If you are a registered nurse (RN) with some experience under your belt, you may be ready to make a job change in the new year. Some of the most interesting and rewarding role advancements in nursing are also some of the hottest specialty career choices in the health care field. Many of these roles will allow you to keep wearing your nurse stethoscope and favorite scrubs, while others will require that you trade them in for offices and business clothes. Check out each of the career choices on this list to discover which new role may be right for you.
1. Nurse Informaticist
The field of nursing informatics is one of the most interesting specialty careers for RNs. While it may take a few years for you to land your dream job, it will be worth it. Nurse informaticists are critical members of today’s hospital system and clinics. Job responsibilities for these analytical minds include analyzing and reporting about the critical data that will help to increase a hospital’s efficiency and enhance patient care. Some nurses are also asked to interpret data to help cut unnecessary costs in a medical facility.
To be successful in this role, you should have technical skills and an interest in problem-solving.
Along with a few years of experience, nurse informaticists are expected to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Some roles may allow nurses to have an RN license with a degree in health care or information technology. The responsibility comes with a reward. According to ZipRecruiter, nurse informatics professionals make an average of over $102,000 per year. As the field of technology evolves, you are also sure to be challenged throughout your career.
2. Nurse Case Manager
If you want to help patients but prefer working in an office, a nurse case manager role may be the best specialty career choice for you. These professionals work with patients, families, and their physicians to coordinate resources and deliver the right health care services. They also collaborate with insurance companies to ensure all services are rendered appropriately. At a minimum, you must hold an RN license, but most employers in this high-demand field will prefer a BSN. The more education and experience you receive, the better.
According to the Commission for Case Manager Certification, nurse case managers with a BSN earn an average of $80,000 per year. Over half of those nurses who are executive-level certified case managers earn more than $100,000 annually. To begin making the transition to this career, gain experience in management roles and switch to practice settings.
3. Legal Nurse Consultant
A legal nurse consultant has the unique opportunity to combine the fields of law and health care. Those RNs who have excellent organizational and critical thinking skills would make great medical consultants for attorneys and clients. Legal nurse consultants use their communication skills and knowledge of legal terminology to review documentation and analyze it against medical records. They are also asked to conduct research, identify standards of care and draft medical-legal documents.
Other responsibilities for the legal nurse include participating in client interviews, assembling trial evidence, and providing expert court testimony. Benefits of this specialty role include regular work hours, the ability to work in the comfort of an office, and a higher salary than many other RNs. Search job openings in your area for more information. The role may even inspire you to become a nurse with a law degree in the future.
4. Psychiatric Nurse
If you want to work in a clinical environment but do something different, psychiatric nursing is a growing and rewarding field. You will work alongside a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers to provide mental health care to patients. While some psychiatric nurses work in hospitals and outpatient facilities, others work as consultants. Primary responsibilities include assessing patients’ needs, creating treatment plans and managing medications. They may also provide counseling services or educate families.
As a psychiatric nurse, you will gain additional skills in problem-solving, communication, and empathy. You can also prepare yourself to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing (DNP) and become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Benefits of becoming a mental health nurse include good pay, career security, and job satisfaction. You will also get to work in a variety of patient care settings.
5. Certified Dialysis Nurse
A certified dialysis nurse (CDN) cares for patients with advanced kidney disease. Some of their primary responsibilities include educating patients and families about their condition, recording patients’ medical information, and assessing patients before they receive treatment. They also monitor for adverse reactions during dialysis, manage fluid balance, and communicate treatment needs or changes to physicians. Since they are part of such an essential specialty with the need for advanced knowledge and skills, RNs will need to obtain certification as a CDN, as well as at least 2,000 hours of experience caring for nephrology and dialysis patients over two years.
To stay certified, it is essential to complete 15 hours of continuing education in nephrology. While you are an important part of your patients’ life-saving treatment, you will also be a part of an in-demand specialty career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all jobs in nursing are expected to grow by seven percent in the next several years, while you can earn an average of $72,000 per year.
Find a New and Exciting Nursing Career
Ready for a fresh, flexible, or challenging role as an advanced nurse? One of these specialty careers is sure to make you feel rewarded both personally and professionally. Match a job that you are interested in with your educational goals, your personality and your patient values. You will be amazed at just how exciting and life-changing a new role in nursing can be.
