Career Alternatives for Nurses

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By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN

Have you always believed that your options in the nursing profession were limited to acute care, home care or long term care? Have you ever worried about what you would do if you developed a physical disability and were no longer able to work at your current job? Have you been feeling that you need a change after 20 years in the same specialty? Do you wish you could bring your interests together with your medical knowledge and experience? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you need only to expand your field of vision and look beyond the traditional roles to see what nurses are doing today. Here are just a few examples.

As the managed care industry continues to grow and expand, it has opened a myriad of new opportunities for our profession. Nurses are conducting quality and utilization management, formulating standards of care and developing educational materials. We are actively involved in case management, disease management and telephone triage as well.

The pharmaceutical industry has always offered diverse opportunities for nurses. We are conducting clinical research trials, monitoring of drug safety, and preparing study submissions to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Many nurses are involved in the sales and marketing of drugs and other medical products as well.

Holistic nursing is an exciting new field that is just beginning to open up. As consumers look for alternative healthcare therapies and as insurance carriers begin to reimburse for these therapies, nurses are becoming certified in modalities such as acupuncture, therapeutic massage, biofeedback and the use of medicinal herbs. All predictions are that holistic medicine will become mainstream in the next few years.

Nursing Informatics is an emerging field that combines nursing science and computer technology. Nurses are developing software to be used by other nurses and are training individuals in the use of same. Many nurses are becoming data specialists within institutions i.e. collecting and analyzing patient care and research data.

Forensic Nursing is another exciting specialty combining nursing with the law enforcement arena. Nurses are working for hospitals and county prosecutors’ office as sexual assault nurse examiners, while others are conducting death investigations for the medical examiner and county coroner. Nurses even have the title of coroner in some parts of the country. Other nurses are conducting investigations into medical fraud and malpractice by working for insurance companies and attorneys.

Parish nursing is a beautiful new specialty that combines health, home and church. It was born out of the trend to bring healthcare back into the community. Parish nurses act as liaison between local religious congregations and hospitals and provide various services to parishioners such as conducting health screenings and educational programs, providing referrals and resources, and making visits to sick parishioners at home and in the hospital. Parish nurses also provide bereavement counseling.

In spite of all the changes occurring in the healthcare field, the profession of nursing still offers rich and diverse opportunities. As nurses find new ways to use their talents and expertise, additional areas will continue to open up. It is important to remember that while we are vital at the bedside, we are just as vital in every other aspect of the healthcare delivery system. It’s time to celebrate the diversity of nursing.


Copyright by Donna Cardillo. All rights reserved.

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