When many people think of a nurse, they most likely picture someone wearing scrubs and working directly with patients in settings such as hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices. But there are nursing careers that don’t focus on providing direct patient care, but still greatly impact the health outcomes of communities.
If you’re a brand new nurse, a few years of clinical experience can be great training ground in gaining valuable first-hand knowledge of the issues, challenges, and best practices that nurses can only learn in the field. But keep in mind that there are many rewarding careers outside of clinical settings.
Here are a few careers to consider to take your nursing career beyond the bedside.
Nurses in leadership roles perform a wide variety of duties and need many skills beyond providing patient care. Positions in nursing leadership include nurse manager, health care administrator, or care manager. These roles are more administrative and require strong leadership, financial and strategic planning skills.
Nurses working in leadership positions manage nurses, create budgets for their departments, and develop, plan, and implement programs and procedures for improved patient outcomes.
If working in a leadership role interests you, be sure to develop your leadership skills early. Get involved with nursing associations and seek out leadership roles whenever you can. And be sure to look for opportunities to mentor other nurses. If you’re still in school, look for leadership opportunities within your student nursing association.
If you’re serious about a career in nurse leadership, consider earning an MS in Nursing Leadership degree.
If you are interested in one day teaching the next generation of nurses, consider a career as a nurse educator.
Nurse educators teach nursing to college students and practicing nurses in academic and/or health care facilities.
Nurse educators develop curriculum and must have a high level of nursing experience and expertise. You will be required to hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing, be an RN, and complete a graduate-level nurse educator program to succeed in this specialty.
If you have a passion for advocating for legislative change, a career in health policy may be for you. Health policy nurses work on a variety of public health issues such as tobacco control or care for the aging.
According to DiscoverNursing.com, health policy nurses work to create an overall healthier society through advocacy, research, and analysis. They work in health service research firms, legislative offices, health care provider associations, or hold elective office.
In order to succeed in health policy, you’ll first need to obtain a master’s degree in nursing and complete a 10-week health policy program. You’ll also need strong leadership, communication, and analytical skills.
Gain experience by getting involved in nurse advocacy as a volunteer. The American Nurses Association is a great resource to get started in advocacy work.
Transitioning from direct patient care to nurse recruiting can be a fast-paced and exciting career for nurses who are interested in the human resources side of health care.
In a nutshell, nurse recruiters screen, interview, and recommend candidates for open positions in the health care industry. Recruiters also provide career guidance to candidates, negotiate job offers and stay up-to-date on the latest job search trends.
Nurse recruiters possess strong communication and sales skills. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in nursing, as well as a strong clinical background to gain entry into this field.
Thinking about career options beyond patient care can open up many opportunities for nurses and may just be the perfect fit for you.
With nursing shortages a pressing issue throughout pockets of the country, one branch of nursing could help remedy the solution, says Marcia Faller, PhD, RN, and chief clinical officer of AMN Healthcare. Travel nurses can fill short-term needs while organizations are able to assess, stabilize, and hire permanent nurses without compromising patient care during a staffing shortage.
Faller says travel nurses can help fill the gaps while providing high-quality, reliable care. She points to a study slated for summer publication in the peer-reviewed journal, Nurse Leader, that reveals that patient outcomes for travel nurses and staff nurses are no different. In fact, the study asserts, travel nurses might help ease the staffing burdens and contribute to less error and nurse burnout. Using data sources from Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) and National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators™ (NDNQI®), the study looked at a U.S. hospital to assess patient outcomes when using both core nurses and travel nurses.
According to Faller, most travel nurses work in temporary job assignments of three months at a time. After their rotation is done, they might stay for another three months, sign on for a permanent position, or move on to another assignment in a new location.
“It’s very appealing,” says Faller. It’s a quick and easy way to get a new job and gain both professional experience in a new area while also having the chance to travel. Some nurses want to shift their location for a life event—a child is getting married across the country or has a new baby, for instance. Or a nurse from a smaller community might want to gain experience in a larger academic center, Faller says. Maybe they have a list of places they want to see and travel nursing will help them do that while also working at a job they enjoy.
