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4 alternative careers for registered nurses

At a glance

  • Informatics nurse, nurse manager and nurse educator are some alternative career options for registered nurses.
  • Most of these nursing careers are generally less patient-facing and instead focus on education, research or methods to deliver better patient care.
  • University of Phoenix offers degrees in nursing specialties that can help registered nurses make a difference in patients’ lives when not on the hospital floor.

It’s well known that work as a registered nurse (RN) is rigorous. Long hours and physical and emotional exhaustion can understandably leave many RNs feeling burned out. Often, people enter the nursing profession because they have a desire to help others. Traditionally, on the floor, that means assessing symptoms, administering medication and providing emotional support to patients and their loved ones.

Working on the floor is what many nurses want when they enter the profession, and some others may not even want to consider a career without direct patient interaction. However, working on the floor can be both physically and emotionally tiring. Long days on their feet and the physical requirements of the job, such as lifting and moving patients, can take a toll.

On the emotional side, the stress of losing a patient, seeing daily trauma and consoling friends and family members of patients can be difficult. As a result, RNs may look for nursing opportunities outside hospitals, where they can still use their skills and continue to help others without as much stress and pressure.

How to switch careers as a nurse

If you are an RN looking to put your career on a different path, there are a few things to consider. What skills do you already have that might translate well to a new position? What education do you have? What education would you need to pursue a new position?

A big question to ask yourself is, what you are passionate about? If your work with patients energizes you, maybe a role as a nurse midwife or nurse manager might be right for you. If a broader focus including leadership is more your speed, maybe it’s worth considering transitioning into a role as a nurse educator or administrator.

Wherever your nursing career path leads, it can have a positive impact. Your talents, interest and energy will determine just how big that impact can be.

4 alternative careers for registered nurses

Alternative careers for registered nurses run a wide range, from patient-facing roles to those focused on administration, education and analytics. For those looking for other careers for nurses, it is helpful to know what options are out there. Here are four nursing careers for RNs who have a desire to continue helping others but are looking for careers off the hospital floor.

Informatics nurse

Health informatics is a growing field centered on the use of computers and information technology for the management and analysis of EHR, or electronic health records. An EHR is essentially the aggregated collection of information that makes up a patient’s medical history. It can include, for example, notes and observations made by healthcare providers, lab and test results, and immunizations.

The internet and advanced computers allow healthcare providers to share this data quickly with physicians, nurses and insurers.

Nurses who practice in informatics are experienced in using informatics technology to improve patient outcomes. Their major responsibilities include:

  • Using current data to improve workflows within a healthcare organization or system
  • Aligning data usage and collection practices with regulatory guidelines, such as HIPAA.
  • Improving public health by aggregating and analyzing data across a population
  • Translating older physical patient records into a digital format

Nursing informatics can make for a rewarding alternative career for registered nurses who want less time directly meeting with patients, while still having a positive impact on patient health. 

Job outlook: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for health informatics specialists is projected to grow 9% between 2020-2030.

Job requirements: Along with clinical experience, registered nurses need at least a diploma from an approved nursing program or an associate degree. Some informatics nurses choose to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) for this role as the degree may be preferred by an employer. In addition, nurses may obtain certification, including Informatics Nursing Certification (RN-BC®) from the ANCC.

Nurse manager

For those interested in alternative careers for registered nurses that provide ample opportunity for leadership and growth, nurse manager is one to consider. Healthcare facilities are complex operations, requiring coordination across several departments and teams, all while treating every patient at the highest quality possible.

Nurse managers are in charge of several key aspects of these operations. Responsibilities can include:

  • Strategic planning for the nursing unit using data analysis
  • Overseeing staffing and recruiting
  • Serving as a bridge between departments in a healthcare facility
  • Managing daily operations within a nursing unit
  • Managing finances and developing budgets

Nurse managers rely on several years of clinical experience, critical-thinking skills and communication acumen to make sure their team performs at its best. For those who want to progress their career past the role of an RN, while remaining intimately connected to patient care, it can be very rewarding.

Job outlook: According to BLS, employment of medical and health services managers is projected to grow 32% from 2020 to 2030.

Job requirements: Employers often look for nurses with ample experience on the floor and who have demonstrated an ability to lead a hospital wing or team of nurses. For roles such as nurse manager, clinical manager or charge nurse, employers may require a BSN. There are also several certifications that may be achieved in this field, including:

Nurse educator

A wide-ranging and critically important field, nurse education involves the training and development of nurses. Nurse educators work in a variety of settings, from hospitals to college classrooms. They are generally experienced nurses who have transitioned out of day-to-day work with patients and now use their experience to help other nurses work better.

Primarily, nurse educators are found either in healthcare facilities or classrooms, with some working in consulting roles as well. While working in a clinical setting, nurse educators are responsible for teaching nurses clinical techniques and procedures, and helping them stay apprised of the latest research about patient care.

In classroom settings, nurse educators make up the professors and researchers who prepare new generations of nurses. They develop curriculum, pursue research and use their nursing experience to teach valuable skills to students.

Job requirements: In addition to several years of clinical experience, nurse educators typically need at least a BSN, but some employers may prefer or require a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. To teach at a university, a master’s degree is often required, and some institutions require a doctoral degree. The National League for Nurses offers two primary certifications for nurse educators: Certified Nurse Educator (CNE®) and Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE®cl).

Public health nurse

For nurses looking for opportunities outside of hospitals but who still desire to have a direct impact on the lives of patients, the role of a public health nurse is one to consider. When health threats arise that threaten entire populations, public health nurses are often on the front lines.

Public health nurses take an ongoing role protecting the health of a community, and they take on that challenge with a holistic perspective. In other words, they are concerned with broader trends, such as expanding access to health services and monitoring potential threats to public health.

Common responsibilities of public health nurses include:

  • Researching health trends and uncovering potential hazards faced by specific communities
  • Assisting in immunization, disease outbreak and drug epidemic responses
  • Educating members of the community on healthy living practices, and campaigning to increase awareness of the practices
  • Working with government entities to address health concerns within communities

Job requirements: Along with several years of clinical experience, a nursing diploma or an associate degree is needed to become a public health nurse. Because of the responsibility of dealing with the greater public health, some employers prefer RNs to have their BSN. There are also several certifications related to work as a public health nurse, including:

University of Phoenix degree options for registered nurses

Alternative Careers for Registered Nurses

University of Phoenix offers an RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree to help nurses who are already registered nurses do more for their patients. In this degree program, RNs can develop the skills to eventually pursue roles like charge nurse and director of nursing.

The University also offers a competency-based (CBE) RN to BSN for nurses who already have a nursing license and one year of clinical experience. The CBE degree allows nurses to earn credit for the competencies and skills they already have so they can focus on learning what they don’t know. Through the program, RNs can earn their BSN in less than a year and for under $10,000.

For registered nurses who already have a BSN, the University offers an MSN with a few nursing specializations. Students can choose from Informatics, Nurse Education, Nurse Administration and Family Nurse Practitioner. And for those who wish to serve as a nurse researcher, the University offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

Learn more about nursing degrees from University of Phoenix and take the next step towards the future of your career.