Ask a Nurse: What Can I Do as a Nurse Aside From Bedside?
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: I'm feeling burnt out and am looking for a lower-stress nursing job. What else can I do aside from bedside nursing?
I know exactly how you feel! Bedside nursing is stressful, and during the pandemic, the stress is even higher. Many nurses are searching for nonbedside jobs or nonhospital jobs that may be less stressful and give them a better work/life balance.
You have several skills from your nursing education that can transfer smoothly to another job. For example, you are adept at critical thinking, communication, and organization. There are several nonbedside jobs where you can continue to use your skills in a less stressful environment.
13 Job Options for Nurses Other Than Bedside Nursing
You may have thought of some of the following options already, and some may be new. One strong benefit to nursing is the flexibility in the range of job opportunities, allowing you to move into other industries easily.
These alternative careers and average salaries are suggestions to consider or use as inspiration to develop your own niche market.
1. Dialysis Nurse – $75,790
If you are seeking a lower stress nursing opportunity where you work directly with ill patients, this may be what you've been looking for. In an outpatient setting, dialysis nurses work 9-5, Monday through Friday or Saturday.
Dialysis nurses are specialized nephrology nurses who care for patients receiving hemodialysis. The nurse is responsible for monitoring the patient through their treatment and educating patients, families, and home caregivers. A dialysis nurse will collect blood work as needed and follow up with the patients after they are home.
Dialysis nurses hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and a registered nurse (RN) license at minimum. Many employers also want certified dialysis nurses or certified nephrology nurses. Dialysis nurses may work in a hospital or dialysis clinic to help develop treatment plans and manage the dialysis procedure.
2. Nurse Case Manager – $74,710
Nurse case managers have an administrative role with consistent hours and better control over their schedule and time allocation. Case managers are sometimes called care coordinators.
They specialize in collaborating with a multidisciplinary team, which ensures a patient receives quality medical care. Case managers are also patient advocates and work alongside other healthcare professionals to coordinate care and serve as a resource for patients and their families.
Generally, employers want a BSN-prepared RN for the role. Many who wish to specialize go on to get a master's degree. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers a nursing case management certification.
A nurse must hold an active RN license and have two years of full-time practice to be eligible for certification. They must also complete at least 2,000 clinical hours and 30 hours of continuing education for nurses within three years before testing.
3. Nurse Educator – $78,070As a nurse educator, you are steeped in an academic setting, with a consistent schedule outside of the hospital setting. Nurse educators shape the future of patient care and nursing. You teach a wide range of courses to future nurses in the role. This is a common career change for nurses who are seeking a path to use their skills and education while moving into a nonbedside job. There is a shortage of nursing faculty across the country that has limited the number of nursing students that programs can admit. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, schools turned away 80,407 qualified applicants in 2019 due to constraints, including a lack of nurse educators. A career as a nurse educator generally requires an advanced degree. Nursing programs may choose to accept master's-prepared faculty, but acceptance is more likely when the candidate commits to working toward a doctoral degree. Nurses must have significant clinical experience and earn a certification for nurse educators.
4. Occupational Health Nurse – $74,520
Occupational health nurses focus on health promotion and restoration. They have the advantage of usually working weekdays during business hours with complete control over their schedule.
Occupational health nurses collaborate with employers to prevent illness and injury and protect the workforce from environmental hazards. They may work in a variety of settings, including manufacturing plants, hospitals, government agencies, and the military.
Their job duties include:
- Case management
- Health promotion
- Risk reduction
- Crisis intervention
- Workplace hazard detection
Most employers seek BSN-prepared nurses with an active RN license and at least two years of nursing experience. Certification demonstrates your ongoing commitment to professional development. It can also help advance your career.
5. School Nurse – $48,530
School nurses specialize in the care and protection of children and young adults. They have the advantage of working a school schedule, which allows them to be home during school breaks with their family.
The goal of the school nurse is to promote the health and well-being of students and provide basic services throughout the school day. While school nurses may work in various settings, they are primarily employed in school settings. They may work in public or private schools, universities, and health departments.
The National Association of School Nurses recommends hiring a BSN-prepared nurse. Those with an associate degree in nursing may also be eligible. Some states also require certification. This is offered through the National Board for Certification of School Nurses.
6. Legal Nurse Consultant – $80,430
Legal nurse consultants may work in a law firm or remotely, determine their hours, and have inconsistent patient contact. Law firms employ legal nurse consultants to review documentation, advise the legal team on the evidence, and provide expert witness testimony.
Legal nurse consultants may also be hired by the prosecution, forensic departments, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and government agencies. They help make decisions about long-term healthcare needs and costs. They may be asked to conduct patient interviews and research medical literature and statutes.
Employers are seeking BSN-prepared nurses with several years of bedside nursing experience. Most also prefer that you have completed a legal nurse consultant education program. At completion, you are eligible for certification. This is offered through the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants.
You may complete a program in person or online. You are eligible for the certification when you have an active and unrestricted RN license. A minimum of five years experience as an RN and evidence of 2,000 hours of legal nurse consulting experience in the past five years is also required.
7. Nutritionist Nurse – $48,930
Nutritionist nurses coach patients usually outside a hospital setting and make their hours lower-stress jobs. Nurses who have an interest in nutrition and food may consider pursuing a path as a nutritionist.
These nurses advise clients on healthy eating habits to help alleviate or prevent disease and illness. They help their clients develop healthy goals using a personalized plan. They rely on a range of skills, many of which you develop in your nursing education.