Before you officially become a nurse, you must graduate from nursing school, become licensed as a registered nurse (RN), and apply for your first job. Once you are hired, you will attend your first nursing orientation at your hospital or clinic. A nursing orientation is a course or set of courses designed to educate new employees about the facility’s procedures and policies. New nurses will also learn standards, codes of conduct, and the proper way to document patient information.
During orientation, employees will discover a wealth of information, including more about their work responsibilities. While these are some of the basics, your employer may also instruct you on other items that are specific to the hospital or clinic. Orientation topics may include how to stay safe and protect patients, as well as what color scrubs or what kind of nursing shoes to wear. You may also find out if you need to supply your own protective gear or stethoscope.
Since you must follow the facility’s policies at all times, it is important to pay close attention to the contents of your orientation session. The following tips will help you to ensure you retain everything you learn during your online sessions or in-person classes. Reading through these pointers before you attend your nursing orientation will help you to retain more information while you attend. A periodic review of the rules and standard operating procedures will help you to be successful at your career.
1. Arrive Early
As a new nursing employee, it is always important to be on time. Be sure to check the start time for your first day of orientation and then plan to arrive at least a few minutes early. It is especially important to be prompt if you are visiting a new building or entering a new facility. Consider that it may take longer than expected for you to find a place to park or walk to the meeting site. By arriving early, you will show your supervisor that you take your role seriously and that you are ready to get started.
If your instructor or supervisor arrives before orientation starts, introduce yourself. A formal introduction helps to make a good first impression, especially as a new professional in the nursing field. It is also helpful to make a connection just in case you have questions or need advice in the future. The relationship with your boss may also be the first one you make at your new clinic or hospital, which is why it is essential to begin promptly and positively.
2. Be Prepared with the Right Nursing Supplies
Check your orientation checklist as soon as you get it. You may need nursing supplies to get started. Sometimes, the best items and nursing gear are found online. A few days’ notice can help to ensure you get everything you need. In most cases, you will need to wear your scrub uniform and nursing shoes. You will also need a stethoscope, as well as a medical bag to carry your devices and documents.
Additional helpful items include a penlight and a storage clipboard. You may also benefit from a nursing watch with a second hand. Other popular nursing supplies that you should consider buying before orientation include a badge holder or lanyard, protective gear like eyewear and a few scrub caps.
3. Take Notes
As you go through orientation, you may have questions about the rules or policies the facility has for the nursing staff. You may also want to clarify reporting procedures or who to contact if you need something in the future. Take notes regarding each of your questions and then plan to follow up after the orientation session. Your notes may include contact information, like your orientation leader’s email or your supervisor’s office number.
Many hospitals will require nurses to take a test or quiz after the orientation session. This helps supervisors ensure that their employees understand how to do their job, document important information, and learn how to care for patients. Taking careful notes and highlighting sections of text will help you to remember key information before the exam.
4. Stay Organized
Being on time, taking notes and having the right office supplies will help you to stay organized. A folder, briefcase or storage bag can help you to keep your writing utensils, notebooks or orientation papers in the right spot. Keep these items away from your personal gear, such as your smartphone, wallet, or snacks. This will help you to locate the right items easier and faster.
If your sessions last for more than one day, double-check that you are to arrive the same time the next day. You should also find out if you will be in the same room for the rest of your sessions. Write down any changes on your smartphone or in your nurse’s notebook. If your orientation is at a different time than your typical nursing shift, be sure to let loved ones know about the changes as soon as you can.
Make the Most of Your Nursing Orientation
Nursing orientation will be full of information, but it is also an essential part of getting used to your new role. Since every hospital and practice is different, it is an excellent idea to pay close attention to your supervisor’s lectures or the facility’s learning videos. While you are sure to have a lot of questions, this is normal. It may take a little time to remember all of the rules and policies of the facility. If you arrive on time and stay focused throughout your orientation, your supervisor will be glad to help you through your first few weeks. Soon, you will be a pro at your workplace’s software and patient procedures.
There are different ways to become a registered nurse (RN), but most paths take at least a couple of years to complete. If you wish to earn more than an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), you can apply to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at a private or public college. One of the biggest benefits of the BSN is that it allows you to become a nurse and earn a four-year degree.
When you finish your degree and gain some experience, you can apply to advanced jobs and leadership roles that require education from a four-year university. To get you started, the following list provides you with a few of the careers that usually require a BSN. Let these roles inspire you as you apply to bachelor’s degree programs, complete your coursework and envision yourself wearing your nurse’s stethoscope for the very first time.
