Recently, I was taking a late-night walk with the dog and ran into my neighbor. She was just returning home from her shift as an emergency room nurse. Every time I see her she’s wearing scrubs (and I’m pretty sure they are all stained). We enjoy visiting, but her only available time is before the sun rises or after it sets. When I need to decipher the scribbles of my 5-year-old nephew, I have to ask her to read it to me. She always laughs and says it’s basically the same as translating a doctor’s notes.

As we sat down, she shared with me that she loves what she does and she adores her patients, but earlier that day someone told her she was pale and looked “sick.” She hadn’t seen the sun in weeks. When I pressed further, she shared with me that recently she had developed a desire to have more flexibility and control with the types and lengths of shifts she works. Her kids were getting older, and she hated the thought of missing even more soccer games.

She was quick to tell me she was certainly not ready to leave nursing altogether. She’d spent years in school and had spent countless hours adding continuing education credits to her resume. Truly, she was exhausted. I had been compiling research for an article on advanced career choices in the medical field, so I shared with her four finds that were directly related to nursing:

Nurse Educator

Median salary: $65,000

Nurse educators, especially in specific fields, are in high demand. Nurses need continuing education throughout their careers, and fresh faces are joining the ranks every year. You can combine your clinical expertise with a passion for teaching into a rewarding career. Educators are needed at colleges, universities, technical schools, and hospital-based schools. You would be required to hold a master’s or a doctoral degree in nursing. Nurse educators typically have advanced clinical training in a health care specialty. Many educators enjoy the option of flexible work scheduling.

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Nurse Researcher

Median salary: $90,000

This is an excellent choice for nurses seeking an advanced, nonclinical job in the nursing industry. Nurse researchers are employed by health policy nonprofits and private companies. Nurse researchers perform analyses and create reports based on research gathered from medical, pharmaceutical, and nursing products and/or practices. Their objective is to improve health care and medical services. Nurses with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree are eligible for these jobs, but those with a master’s or a doctoral degree may have an increased chance of acquiring a nurse researcher position.

Nursing Informatics Specialist

Median salary: $62,115

They manage and provide health care data to patients, nurses, doctors, and other health care providers. Nursing informatics specialists ensure computer applications are easy to use and provide useful information to nurses, managers, and other health care workers. A BSN is the minimum requirement for certification for a nursing informatics job; however, several employers require a master of science in health informatics, health care management, or quality management.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center requires two years of experience as an RN and at least 2,000 hours of work in informatics within the last three years for certification. Those with certification improve their chances of obtaining a job with a higher salary. The job outlook has been steady, as many organizations hire informatics experts to solve documentation issues and decrease errors. Informatics specialists typically work for hospitals and medical-records software vendors.

Nurse Attorney

Median salary: $49,000

A nurse attorney is exactly that: a nurse who has gone back to school to become an attorney. Few attorneys have the medical knowledge of nurses. Nurse attorneys work in many different settings, including firms that specialize in social security disability, hospital legal departments, or litigation firms.

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When becoming a nurse attorney, the first step is to become a nurse by earning your BSN and passing the licensing exam. It would also be vital to acquire hands-on nursing experience. Your next step would be to apply and be accepted by a law school. This would include another three or four years of school. After completion, you will then have to take the bar exam for the state where you will practice. You could opt to open your own practice or try to get on board with a law firm or a health-care-related company.

Where Do I Begin? 

If you, too, are seeking a new path, ask yourself the following questions:

•Should I focus on a non-clinical or a clinical route?

•Am I ready to move away from providing direct patient care, or would I miss the relationship with my patients?

Analyze your skill set; take a hard look at your strengths and the environment where you feel you can thrive. Remember, there are more paths in the nursing spectrum than you might think. One of the most important factors to consider is if you would need further education or credentialing and whether it’s feasible to return to school. Prioritize a list of what’s most important, the elements of nursing that you enjoy the most, salary expectations, and what kind of culture would suit your personality. Most often, I find there are several routes accessible. Find the path that makes the most sense for your journey.

Samantha Stauf is a graduate of the University of Idaho. She enjoys researching how technology has affected the health care field. 

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