Travel nurses only account for two percent of all nurses, says Faller, but they offer both a distinct nursing career opportunity and a boon for organizations who need more nurses.
Different organizations find travel nurses help their staffing needs in varied ways, says Faller, and help keep the quality of care high. “Travel nurses give them the ability to fill vacancies where they are finding themselves short staffed,” Faller says.
Organizations can fill the positions while continuing to focus on recruiting. Travel nurses are also especially helpful when it comes to covering non-productive hours, says Faller. For instance, known times when nursing staff members are taking PTO, jury duty, has a leave of absence, or even needs educational time off are all good times for travel nurses to fill in. Travel nurses can also help offset overtime costs and hours. “Those have to get covered somehow,” says Faller, and helping ease up on too much staff overtime can also help offset nurse burnout and eventually retain nurses and keep turnover down.
If an organization is launching a new event, like electronic medical records, travel nurses can help cover staffing while regular staff is undergoing training.
And Faller notes that travel nurses are held to the same high standards as staff nurses. They need to have the same credentials as other nurses for whatever location they are going to, she says. And while approximately 25 states are part of the multi-state contract that allows nurses to use one license for many states, the rest of the states do require independent state licenses. Travel nurses also must pass background checks, drug screening, and any other requirements for hiring. And travel nurses are well-educated, she says, with 64 percent of travel nurses having a BSN or higher.
A nurse with a couple of travel experiences under his or her belt has some valuable skills, says Faller. These nurses are adaptive by nature, learning quickly how an operation is run and how to find what they need to do their jobs well.
As the demographics of the country continue to change and become increasingly diverse, travel nurses can help fill a gap and provide a service that many organizations need. Nurses who speak multiple languages or who fit with the cultural background of the patient population being served are especially valuable, says Faller. “There is a large demand for that cultural matching,” she says, noting that even a familiarity with a certain culture can help organizations align with their patient populations in a way that helps everyone.
Whether you are considering travel nursing for a career move or are an administrator assessing the best way to fill in the gaps, travel nursing is an option that’s both viable and valuable.
Many nurses consider entering into a public service or government position after graduation in hopes of qualifying for a student loan forgiveness program.
It sounds great, right? Work for 10 years in the public sector and your student loan balance will disappear. It does sound great, but recent news that the Department of Education (DOE) is calling the approval letters of the Public Service Loan Forgivness (PSLF) program “invalid” have many borrowers concerned.
Launched in 2007, the PSLF program agreed to forgive student loan debt for borrowers who worked for 10 years in qualifying public-sector jobs, made 120 timely loan payments, and submitted an annual employment certification form. Many professionals, including nurses, entered the program with hopes that their years of public service would result in their student loan debt being wiped out.
This fall, borrowers who entered the PSLF program in 2007 are scheduled to have their loans forgiven. But the DOE sent notices last year that many workers were no longer eligible and that previous letters of acceptance were no longer binding. The American Bar Association responded with a lawsuit against the DOE, and many of the nearly half a million borrowers in the program are left in confusion over the status of their loans.
PSLF isn’t the only student loan forgiveness program out there for nurses. If you are thinking about entering a loan forgiveness program, here are some important factors to consider.
Make Sure You Know the Rules
Many borrowers in the PSLF program are facing challenges with ensuring they are following the program’s guidelines over 10 years. For example, borrowers who received letters that their promise letters may be invalid thought they were in good standing with the program, were working for qualifying organizations, and were making income-based repayments based on the program’s guidelines.
It’s important to keep on top of any repayment programs you may enter and watch for changes in the requirements. However, this isn’t a sure-fire guarantee of repayment as the borrowers in the PSLF program are currently experiencing uncertainty.
Limited Earning Potential
Many of the borrowers currently in the PSLF program have worked for lower incomes in public service jobs for nearly 10 years, greatly limiting their earning potential. Before you enter a public service nursing position for the sole purpose of loan forgiveness, do the math to make sure it will actually pay off in the long run. For instance, if you could make a much higher salary and increase your repayments over 10 years, is it worth it to limit your salary/career prospects for a decade?
Be sure to evaluate the time commitment required in the program to ensure it’s not keeping you in debt longer than necessary.
