environment that meets their needs.
You must be able to balance the needs of a dozen or more patients each day and find the right level of care close to where they live. The minimum education requirement is a bachelor's degree in social work or nursing. However, some hospitals give preference to those with a master's degree.
6. Employee Health Nurse
Employers hire employee health nurses to help reduce their insurance costs. Educating employees about health and safety can increase productivity and lower worker's compensation.
You would do pre-employment screenings, immunizations, injury and health assessments, and health and safety training. You might also have management responsibilities. Entry-level positions require a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and a license in the state where you practice.
7. Infection Control Nurse
Infection control nurses help to identify, prevent, and control infectious diseases in a healthcare setting. They may also be involved in research, policy development, and project management.
To become an infection control nurse, you must have a BSN degree and work for at least two years in infection control before taking the certification examination. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology offers certification in infection prevention and control. Infection control nurses can practice in hospitals, home care, public health, hospices, and behavioral health.
8. Utilization Review Nurse
The goal of utilization review is to manage hospital costs while maintaining appropriate care and positive patient outcomes. Utilization review (UR) nurses play a vital role in the authorization of care. They collaborate with other healthcare professionals and with insurance companies.
If you would like to work in UR, you must have a BSN and several years of acute care hospital experience. You may want to consider certification through the American Board of Quality Assurance and Utilization Review Physicians.
9. Hospital Case Manager
Hospital RN case managers help patients navigate the healthcare system. Your role may include handling discharge planning and utilization review for specific cases. You would also collaborate with physicians, nurses, medical staff, and social workers to gather information for insurance companies, develop a discharge and rehabilitation plan, and negotiate patients' benefits, such as for a drug prescription or procedure.
Hospitals prefer nurses with a BSN and several years of acute care experience. It would be best if you also were licensed to practice in your state. Consider earning a certification as a certified case manager or accredited case manager to improve your employment potential.
10. Insurance Companies
Nurses play an important role in the insurance industry. Some work as analysts to help design benefit packages. Others may work as case managers to help reduce costs while ensuring appropriate care. Nurses may also work with a specific population for disease management to help lower hospitalization, giving advice and health coaching over the phone.
Finally, nurses who work for insurance companies may also provide physical examinations for life insurance policies. Insurance companies often want a nurse with a BSN and several years of acute care experience.
11. Legal Nurse Consultant
Legal nurse consultants work with attorneys to provide medical consultation and expertise in medical practice lawsuits. They help bridge the gap between legal practice and healthcare. You may work as an independent consultant, with an insurance company, or in a legal firm. In this role, you analyze medical records, interview clients, review medical literature, and provide testimony in court.
An entry-level position may accept an associate degree in nursing (ADN). Still, most employers are seeking nurses with an accredited BSN with several years of acute care experience and strong critical thinking skills in nursing. Most certification programs are offered online and are between 1-6 months long.
12. Pharmaceutical Medical Information Specialist
You can use your skills to document adverse effects from drugs for pharmaceutical companies. Medical information specialists are important for quality control. They gather information and complaints over the phone from clients using pharmaceutical products. They can also play a leadership role in developing and presenting medical information.
Nurses may also participate in the creation of scientifically balanced content for patients and healthcare professionals. Employers are seeking RNs with a BSN who have several years of work-related experience in drug information. Often the role specializes in one therapeutic area for the company.
13. Health Writer
Your education and expertise, as well as your ability to relate research studies for the general public, means you are an asset as a nurse writer or nurse freelancer. You can find work writing for product packaging and marketing brochures for pharmaceutical companies, You can also write for medical textbooks, healthcare websites, research grants, and patient handbooks.
Nurses can enter this field with an ADN and several years of clinical experience. It is also helpful to have strong critical thinking and organizational skills.
14. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse
Psychiatric nurse practitioners work in many settings, including inpatient and outpatient areas. You assess, diagnose, and treat individuals with mental health and substance use disorders. You can counsel individuals and families using a wide range of nursing and psychosocial expertise and promote well-being through prevention and education.
To practice as a psychiatric mental health nurse, you need a master's degree and certification in psychiatric nursing. To earn certification, you need an active RN license, two years of acute care experience, 2,000 hours of clinical psychiatric nursing practice, and 30 hours of continuing education for nurses.
15. Online Health Educator
Health and nurse educators teach their clients about lifestyle changes that can help them meet their health goals. Health educators can work with communities, groups, or individuals. They assess the needs of the population and then create and carry out educational programs. Nurses in this role are exemplary role models for those with and without physical limitations.
Online nursing programs blossomed in 2020. As an online health educator, you may work for agencies or community nonprofits. You can also develop your own business. You need at least a BSN with 25 credits focused on health education. Although certification is not mandatory, passing the Certified Health Education Specialist Exam may open more opportunities.
- If you have physical limitations and are pursuing a career in nursing, there are job opportunities for you that can use your knowledge and expertise.
- Learn about the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act and its protections for students and employees. Take advantage of organizations created to support nurses with physical limitations, such as the National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities and Job Accommodation Network.
- It is important to remember that employers are interested in your experience and knowledge for many nursing positions rather than your physical abilities.
Gayle Morris, RN, BSN, MSN
NurseJournal Staff Writer
Gayle Morris practiced in pediatric medicine for over 20 years before hanging up her stethoscope and picking up a pen. She has been a full-time health and wellness freelance writer for over 10 years. Morris is a mom to four children. She is renovating her home on the weekends. When she has free time, you'll find her reading, playing with her dog, or enjoying long bike rides.
You might be interested in
Nursing Scholarships for Students Living With Disabilities
Developmental Disability Nurse Career Overview
How to Become a Developmental Disability Nurse
NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?
Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.