Across the United States there is a need for thousands of nurses. However, you must carefully consider all of your options when going for the nursing job that is right for you.
Nursing Jobs: Factors to Consider
Always have some type of long term plan. Generally speaking nurses that end up in hospital management and supervisory positions have a career plan. The nursing job you are currently in or working towards, will allow you to meet the key contact people in your field and location. Always take inventory of your skill level and experience. If your skill level has improved and your compensation has not, consider going for the nursing job you have always wanted. Some nurses end up going from job to job without any long term goals. Don't fall into this trap.
If you have taken and passed the NCLEX exam and are in good standing with your state boards, you are a valuable resource. Always join your local professional associations to network with other skilled nurses. These individuals will be able to tell you about the local trends in the job market.
Stay connected with graduates of your nursing program and recent alums. Many of the best nursing job tips come from classmates who know the hospitals and facilities in your job target region.
Always exhibit a positive attitude even though a recruiter or hospital may not need your services at a given time. In the flow of business a nurse may quit that day, and a position may open up at any time. If you become rude or belligerent after receiving the bad news, remember that information travels.
What Do Nurses Do?
What are nurse jobs actually like? Every day is different when you’re a nurse. The fact that no two days are alike is one of the main attractions of the occupation for many people who love their nursing career. They never have to worry about getting to a point where they hate their job because it’s become a dull, boring routine. Although many nurses may see some of the same people every day, and do the same tasks every day, because of the unpredictable human factor, things are always changing. Patients’ conditions change, their disposition changes, their prognosis changes, the patients themselves change, other doctors and nurses change, procedures and medications change…in nursing, change is the one thing you can count on to never change.
What’s a nurse’s job like? Well, that depends-on a lot of different factors. One big difference is between registered nurses and LPNs. Think of an LPN as sort of a generalist, and an RN as something of a specialist. This won’t always be true-some registered nurses will also function in general nursing capacities-but it usually is. LPNs do a lot of the basic, “hands on” work that most people associate with nursing. It isn’t all that they do, but it’s much of what they do. Their work involves tasks like taking temperatures, blood pressure, pulse; giving shots, giving enemas, monitoring catheters, monitoring a patient’s condition and responses, etc. An RN can also do many of the same things, but they’re far less likely to be giving shots, taking temperatures, administering medication, etc, than an LPN is. So if you’re one of those people who would love to be working in that kind of setting, and you’re in a hurry to get started, then you should consider becoming an LPN, since you can be trained for it in a year. Another option is to become an LPN, get into nursing, and then if you want to become an RN, go to school to get your degree while you continue working as a nurse. Then, once you’ve qualified as a registered nurse, you can choose a specialty to work in if you wish. About 60 percent of registered nurses work in hospital settings, and in a wide variety of areas.
Nursing Career Specializations
What are some career specialization options for registered nurses? There are lots of them. Here are some of the nursing specialties an RN may choose from as listed by the US Labor Department-ambulatory care, critical care, emergency care, home health care, hospice care, infusion care, long term care, medical-surgical care, occupational health, perianesthesia, perioperative, psychiatric care, radiology nurse, rehab nurse, transplant nurse, addiction care, developmental disabilities nurse, diabetes management, genetics, HIV/AIDS, oncology, wound and ostomy nurse, cardiac and vascular nurse, dermatology, gastroenterology, gynecology, nephrology, neuroscience, ophthalmic, orthopedic, otorhinolaryngology, respiratory, urology, neonatal care, pediatrics, gerontology. And this list isn’t exhaustive-it comes from the Labor Department, but new nursing specializations are being created as times and conditions change. By the time you graduate from nursing school, there may be several more on this list. As you can see, there’s all sorts of options to choose from now, and if you’re interested in nursing, you’ll no doubt have at least a couple of these in mind as the areas you’d like to focus on. But, as you can see, one big thing to keep in mind is that an RN degree offers you far more options than you’ll have as an LPN. There’s nothing wrong with being an LPN, and if you’re interested in the basics of nursing, that might be a better way for you to go. But if you’re wanting to work at a more advanced level, you’ll want to qualify as an RN.
Nursing Jobs Outside Of Hospitals
Here's a glimpse into the wide variety of nurse jobs that are available outside of hospitals.
Community Health Nursing-Community health nurses usually work for governments, such as towns, cities, or counties, but sometimes for non-profit agencies. Their job is to educate the public about being aware of and avoiding health risks, how to achieve a healthier lifestyle, including principles of good nutrition and the basics of physical fitness. They often focus on a particular segment of the population, such as children or the elderly, and the job often involves public speaking at schools, churches, community groups, etc.
Complementary Health Care Nursing-More and more people are turning to what’s called “alternative” or “complementary” health care. Traditional Western medicine is known as allopathic medicine, but there are other approaches to health care, and many nurses have embraced these approaches and use them for caring for and healing people. Chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, herbalism, nutrition, reflexology, and other means of treating disease have grown in popularity in the past decades. Many nurses practice these things themselves, or they work in clinics with alternative practitioners. Experts believe that complementary health care nursing will be one of the fastest growing and most popular nursing careers in the next few years.
Prison/Jail Nursing-It’s an unfortunate fact of life, but there are well over a million people incarcerated in America, and the number is continuing to grow all the time. And just like the rest of the population, they have health problems and concerns, and require medical care. It takes a special kind of nurse to work in a correctional facility, and you’ll probably want to talk to some nurses who’ve done it before beginning a prison nursing career.