Nutritionists also work in different types of environments. This includes consulting with other healthcare professionals. As a nutritionist, you may work in schools, clinics, nursing homes, or businesses. You could also develop a private practice.
Employers require a BSN-prepared nurse with several years of experience. You may then choose between two certification examinations. The National Board of Nutrition Support Certification requires nurses to have an active license, complete the application, and pay the required fee.
Certification is also offered through the American Association of Nutritional Consultants. The candidate receives a booklist on which the examination is based. Certification is given after the candidate pays $400 and completes a series of tests.
8. Nurse Researcher – $72,700
Nurse researchers work in a more academic and science-oriented environment, which offers the advantage of less stress while still being challenging and using your skillset. They typically are involved with the design and implementation of scientific studies.
The role may address issues related to nursing, medicine, engineering, pharmacy, or nutrition. The nurse researcher may also find appropriate subjects and oversee the placebo or intervention arm of the study.
Nurse researchers may work in hospitals, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, research organizations, or universities. To practice as a nurse researcher, you must be at least a master's-prepared nurse with an active and unrestricted license.
To be eligible for the certification examination, you must have clinical experience as an RN. You may be certified through the Society for Clinical Research Associates or the Association of Clinical Research Professionals.
9. Nurse Esthetician – $50,420
An esthetician may also be called a cosmetic nurse or aesthetic nurse. They set their hours and focus on providing services that make people feel better about themselves.
These health professionals provide a variety of services in the cosmetic industry, including Botox injections, dermal fillers, photo facials, and microneedling procedures. These nurses often work in private offices or medical spas.
Esthetic nurses must have at least two years of experience in bedside nursing. They must also have at least two years working with a board-certified physician on core competencies. Employers are seeking a BSN-prepared nurse with an active RN license. They also prefer nurses who are certified aesthetic nurse specialists. The Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board offers this certification.
10. Nurse Health Coach – $48,650
Nurse health coaches excel at developing one-on-one relationships with their clients. The role offers the opportunity to spend time with the client while providing support and education.
Their primary role is to educate their clients on the importance of health and wellness. They help develop personalized plans to help their clients achieve their goals, including physical, social, psychological, economic, academic, and professional goals. A health coach may work with clients recovering from a heart attack, have diabetes or want to stop smoking.
Nurse health coaches are BSN-prepared nurses who have pursued a certification. The International Nurse Coach Association offers certification. You may also purchase contact hours required to renew your certification. The American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation offers two certifications and the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching offers a board-certified health and wellness coach credential.
11. Nursing Informatics – 83,000
Nursing informatics is the practice of identifying, defining, managing, and communicating data. This option is an excellent opportunity for nurses who enjoy using and applying technology and information to improve patient care.
Several technologies have evolved from the practice, including computerized provider order entry and electronic medical records. The information resulting from data collection and analysis has led to better patient care and safety.
At a minimum, employers seek BSN-prepared nurses and often prefer an advanced-practice degree. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers board certification in nursing informatics. To be eligible, a nurse must hold a BSN, practice full time for at least two years, complete 30 continuing education hours in nursing informatics within three years before certification, and meet practice hour requirements.
12. Public Health Nurse – $61,070
Public health nursing is a nonbedside and nonhospital job that still uses your nursing education and skills. The career has the distinct advantage of being in control of your schedule and using your skills to evaluate a situation, plan an intervention, and teach skills to your clients.
Nurses provide health and preventive services, education in the community, and carry out health programs that inform a community about specific health conditions, diseases, and treatments. Public health nurses may work in schools, nonprofit agencies, government agencies, hospitals, and patients' homes.
Many employers seek master's-prepared nurses who hold an active RN license. Although not required, nurses can improve their employment and salary potential by holding a dual master's in nursing and master of public health degree.
Nurses may also be certified through the National Board of Public Health Examiners. The ANCC has retired the advanced public health nursing certification and the public/community health clinical nurse specialist certification. They are up for renewal only.
13. Telemetry or Remote Monitoring Nurse – $63,080
A telemetry or remote monitoring nurse is a unique opportunity for detail-oriented nurses who can react quickly when a patient's status deteriorates. Yet, it is less stressful than bedside nursing.
A telemetry nurse monitors vital signs in situations where the information is collected and displayed in a central location. In the hospital, telemetry units keep patients under constant electronic monitoring.
Patients may have experienced a heart attack or stroke and need close observation in the initial days as they recover. Nurses are specially trained to use technological devices that monitor oxygen saturation, blood pressure, heart rhythm, and respiration.
Telemetry nursing is a nonbedside job. Hospitals often employ nurses to provide critical care in a fast-paced work environment. Telemetry nurses may also work in remote monitoring stations, analyzing information from patients at home.
Employers are seeking BSN-prepared nurses who have had additional training and certification. These can include critical care nursing or adult progressive care nursing certification.
- Many nurses are seeking less stressful nonbedside jobs to lessen the potential for burnout and improve their work/life balance.
- Nursing skills and education are highly sought after in several nonhospital jobs, including critical thinking, communication, and organization.
- The flexibility in the range of opportunities allows nurses to easily move into alternative careers.
- There is a range of salaries in alternative careers from $48,000 to $83,000.
- Some alternative options to consider include nursing informatics, telemetry, health coach, researcher, nutritionist, and legal consultant.
Average salaries sourced from Payscale, January 2022
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