1. Nursing Management
Many of the experienced nurses with a BSN will work in some type of management position. They may oversee other registered nurses, as well as licensed practical nurses (LPNs), interns or technicians. While nurse managers are well-paid, they are also critical to the operations of every patient care team. When you become a nurse manager, you get the opportunity to lead other nurses. You may work in a hospital, an outpatient facility or another clinical environment.
To begin a career in nursing management, you will need to spend some time working directly with patients as a registered nurse. Along with your bachelor’s level education in nursing and five to eight years of experience, the role requires excellent organizational and communication skills. You should also be interested in the business side of your facility.
A nurse manager’s duties include human resources efforts, coordinating staff schedules and overseeing supplies and budgets. With your responsibility will come a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Some of the most standout nurse managers will further their education and skill set to become a Director of Nursing (DON) or a Chief Nursing Officer (CNO).
2. Travel Nursing
Today’s ever-changing healthcare environment means that travel nurses are in high demand. Nearly all traveling roles for RNs require at least 12-18 months of experience in a clinical care setting. However, applicants become even more attractive to healthcare recruiters and top-rated hospitals when they have a four-year nursing degree.
If you are a jetsetter who is eligible to work in different states or countries, the traveling nurse role may be right for you. In addition to competitive pay and benefits, you can also earn perks such as living stipends and free airfare. When you are not on-call, you will be free to explore your destination.
Choose a nursing role in a picturesque natural setting, a renowned patient care center or a town you have always wanted to explore. You are sure to gain valuable memories and experience both at work and outside of patient care. As a bonus, you will also be serving patients in areas with critical care needs. Begin by completing your BSN, gaining experience in the healthcare field and taking advantage of a variety of internships and practicums that show you are a dynamic nurse.
3. Telemedicine Nursing
Like many career fields, nursing is becoming more digital. The rise of telemedicine and virtual visits has created a variety of roles for telemedicine RNs. Many of these nurses will work from home, but it is also possible that you will spend your day in a hospital or doctor’s office.
Responsibilities may include consulting with patients by phone or a secure, encrypted video chat. In addition to advising patients about illnesses or conditions, you may also be charged to educate patients about medications or the management of symptoms. Additional duties for the telemedicine nurse include completing patient intakes, scheduling appointments and providing patient referrals. Depending on the technology and tools available, you may also be able to measure a patient’s vitals.
Since each of these tasks require skill and experience, many facilities prefer a registered nurse with a BSN. When you apply to a remote role, be sure to showcase that you have a bachelor’s degree. Explain how your knowledge, coursework and previous experience will make you successful in the world of telehealth.
4. Public Health Nursing
Nurses are critical in the fight against diseases like COVID-19. The field of public health nursing allows experienced nurses with a BSN to take their career even further, all while serving underprivileged populations in their town or city. When you become a public health nurse, you are responsible for assisting the community with health education and disease prevention. You will also work with other professionals in the healthcare field to improve access to care and help to prevent widespread illness.
Some public health RNs work in the field directly with patients. Others are employees of a government facility, non-profit or community health clinic. You may even be able to find a job at a home health agency, an international health agency or a hospital.
With the right combination of expertise and a bachelor’s degree in nursing, you can find a rewarding job at a company or clinic that meets your career goals and personal needs. Some healthcare professionals like to become Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners to bolster their resume and garner the highest-paid roles in the field.
Discover Your Ideal Nursing Career
Nursing is a dynamic career choice. As a professional, you can provide yourself with even more opportunities and flexibility when you earn your BSN. As you work on your degree, be sure to apply for internships and practicums at different types of hospitals and clinics. The experience you gain will prepare you to apply for a competitive role in the field. Whether you are interested in emerging roles in healthcare, exciting travel jobs in an interesting locale or a management position, there is a meaningful place for every nurse who earns their bachelor’s degree.
If you consider yourself highly empathetic, adaptable, and patient, crisis nursing might be the right field for you. This ever-growing nursing niche involves administering care to patients experiencing issues with mental health, substance abuse, trauma and co-occurring disorders. Each day, crisis nurses hop into action to help de-escalate and diffuse crisis situations while providing essential medical care, proving that some heroes wear scrubs, not capes. But we already knew that!
