“Nurses,” Susan Reinhard at AARP said, “are the backbone of our healthcare system.”
Any way you swing it, she’s right. With nearly 3 million registered nurses in America alone, they constitute the largest portion of the healthcare workforce and can be found wherever there’s a doctor—and often in places where there’s not. Still, the illusion persists that nurses only work in hospitals, or maybe for a college’s health services department. It may be that many registered nurses find their first jobs in those traditional clinical setting, but the reality is that myriad alternative nursing careers exist, especially for nurses who have earned their BSN degree.
Even if you enjoy working as a clinical nurse, we’ve identified a few reasons you should at least consider earning your BSN to qualify for more alternative nursing jobs.
While some hospitals offer 8-hour day shifts, it’s very common to work three 12-hour shifts a week, or four 10s, or overnight, or some other hybrid schedule that can limit the amount of “normal” time you have to see friends and family. Many alternative nursing jobs, like visiting communities and schools as a public health nurse, allow you to work a more typical schedule. If you’re a working parent, or if you just crave evening hours to relax or meet up with friends, alternative nursing jobs can offer a more regular schedule. While three 12-hour shifts appeal to many nurses, if you’re coordinating with a baby sitter, or have other responsibilities that require your daily attention, normal working hours can alleviate a lot of stress.
Monster.com created a list of alternative nursing careers, listing the average and range of salaries for each position. The averages for quite a few of them, like a Nurse Manager’s $80,181 figure, are impressive, but the upper ranges can be a bigger incentive to leave the hospital behind. Of course, most of them require at least a BSN, since the positions expect these nurses to possess a breadth of knowledge and experience. Nurse educators, for example, coordinate continuing education programs and opportunities—and quite often teach themselves. This requires firm knowledge not just of nursing in general but specialties and unique approaches in particular. It, like many alternative nursing jobs, entails a lot of administrative duties, so having at least a few years of working as an RN under your belt is valuable.
One of the many draws of a nursing career is its potential for change and new experiences. Want to travel? Become a nurse. Want a change of pace without starting a new career? Become a nurse. Nursing is so ubiquitous you can even find positions in the fossil fuel industry. (Not many, but they’re there.) Alternative nursing jobs offer a change of pace to nurses who feel bored or worn out in their current roles. While most careers would require you to start at the bottom of another industry, with alternative nursing jobs you can find yourself in a radically different line of work without radical life changes.
Nursing is often a communal career, requiring you to work not just alongside other nurses, but doctors, orderlies, medical assistants, and the rest of a clinical staff. It’s enriching work for that very reason, but some personalities are naturally drawn toward more autonomy, and alternative nursing jobs can provide that outlet. This doesn’t mean you can be a recluse. Whether they’re seeing patients directly, managing a clinic, or educating the public, all nurses still work with people and should appreciate that aspect of their jobs. Alternative careers, though, can offer more opportunities to work independently, or at least more authority to lead, rather than be led.
If you’re interested in expanding your career choices as a nurse, learn more about earning your BSN degree.