Managed Care Nursing-With more and more people having health insurance, and with the costs of health care skyrocketing, HMO’s and insurance companies are hiring nurses to work directly for them. Managed care nurses serve both patients and their employers by helping the companies provide quality health care for more people by educating their clients about disease prevention and healthy lifestyles, and looking for different health care delivery options in order to keep costs down.
Nursing Educator-Someone has to teach people how to do nursing, and with the growing nurse shortage there’s an increasing demand for nurse educators. In fact, one of the main causes of the current nurse shortage is a lack of qualified nursing instructors. It’s an ideal way to combine your nursing occupation with a love of teaching. Becoming a nurse educator will require at least a master’s degree, and several years experience, but it’s certainly a worthy career goal for any nurse who’d loves their profession and wants to improve it and see it thrive.
Administrative Nursing-Nurse administrators are found in many places, not just hospitals. Large medical clinics often employ them, as well as nurse staffing companies and health care providers. If you’ve got a talent for managing people and enjoy working in an administrative position, and you’ve got good office and people skills, this is a good nursing career choice for you. You’ll need some experience, and many jobs will require a master’s.
Occupational Nursing-Occupational nurses work directly for private companies, such as large factories, or any other company with a few hundred or more employees. Businesses have found that having their own nurse on staff is very cost effective, and it’s a benefit that many employees really appreciate. Occupational nurses’ duties vary, and they include designing health, safety, and wellness programs, giving instructional lectures, and running an onsite clinic for employees for minor health issues.
Missionary/Goodwill Nursing-There are many organizations and agencies providing aid and relief to third world countries. Some are government agencies, others are private sector non profit groups, and many are religious in nature. Nursing opportunities with these groups are abundant. If you want to help people less fortunate than ourselves, and you’re open to spending a lot of time overseas, there’s no better way to do that than by putting your nursing skills to work.
Pain Management Nursing-One nursing occupation that’s growing rapidly is pain management nursing. There have been tremendous advances in the past few years in understanding pain, measuring its intensity and impact, and responding to it with appropriate doses of medication. Many pain management nurses work full time with cancer patients, in homes, hospices, and hospitals. This nursing specialty requires a master’s degree.
School Nursing-Most of us no doubt have memories of the school nurse when we were growing up. Today, more school nurses than ever are needed. One reason is that there are more school kids today than years ago, and another is that more kids with special needs are attending regular schools. A career as a school nurse doesn’t necessarily require a master’s degree, and school nurses may work for one particular school full time, or may rotate between various schools for an entire system. And it’s not just public schools; some private schools also employ full or part time nurses. If you love working with kids, a career as a school nurse is option for you.
Substance Abuse Nursing-Drug and alcohol addiction are unfortunately major problems in today’s society. Substance abuse nurses work with people who are struggling with these addictions. Many of them work in detox and rehab clinics; some work in private counseling. They help people to safely end their addiction, and then work with them to get to the root causes of their problem, and help them to overcome, and build a drug and alcohol free life. This nursing career can certainly be frustrating at times, due to the power these substances have over people, leading to many relapses, but for a nurse who wants to improve the quality of people’s lives, it’s an admirable career choice.
Certified Nurse Midwife-Once you’ve been certified as a registered nurse, should you choose to go back and get a master’s degree in nursing, one career option for you is the certified nurse midwife. In this position, you’ll be working with pregnant and expectant mothers, giving them and their babies pre-natal care, actually delivering the baby, caring for mother and infant immediately after birth, and general nursing duties. You’ll need to take courses approved by the American College of Nurse-Midwives, and then pass a certification test.
Temp Nursing-More and more nurses are choosing not to work for a single facility, but to sign up with one of the many temporary nurse staffing agencies across the country. Many nurses find this an ideal way to build their career, as they get to pick and choose where and when they work. If they have a bad experience at a particular place, they can decline to go back there. They can choose not to work for several weeks at a time if they so desire. The flexibility that temp nurses have is one of the main reasons for working through agencies, and benefits are getting better all the time. Some agencies specialize in travel nursing, which means that you could work several weeks in Los Angeles, then New York City, then Hawaii, or wherever you choose. Your housing is paid for, and many times generous per diems are provided. It’s a great way to travel for single people in nursing. If you’re a nurse who wants variety and flexibility, then temp nursing is an excellent choice.
Even More Nursing Careers
By no means are these all the options for nurses who want to work outside hospitals. The world of nursing careers beyond hospital walls is enormous and amazing in its variety-there are nurses who specialize in caring for diabetes patients in their homes, nurses who work full time with cancer patients in their homes, nurses who work for law firms, nurse who work for lawmakers in writing bills, nurses who work at camps for children, nurses who staff poison control centers. All branches of the military need professional nurses to care for our troops. Many nurses start their own business as a consultant to hospitals, businesses, insurance companies, etc. Some nurse write about nursing full time, including nursing textbooks. Some nurses even work full time for churches or church groups. There are hospice nurses, which are sort of a hybrid between home health care and hospital care. The world of nursing careers is wide open, and new job descriptions are being created all the time as nursing responds to a rapidly changing world. If you’re considering a nursing career, but thought all nursing jobs were the same, think again. And if you’re not sure which nursing career is right for you, there’s plenty to choose from, and you’re bound to find one that suits your skills and personality. So don’t hesitate to pursue a nursing career-there’s never been a better time, and nurses are needed now more than ever.
Last Updated: 08/20/2013