After Nursing, What Will You Do?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

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Have you been considering a change of career? Nursing can be an incredibly stressful job, and for many people, it can get to be too much after a decade or two of service. Many nurses eventually decide to switch careers later in life. But what are your options for doing this? What job opportunities are accessible to people who come from a nursing background?

Believe it or not, you do have options — and you don’t necessarily have to take a massive pay cut, either. If you’re not happy in your job, and you’re ready for something else, making a career transition could be very good for your happiness and your health.

Becoming a Nurse Administrator

Many nurses eventually choose to transition into administrative roles. The pay is very good for these positions, and if you have a flair for management and leadership, it could be a fantastic fit for you.

Nurse administrators are where nursing and human resources intersect. They’re responsible for things like creating and managing schedules for nurse personnel, giving out performance reviews, setting up meetings, and developing training and professional development initiatives for employees.

To become a nurse administrator, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Chances are, that’s something you already have. You’ll also need to maintain licensing as a registered nurse. Master’s degrees are technically optional, but in practice, they’re standard. A lot of Master of Science in Nursing programs offer training geared specifically toward administrative roles, and you can also obtain post-graduate certificates in administration.

Getting Into Corporate Consulting

It’s not uncommon for professionals to eventually transition from a salaried role into independent consulting work, which can be quite lucrative. This is also true for nurses. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities do work with consultants for things like training initiatives and leadership development. Healthcare technology companies also need consultants.

Nursing IT

Do you have a knack for computers? If so, you’re a rare breed. It’s a common truism in the IT community that healthcare professionals have a strong tendency to be “not a computer person,” to put it mildly. As a nurse, you can potentially work with technology firms to help them better understand where their products intersect with patient care. Plus, the money is very good if you’re an RN in IT. IT management jobs related to healthcare have salaries that generally hover around $120,000 per year.

Research Analyst

If you’re still passionate about patient care, but the shift work and emotional stress of nursing have you feeling exhausted, you may want to consider becoming a clinical research analyst. Your firsthand experience with patient care and day-to-day hospital operations can be very valuable for this kind of role. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s a rapidly growing field.

Healthcare Education

Interested in moving away from a nursing role, but not quite ready to give up clinical work completely? Healthcare education could be the perfect new career path for you. When you teach, you’ll still stay up to date with your nursing skills, but you won’t spend the majority of your time caring for patients. It’s also a leadership role, where you can provide mentorship and guidance for the next generation of nurses.

Medical Sales

Here’s a little secret: medical sales representatives can make very good money. Not only are the salaries quite respectable, but they can also get sizeable commissions. Sales reps for medical equipment companies build strong professional relationships with physicians and other healthcare providers and having an RN can give you better credibility to help you build rapport with your customers. The schedules also tend to be very flexible, a far cry from the crazy hours you deal with as a nurse.

Nursing Case Management

A nursing case manager helps manage and organize a patient’s plan of care. This includes making doctor’s appointments, scheduling surgeries, and making sure the patient gets the best possible quality of care. This field is expected to grow by 17% by 2024.

Patient Advocacy

Patient advocacy is a growing field within healthcare. A nurse advocate helps patients understand every aspect of their care, including treatment options and insurance concerns. Their role is to help the patient make the best possible decisions for themselves.

Nurses Have Surprising Career Flexibility

Being a nurse, per se, is far from the only thing you can do when you’re an RN. Whether you move into an administrative role or leave healthcare for a career in medical device sales or corporate consulting, there are plenty of options that you can consider if you’re feeling lost and stuck in your current career path.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

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24 COMMENTS

  1. I made the change to case management and it is much more than making appointments. I actually do not make appointments for patients. The units I cover are the ICU and step down and it is a very fast paced and emotional job. This is not a job to take if you think that you want a slower paced atmosphere, because it is anything but that. Most of the time I am glad I took the position because I get to spend more time with patients and families, but I sure do miss working 3 days a week. The perks are that I do not work nights anymore, very few weekends, and only one holiday(Labor Day) this year. The downfalls are that I am now salary and there are many times that I work longer than an eight-hour shift. I was a mediocre student in nursing school but went back to get my BSN and had a 3.8 GPA. I obtained my BSN at the age of 50!