Before you determine whether this is the right nursing job for you, you want to figure out what crisis nursing is all about and do a deep dive into some of the things these patient professionals do daily. Read information on crisis nursing and discover some of the key skills, traits, and qualifications below to help you determine if you should become a crisis nurse.
What Is a Crisis Nurse?
To put it simply, crisis nurses work in situations of emotional turbulence and disturbance, such as when a person is depressed, suicidal, grieving, or displaced from their home. Additionally, crisis nurses are often asked to travel to provide care after natural disasters and health care emergencies, such as during a particularly destructive hurricane or during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These nurses are adaptable enough to fit in where needed and can help address some of the unique challenges of patients suffering through a crisis, from grief and suicidal thoughts to traumas such as job loss and homelessness. Like standard travel nursing assignments, crisis nursing jobs typically last for 13 weeks, but they can be anywhere from eight and 26 weeks long, depending on the specific needs of the area.
Yes, It Pays More
So does crisis nursing come with a monetary incentive? Yep! Because of their willingness to adapt, travel, and work in turbulent situations, crisis nurses earn a higher salary than nurses who work in non-crisis environments. In fact, many nurses in these roles earn something called a “crisis rate” or “crisis pay” which can be up to $20 more per hour than the standard rate for the hospital.
This makes crisis nurses among the highest-paid nurses. But higher pay doesn’t automatically mean a better situation. As we learned from the measurable spike in nurse burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic, crisis environments can take a serious toll on health care professionals. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re willing to hop in where needed and know how to manage feelings of burnout, the additional pay may be worthwhile.
How Do You Become a Crisis Nurse?
The required qualifications of crisis nursing vary widely from one system to the next, but all employers require you to start out by obtaining your registered nurse (RN) degree and license through an accredited nursing program. From there, you may be required to complete at least a year of related work experience in a role within psychiatric, addiction, or mental health. You’ll also want to prepare yourself for the potential of periodically relocating and how that could affect your personal life and housing.
Qualities Required of a Crisis Nurse
All RNs know that even non-crisis nurses occasionally face crises in virtually every health care environment. It just comes with the territory of working in medicine and no one should become a nurse without understanding that. With that being said, crisis nurses are specially trained in things such as de-escalation, passive non-compliance, and trauma-informed care. Some of the key personality traits required for these skill sets include:
The willingness to be ready for anything. Because of the aforementioned crisis pay, these kinds of nursing positions are highly competitive and get snatched up quickly. One of the key characteristics of a successful crisis nurse is his or her ability to drop everything and spring into action to fill a vacancy.
Empathy. Crisis nurses can’t just be in it for the money. They have to be willing to relate to what patients and their families are going through in order to provide adequate care. Empathy is key for nurses because it helps them build trust with patients and in turn strengthens communication, which is extremely critical during those essential crisis moments.
Interpersonal skills. Knowing how to communicate with others—especially those who are in states of crises—is crucial to helping people in these scenarios because it helps with de-escalation, motivation, and understanding key indicators of broader issues. Plus, like having empathy, it helps patients and their family members trust you so that you can provide adequate care.
Physical fortitude. All nurses need to be able stay on their feet—and their toes—for long shifts, but a good pair of comfortable nursing clogs are designed to help those working in crisis scenarios. This field puts nurses in the most demanding and busy workplaces, so physical endurance is key.
Adaptability. One of the many things we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is that health care systems require extremely flexible and adaptable staff during crisis situations. For example, as many individuals opted out of elective surgery, the demand for critical care nursing grew and nurses had to hop into the chaos wherever they were needed.
Good judgment. Things move fast in crisis scenarios, and providing successful patient care requires nurses who are able to think critically on their toes, making good decisions along the way. They need to know how to respond and when to bring in additional resources.
The willingness to support your coworkers. Being a team player is absolutely essential in crisis nursing when things are changing rapidly and there isn’t always enough support. The willingness to dive right in and assist where needed is especially important in situations where you’re brand-new to the environment and your coworkers may not automatically be comfortable leaning on you.
A Rewarding Nursing Niche
You already know that our communities are facing a large, looming nursing shortage, and it’s likely that the shortage will involve a lack of nurses trained in crisis and trauma. For nurses who want to work directly with the community and make a measurable difference in their patients’ lives each day, crisis nursing is a fantastic opportunity!
