Nursing Careers Beyond the Bedside
Written By: Lee Nelson
When you become a nurse, you learn so many things about healthcare. But you also develop skills that can lead you into a career that goes beyond the bedside of patients. There is no limit to the kind of professional jobs being created for those with a nursing background who want a non-clinical setting.
“I found that I was called to move far beyond the role of a traditional nurse back in 1999, and that was very unusual at that time in nursing when only being a nurse practitioner allowed you to go into private practice,” says Denys Cope, a registered nurse the past 50 years and an end-of-life coach, author and elder care manager in Santa Fe, N.M. “I am so impressed how the field of nursing has broadened. Everything has changed dramatically, and there are so many different ways people are being creative in designing nursing jobs that fit their specialties and passions.”
For instance, Cope has a nursing friend who became a certified nurse coach and now coaches other nurses on how to expand beyond their traditional nursing roles. She had another one become a counselor and an influential expert on infant mental health.
“We are using our nurse’s heart but manifesting it with other skill sets,” she says.
To research and discuss the different types of non-bedside nursing jobs out there with those who are doing it, you can join the Nursing Beyond the Bedside group on LinkedIn. The group was started in 2010 and now has over 22,000 members. It is a community of nurses working in non-clinical nursing professions such as -- nurse educator; nurse informatics (combines high-tech information systems management with clinical information consulting); diabetes management; risk management; case management; medical record review; cruise ship nurse; and many more. You can also read some tips on determining which job is your best fit here.
“Some nurses work their entire careers and in a hospital setting, and there is nothing they would rather do,” said Cheryl Bergman, associate dean at the school of nursing at Jacksonville (Fla.) University.
But not all new nurses follow a traditional high school to college educational model.
“We are seeing more and more second degree students choosing nursing. These non-traditional students have earned a degree in another discipline and often have had another career prior to returning to school,” she says. “These previous nursing experiences are very valuable to future nursing employers as they include leadership qualities, time management and prioritization.”
Seven non-clinical nursing jobs
1. Nursing Informatics – In a survey done last year by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, the median salary reported for nurse informaticists was $93,000, and the average salary reported was $100,717. To get into the field of health informatics, nurses typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing and experience working with electronic healthcare records. One factor that is specifically driving demand for nursing informatics analysts is that there is more focus than ever on controlling health care costs. Effective nursing informatics can help to rein in health care costs at hospitals and other medical facilities. That is why the American Medical Informatics Association states that as many as 70,000 nursing informatics specialists/analysts1 may be needed in the next five years.
2. Case Manager – “More and more reimbursement for healthcare delivery is lined to readmission rates,” says Bergman. “A case manager helps manage the holistic care of patients to decrease readmission thus, keeping patients out of hospitals.”
The Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC) describes that the need for qualified case managers is anticipated to continually grow because the population is aging with all the baby boomers. The profession will also be important to help the growing number of patients with chronic illnesses such as arthritis. The median salary of case managers was $71,293 per year in October 2014, according to Salary.com.
Case managers can choose many places of employment including clinics, hospitals, health facilities and in many areas of the public and nonprofit sectors. They also have a chance to specialize in their passionate areas such as addiction, child welfare, aging, immigration, occupational services and more.
3. Cruise ship nurse -- The average salary for a chief nurse ranges between $4,800 and $5,800 per month, depending on her experience and the cruise line.
In an ad recently from Norwegian Lines, the company requested someone with emergency room and ICU experience. The job entailed living on board for 14 weeks with vacations of 7 weeks at a time, and accommodations, meals and benefits were all paid for.
According to Cruise Market Watch, seven new ships were added this year. From 2016 to 2017, 15 more new cruise ships will be launched. With more ships, mean more jobs.
4. Legal nurse consultant -- “Some law firms hire expert nurses for particular cases (such as surgical nurses if the case involved a surgical claim). The pay per hour is often set by the nurse and could be very lucrative ($300 an hour) for reviewing the legal documents with additional fees if called for deposition,” Bergman says.
You can be hired by insurance companies, attorney firms, prosecution offices, forensic departments, pharmaceutical companies, clinics and government agencies. Although it’s not mandatory, the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) offers a training course and certification examination for those hoping to become legal nurse consultants.
5. Nursing faculty – “The sky’s the limit in nursing. Education is the key component as is experience,” Bergman says.
To teach nursing such as a clinical nurse educator, you most likely will have to have a master of science in nursing. You can also earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice that prepares you for leadership positions in multiple domains of health care.
“For salaries, it really depends on the regional of the country. Additionally, the place of employment such as a community college vs. a large state university will have varying salary ranges,” she says.
6. Healthcare risk manager -- Risk managers’ responsibilities include working to ensure patient and staff safety, respond to claims of clinical malpractice, focus on patient complaints and comply with federal and state regulations.
Average national salary for this career is $80,000, according to the National Salary Trend from Indeed.com, and the demand for this career is expected to rise 19 percent by the year 2022.
7. Certified diabetes educator – Helping patients on nutrition and healthy habits to help control their blood sugar are your main concerns in this career. You can expect to earn a median salary of $62,639 per year, according to PayScale.com.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 21 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes while another 8 million have it but don’t know it yet. That’s a lot of people who will need help in the next few years.
Follow your passion to heal beyond the bedside
“The nursing profession is a noble one,” Bergman says. “Nurses have the privilege to serve those in the greatest need and to truly make a difference. There are many options throughout one’s nursing career. Nursing is diverse, dynamic and very fulfilling.”
Following your passion and your interests can grow into an amazing career in a non–clinical setting. You could end up in helping people in ways you never imagined. You could end up working at a university, in the courtroom or on a fantasy voyage in the Caribbean. It’s all up to where your dreams take you.
If you're looking for adventure in a new location, check out the benefits and opportunities of a travel nurse.
Lee Nelson of the Chicago area writes for national and regional magazines, websites, and business journals. Her work has recently appeared in Realtor.org, Nurse.org, Yahoo! Homes, ChicagoStyle Weddings, and a bi-weekly blog in Unigo.com.