  2. Hello,
    I graduated in 1971 as an LVN, then went to school and earned a degree outside of nursing. I have recently been working in Nursing Re-Hab and I don’t like it. I would like to make a career change to something else. With my degree I was an Elementary School Teacher, and that is not something that I will not go back to any suggestions

  3. I have been a nurse a long time with much of it in emergency departments. My nursing care delivery style has always been engaged coaching but I didn’t have the language to describe it as coaching until about 18-19 years ago. At that time, I started doing health education in a Cardiac & Pulmonary Rehab program where we lead exercise and meditation groups, did out patient education and in patient education and exercise with both surgical and non-surgical patients, families and nursing staff and community outreach. It was a terrific job; I was in my element. I have been a certified Health and Wellness coach through Wellcoach for almost ten years. Since my cardiac/pulmonary rehab I have taken my nursing and coaching to working for a clinic that provides primary care nursing in schools by contracting with school districts and it was a terrific match for that as well. I have loved the dynamics of nursing, health education and coaching combined. It has been satisfying and creative. I have recently retired and am now investigating ways I can continue to use all my skills on a part time/intermittant basis and design new adventures. 🙂

  4. I worked in nursing for 48 years before I retired in 2010. Early on, I did mostly Labor and Delivery and NICU. Then obtained an MSN in psych nursing so I could sit down at work. I also got an Ed. D. and taught for 21 years. My last five years turned out to be incredibly interesting. Younger nurses would be best suited for the job I took in Clinical Research as a monitor of clinical studies. The pay was excellent. Many can work from home and live anywhere. Often it involves travel and there are perks for that. What I did was visit research sites all over the country where new medications/regimens were being tested on human subjects. I monitored records to ensure proper consenting, strict adherence to protocol, and accurate reporting of findings. People in my position held all kinds of degrees from ASN to doctorates in any health field. We were mostly nurses, but there were cardiac rehab folks and pharmacists, etc. It was a very independent and fullfilling occupation. They train you for the job.

  5. I’m 55 working in dialysis very fast paced. The center where I work has the nurse doing everything techs do,putting patients on and taking off in addition to my nursing responsibilities. No sitting.Plus side is 3 days a week.no weekends. No on call. Prior to this I worked Ltc. Very discouraged when I looked into case management “need experience “ What is 28+ years on the floor mean?

  6. I have been a long-term care nurse for all of my nursing career which spans over 25 years. It is also a second career for me when I came to America. Never wanted acute care but probably would have spent a few years there if I had gotten into it soon after leaving nursing school as an LPN. Got my RN Associates Degree years later and recently my BSN via online studies. Nursing has changed significantly over the years. Indeed, change and progress is absolutely necessary in our profession. However, I do miss those days when I could spend 5- 10 minutes talking with the patient during med pass. Long-term care nursing now is very demanding and exhausting and there are days when I go home questioning whether or not I helped any of my clients. The LTC population has changed especially when it comes to clients with behavioral issues. As I always say gone are the days of nursing home admissions being the sweet little old lady or gentleman. The population now includes a significant portion of clients with challenging behavioral issues. Health issues delayed my educational progression and at my age I should actively be planning for retirement but I cannot I need to work. I also have the audacity to register to peruse my MSN degree in Nursing Education! Am I crazy?. I love nursing and my belief is that for a nurse there is no set retirement age, however, burn-out, job dissatisfaction and a host of other issues need to be rectified. I am hoping that nursing can become my vocation as well as my avocation.

  7. After some 37 years as an RN mostly in psych an Hospital administration I retired. Soon was board, and found the local Ombudsman program which was looking for volunteers. Now some 22 years later I must admit visiting facilities both skilled nursing and residential, insuring patient needs are addressed I am able to use my skills roll model , at times instruct and continue to feel I can contribute to care. I have the ability to spend the time desired. Mal Towery

  8. Hello all you wonderful women in white…..Does that tell you my generation of nursing? I even wore a cap. If you haven’t guessed…..I’m 75 yrs old and still working……AND thanking God ever day that I still can. I have been a psych nurse from day 1. I have loved the white uniform and the cap too. It was part of the package that attracted me to Nursing.
    I was about 10 or 11 when I had a minor surgical procedure. In those days, you were put in the hospital for a stay for almost any little medical infractions. I had a very young student Nurse take care of me. She wore the blue and white pinafore uniform, heavily starched with matching wings on her head. I fell in love. She told me she lived in the adjacent building to the hospital. The Hospital could call the students, anytime of the day or night, to any floor. (This was the Diploma School Nursing Programs). This was before the advent of Technical Schools and Community colleges. ) She was single and wanted to be married. But, at the time, you had to be single to stay in nursing at the Dorm and in the Hospital program. When I think about our conversation, she was really not very happy. But I was hooked. The opportunity for me did not became realistic until I was 35. Thank goodness. Today, I have been a Psych nurse for 35 years. And like I said, I thank God every day for the opportunity. I am an educator and a staff nurse in forensic psychiatry. I work two days a week. It’s my time to give back to the next generation. So I teach and tell my students “the stories” about the ” good old days” right along with the new evidenced based practice.
    A VERY GREATFUL OLD TIMER. Barbara Valery, RN., MSN