A critical part of treating patients is identifying exactly what injuries and ailments they are struggling with. To that end, medical professionals rely on a great many diagnostic tools to help them accurately identify patients’ health conditions. Some of the devices are multipurpose, while others are more targeted—but all are important tools in a clinician’s diagnostic kit. Here are nine essential diagnostic tools that all clinicians in scrubs should have.
No clinician can be without their trusty stethoscope. These devices allow medical professionals to listen to the heart, lungs, and other vital organs, helping them give more accurate diagnoses and better treat patients. There are many different types of stethoscopes available for every budget. If you’re looking for something more technologically advanced, you can also look into getting a Bluetooth stethoscope, which offers capabilities such as audio amplification and recording clips. Bluetooth stethoscopes are an especially good choice for providers who have hearing impairments or loss, and thus struggle to use a traditional stethoscope.
2. Pulse Oximeter
Once an afterthought in some circles, pulse oximeters are now experiencing a time in the spotlight due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (Low oxygen levels are an early warning sign that medical intervention may be needed in COVID-19 patients who otherwise seem to be doing well.) Pulse oximeters measure the percentage of blood hemoglobin carrying oxygen by passing a beam of red light through the fingertip and assessing how much light is absorbed. You should absolutely have one of these diagnostic tools in your nursing bag, especially if you work with patients who are likely to have COVID-19.
Speaking of tools that can be used to diagnose coronavirus, you should definitely have a thermometer on hand as well. There are many different types of thermometers available. The fastest and most accurate is a digital thermometer, which uses a metal probe to take the temperature, which it displays on the digital screen readout. However, infrared “no touch” forehead thermometers are also getting a lot of attention these days, as they cut down on the risk of transmission. Whatever type of thermometer you decide on, make sure that you thoroughly clean it before and after each use, even if it doesn’t actually touch the patient.
4. Reflex Hammer
The humble reflex hammer can be used to diagnose joint reflexes as well as bone fractures in the joint. Go with the classic triangle-head Taylor hammer, or choose from several other designs, such as the Buck and Babinski hammers. Most hammers cost only a few dollars apiece, so there’s really no excuse for not having one among your clinical supplies.
5. Blood Pressure Cuff
Blood oxygen levels aren’t the only thing about the blood that can help you diagnose health conditions. Blood pressure is also an indicator of heart disease and stroke risk. Combined with a stethoscope, a traditional blood pressure cuff will help you measure both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Alongside a stethoscope, this is one of those diagnostic tools that you should never be without.
Another affordable yet essential diagnostic tool, penlights are used to assess pupil response and check for injuries such as a concussion. They can also be used in a pinch to look into cavities, such as the ears and throat, though dedicated diagnostic tools are more convenient for that. Most pens come with a pupil gauge on the side to help clinicians quickly assess pupil size. If you tend to lose your penlights, look for one with a clip that will help it stay put.
An ophthalmoscope is a specialized light that allows you to look directly into a patient’s eyes—or rather the back of their eyeballs—which can be used to assess the health of the retina, optic nerve, vasculature, and vitreous humor. This specially designed light lets clinicians examine the eye without blinding the patient. Ophthalmoscopes are often sold in a set with otoscopes. These two devices should not be confused for each other, despite the similar names. Otoscopes should not be used in place of ophthalmoscopes and vice versa, as the eye is a very delicate organ that needs to be examined carefully.
An otoscope is a specialized light that clinicians use to examine the ears and sometimes also the throat. The light is focused using a disposable plastic tip, which also helps protect the light from unsanitary ear wax and other substances. Using an otoscope, clinicians can look directly into the ear to assess the health of the eardrum and ear canal, as well as check for any blockages or injuries. Make sure to change out the disposable tip after each time you use the otoscope to keep yourself and your patients safe.
9. ECG Machines
Historically, ECG machines have been large, clunky and expensive. However, thanks to technological advancements, ECG devices are now shrinking and becoming more portable and affordable. One especially exciting development is the Eko DUO Stethoscope, which combines the benefits of a digital stethoscope with the functionality of an ECG machine. With the DUO, you can listen to your patient’s heart and lungs and then immediately take a reading of their heart’s electrical signals. As technology continues to improve, we will no doubt see more and more accessible devices such as the Eko DUO stethoscope come onto the market for clinicians.
Diagnosing a patient isn’t always easy, but diagnostic tools can help aid the process and give more insights into a patient’s state of health. Whether you’re new to the medical field or a seasoned clinician, you should definitely include these nine diagnostic tools among your clinical supplies.