It Could Slow Down Debt Reduction
Many nurses are able to repay student loans on their own by cutting expenses and avoiding lifestyle inflation. If you could get yourself out of student debt in a few years, why wait 10 years?
Research the Program’s Track Record
Despite the controversy surrounding the PSLF program, there are programs out there with good track records. It’s a good idea to look for programs with strong histories and examples of nurses who have had their loans paid off.
For example, programs like NURSE Corps, which awards scholarships and loan repayment to nurses, nursing students and nurse faculty, have long track records of student loan forgiveness.
NURSE Corps pays for 60% of unpaid nursing education debt over two years, with an option to extend to a third year for an additional 25% of the original balance. Program participants are required to “work for a minimum of two years in one of the thousands of Critical Shortage Facilities across the country, including hospitals, clinics, and other facilities experiencing a critical shortage of nurses.”
Since 2007, 8,321 nurses have successfully completed the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program.
In addition to the NURSE Corps program, the National Health Service Corps offers a loan repayment program that funds nursing awards to primary care nurses. Since its inception, 4,655 nurses have successfully completed the NHSC Loan Repayment Program.
Evaluate Your Career Goals and Passion
In conclusion, many nurses are passionate about working in the public sector and would happily choose to work for clinics and non-profits with strong missions to help underserved communities – whether it came with the promise of loan forgiveness or not.
But for others, it wouldn’t be a first choice and they should use caution when making career and financial decisions within a loan forgiveness program.
Student loan forgiveness programs can be complicated to understand and something that nurses should thoroughly research before committing to them.
If you decide to participate in a loan forgiveness program, be sure you are complying with the rules by evaluating your status on a regular basis and keeping up with the latest news about the program to make certain it’s still a viable repayment option.
So you’ve decided to search for a new job. Maybe you’re looking for higher pay, more advancement opportunities or a better work environment. There are many reasons why nurses desire to make a job switch.
The job search can often feel like a daunting task. You need to prepare your resume and cover letter, network in the field, and prep for interviews with potential employers.
While it’s important to spend time polishing your resume and practicing your interview skills, don’t skimp on an important part of any job search – company research.
Researching a potential employer means more than just reading their job post and employee benefits summary. Many jobs sound great on paper. But it’s wise to make sure the company is a good fit for your career goals and work style. The job post may sound like your dream job; however, it’s important to make sure the organization you’ll be working for is also your dream employer and an organization where you can grow your nursing career.
Another key benefit for researching a company is that it helps you prepare for job interviews. Many HR managers will ask candidates directly what they know about the organization and why they want to work there. Answering these questions with “I want to impact patient health outcomes” isn’t enough to impress a recruiter. You want to be armed with good company research so you aren’t thrown off by these questions.
Here are a few key areas to consider when researching potential employers.
The culture of an organization includes size, policies, atmosphere, brand, and goals. Start by exploring the company website and social media profiles. Does the company’s online presence feel conservative? Or does it feel innovative and fun? Some organizations have an HR section on their website where they post employee policy handbooks and benefits information. Read through these to get an idea of their attendance policy, time-off allowances, and fringe benefits. It can be difficult to assess the culture online, but it’s a great starting point.
You’ll want to ask questions about the organization’s management style during your interview. Find out who you will report to and ask them how they describe their management style. Does the manager talk in terms of helping nurses succeed and advance? Listen carefully to the manager’s answers, because this person may be your manager if you get the job.
You can find more than product reviews online these days. Employees are reviewing their employers on websites like Glassdoor.com.
Another great resource is LinkedIn. Use it to search for current and past employees and connect with them to get their feedback on what it’s like to work for the company you’re considering. It’s worth it to do some digging and get insight from actual employees. This is inside information you aren’t likely to get from the HR manager during your interview.
Avoid stalling your career growth by using LinkedIn to find out if the company likes to promote employees from within. Ask your contacts about advancement opportunities. Read profiles of current employees to see if they have held a series of advancing positions while working there. If you land an interview, ask for examples of employees who have been promoted from the position you’re interviewing for.
If you’re a new nurse with dreams of advancing your career and education, you’ll want to be in a culture that promotes its talent from within.