  9. I graduated from nursing school in 1967. I love nursing. I was able to work part time while raising my family. I pursued my BS and my MA in health administration. I went back to full time nursing in 1985 and retired in 2012. I was in administration by then. Nursing allowed me the freedom to pursue areas that allowed me to grow professionally and personally. I trained as a certified spiritual director and in 2012 worked at a retreat house in Queens, NY. I retired in 2017. I moved to Florida. No more snow, sleet, ice and cold. I have never regretted being a nurse. I loved it. I miss it. Today I volunteer at church and help raise my new grandson and teenage granddaughter.

  10. I’ve worked in women’s health as an RN first and an NP 47 years. I just quit this month. I have no husband and no pension. I ended to go back to work soon. I want to live in Phoenix /Scottsdale or Palm Springs area. Any ideas are appreciated. My email scottsdalenp@aol.com

  11. I am a nurse for 22 years. Nursing was a second career for me. I would like to be a Nurse Case manager but notice that most places are asking for prior experience. Are there places that train nurses for this position?

  12. I have been a nurse since 1989. I worked in a hospital until 2000. I went into LTC as a staff nurse, unit manager and ADON. I happened upon MDS. I am happy doing this. I still get to be a nurse but without the physical and mental strain of caring for patients and their families. I blew out my back, my shoulder and my knee during my career. I cannot wait to retire. I spent a lifetime caring for others. I will be able to retire in 10 years. I am TOTALLY looking forward to it.

  13. I have been a medical-surgical nurse for the last 31 years. I really think that I could stay in this position until I retire if it wasn’t for the 12 hour shifts. I would be happy as a lark working 3 days a week working 8 hour shifts. Since all hospitals have changed from 8 hour shifts to 12 hour shifts…I believe there are definitely more mistakes due to nurses being tired and physical ailments due to being on your feet for so long. Now at age 53, it is very hard to find a part time job, 8 hour shifts, with an AS degree. I have no desire to go back to school. So for the younger nurses, make sure you keep going to school and at least get your Bachelors degree and make sure you get some time in the ICU or CCU. Definitely opens up more job opportunities. I would never be bored being retired and just enjoy gardening and taking care of my parents…but gotta make some money.

    • Very true, I worked some 10 hr.shifts, and a few 12’s. 12 hr. were horrible. Eventually, I changed to free- standing outpatient surgery.
      Yes, the days were long, but I ony worked 3- 4 days a week. Fewer levels of administration meant fewer headaches, and the 3 owners, our doctors knew us personally, which made us all feel like ” family”.
      I was a nurse for 44 years and I will tell you that your mental and physical health FAR outweighs the higher salaries that hospitals pay.

    • Anne-Marie,
      I am 43, 20 years in ICU. I never did good in school. I took the plung and am 1/2 way through an on-line only BSN at a small private local college. I have a 4.0!! It is nothing like what school was for nursing. Open book tests, google, cut and paste.. I take 1class at a time. It is Completely dooable for you!! Please give it a try!! I’m glad I did! I was too nervous for about 15 years!

  14. After 40 year of bedside care, I’m working on a MSN in nursing education. I don’t have the stamina to keep up with bedside nursing much longer. I love to teach so I should be ready to start in about 14 months.

  15. I graduated from nursing school in 1977. I looked like a 21 year old Nurse Ratched from “Cuckcoos Nest” Anyway I worked a lot of years on the floor…but I had health problems ( I was too busy taking care of everyone else..husband, signif icant other and sons) I had a a good year of getting on blood pressure meds, getting tests I never had time for. I quit smoking lost 37 lbs and walk 5 miles a day. I also got politically active, I love politics anyway at 62 couldn’t be happier. Happily retired from nursing.

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