Also be sure to research the health of the company. If it’s a hospital, is it growing? Are they keeping up with cutting-edge technology and offering the best patient care in the area? These are signs that you can grow your career right along with the organization’s growth.
By making company research a key part of your job search strategy, you are more likely to land in a job that will be a great fit for years to come.
May 14 to 20 marks the American Health Care Association’s National Nursing Home Week to honor the many types of nursing care provided in these skilled nursing care facilities.
The 2017 theme, “The Spirit of America” highlights the bonds that bring together all the people in nursing homes—whether it’s staff, volunteers, families, wider community members, friends, or residents. Each person brings a different background, varied reasons for walking through the doors, and wide-ranging life experiences, but the community they form is like the American spirit so many of us treasure.
Since 1967, the AHCA has used National Nursing Home Association Week to celebrate these skilled nursing care facilities and the essential care they offer to elderly or disabled people. But, as anyone who has ever worked in or visited a nursing home facility knows, the care given here has a wide impact that expands to include the loved ones of residents and the larger community.
If you want to join in on celebrating this week or if you work in one of these facilities, check to see what’s being offered. If there are any events to honor the week in your local community or where you work, try to participate in some way.
If you can’t find anything going on, propose a way to mark the week by honoring the staff and visitors with flowers, food, or even a small reception where everyone can come together. With so many stories under one roof, there are bound to be common experiences to share and new stories and situations that everyone can learn about. And don’t forget the power of social media! Give a shout out on Twitter (#NNHW), Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram to let others know of the important work and caring that goes on in skilled nursing care facilities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of 2014, 1.4 million Americans lived in nursing home facilities. And with services ranging from long-term care to rehabilitative care to hospice care, the range of skills provided in these settings is extensive. Some people live in skilled nursing care facilities while others are only there for a short time to recover from illness or surgery. But all share in the same spirit of working closely and learning from each other.
According to the AHCA’s website, as “the nation’s largest association of long term and post-acute care providers, AHCA advocates for quality care and services for frail, elderly, and disabled Americans. Our members provide essential care to approximately one million individuals in over 13,400 not-for-profit and proprietary member facilities.”
If you work in a nursing home, celebrate all you and your colleagues do this week. And take the time to honor the residents and the people you care for. Sharing stories is often one of the best ways to learn about those around you.
If you have student loan debt as a recent nursing school graduate or if you’ve been in the field for years and have been paying the minimum payments on your loan, it’s a good idea to consider ramping up your payments.
You may have to sacrifice your lifestyle for a while to pay off your loans fast, but it will be worth it. Freeing up the monthly payment will allow you to use those funds for other goals such as saving up to start an advanced degree program or put you in a more stable financial position for large purchases such as buying a house.
Below are some practical steps you can take that will make a huge dent in your student loan.
Avoid Lifestyle Inflation
Once you graduate from nursing school and enter the repayment period on your loan, avoid lifestyle inflation. Instead, continue to live like you’re still in college. While it’s tempting to increase your lifestyle after you start making a full-time nursing income by getting a nicer home and new car, avoiding these lifestyle upgrades and instead focusing on paying off your loans will set you up for long-term financial success.
If you have been in the workforce a while, try cutting skimming the fat from your budget and redirecting those funds towards your loan repayment. Budget items for cable TV, cell phone plans, the latest tech gadget and eating out are all great categories to look at squeezing extra money from each month.
Nurses work in a field where there is often a shortage of qualified professionals to fill the needs of patients. If overtime is offered by your employer, take it with the goal of using the extra money to pay off your loans. If no overtime is available, consider taking a second job until your loan is paid off.
Paying off a student loan is often a longer-term goal, so it’s important to stay motivated and focused. Have a target date in mind for when you’ll pay off your loan and set some exciting life goals that you can begin working on after they’re paid. Try using an online debt calculator such as Unbury.me to create an optimized debt repayment plan to help minimize interest and keep you motivated throughout the process.
If you follow these tips, you will cut down the repayment period of your loan substantially. Just by delaying some lifestyle upgrades or cutting back your discretionary expenses for a few years, you’ll set yourself up for financial success for the rest of your career.