12 Incredibly Cool Nursing Specialties You've Never Heard Of
By Lee Nelson
In 1986, Annie Lehy became a nurse. Little did she know that her profession could take on so many different roles. As she faced different obstacles and opportunities, she has been able to use her nursing degree in a number of non-traditional ways. So far, she’s been a successful writer and writing facilitator; trainer in areas of risk assessment and interventions; consultant motivational coach and counselor; and even a psychotherapist.
“I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur nurse. But everything I am passionate about became a patch on my quilt of life,” says Lehy. “I still think the basic foundations of nursing are what I go back to in whatever I am doing.”
Finding your passion in the field of nursing might be easier than you think. There are so many opportunities that can move your career in unexpected ways and into different places. Here are 11 incredibly cool nursing specialties you might not have known about.
1. Camp Nurse
Is the great outdoors your type of office? You might look into camp nursing if you long for fresh air and fun activities.
The Association of Camp Nurses (ACN) believes that there is a camp for everyone. As a nurse, determine what type of camp would benefit most from your expertise and background. Some camps focus on youths with cancer, adults with mental disabilities, or other special populations.
Camps may also specialize in a type of activity (e.g. horsemanship, trip camping), offer high adventure programs (e.g. white-water canoeing), or provide a broad, general program with waterfront activities, archery, crafts, tenting experiences, and/or various sports. Camps are administered by churches, agencies (such as Girl/Boy Scouts or the YMCA/YWCA), and even private corporations or individuals.
2. NASCAR Nurse
It takes a lot of people to run the NASCAR races and that includes medical staff. As senior director of NASCAR’s Medical Liaison Department, Lori Sheppard, RN manages the day-to-day operations of her department and focuses on the medical needs of the racing series.
“Our team provides a constant line of communication with race teams, monitors their progression through follow-up care and their return to competition. We also work with NASCAR’s Research and Development team in the never-ending effort to improve safety,” she says.
She works with several other full-time nurses at the NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach, FL. During the season, her duties also include visiting nearly 30 race tracks in 25 states and in Canada.
3. Medical Script Nurse
Have you seen how many new medical television shows are running on network and cable stations? And think of all of the movies you’ve watched which have dramatic scenes in hospitals.
In order for these to look and feel authentic, nurses and other healthcare professionals are often consulted to make sure their usage of medical equipment, vocabulary, and procedures is correct.
While this job is certainly glamorous, like most Hollywood jobs, it’s about who you know. Greg Spottiswood, creator and executive producer of the Canadian drama, Remedy explains.
“What you do is you meet with that person, you talk about the show and you take their temperature in terms of their interest in doing this kind of work. It’s not like one puts an ad in the newspaper.”
This is a great career if you can keep getting work, but you would probably be wise to keep your day job as well.
4. Hyperbaric Nurse
Hyperbaric chambers have been used for decades to treat divers for decompression sickness, but they also serve as therapy for more traditional patient populations.
In fact, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used for minimizing some of the impact of blood vessel diseases which can result from poorly managed diabetes and other chronic conditions.
The primary role of hyperbaric nurses is to diagnose and treat a patient’s response to the altered environment of a hyperbaric chamber. As such, the nurse must have a thorough understanding of the context of the symptom being treated. Chronic disease, acute carbon monoxide poisoning, high blood pressure, burns, or other illnesses can factor into the effectiveness of the treatment.
The Baromedical Nurses Association provides professional support and educational opportunities for those in this very specialized field. Jobs are available in many hyperbaric and wound centers across the country.
5. Disney Nurse
Can you think of any other type of nursing specialty where you can call on Mickey Mouse or a princess to make a patient feel better? Cheryl Talamantes, RN, BSN serves as the Guest Service Manager for the Disneyland Resort. She has been a nurse for 34 years and describes what it’s like to work at the theme park:
“Guests come from all over the country and the world, and there are situations where we are working through language barriers as well as cultural traditions,” she says. “In addition to having First Aid locations in each of our parks, we have a response location for our hotel guests.”
In the job as a Disney nurse, you may find yourself climbing down into a submarine or up the stairs to a treehouse to treat someone.
“We work around the entertainment and also support four marathons a year. We have a large population of people in the resort on any given day which means we can see and respond to just about anything. So our nurses need to have strong assessment skills and be comfortable in the first responder roles while working with all age groups,” Talamantes adds.
6. Yacht Nurse
The staff on chartered luxury yachts must provide first-class service to all their guests. One of these services is on-demand medical care. The crew on a yacht is generally small, requiring nursing skills on a limited basis, so nurses choosing this career should be prepared to also act as a stew or deckhand.
Most crew nurses live in very cramped quarters while on charter, but the money they make and the experiences they have on days off, more than make up for it. A similar specialty is being a Cruise Ship Nurse.
7. Flight Nurse
Flight nurses accompany patients as they are being transported by aircraft. Most of these patients require advanced critical care and the flight nurses are ultimately responsible for all direct patient care during transportation.
They often work with flight paramedics in rendering basic and advanced life support and treating acute trauma. Because of the unique setting (helicopters and airplanes), flight nurses are also required to complete Department of Transportation Air Medical Curriculum. There are also weight restrictions imposed in order to safely accommodate the rest of the crew and medical equipment.
For further information on certification as a flight nurse, see the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) website.
8. Parish Nurse
Parish nursing or Faith Community Nursing mixes the practice of nursing with the beliefs of a religious community. These nurses encourage physical and spiritual health as part of a holistic health plan which includes wellness, disease prevention, and other therapeutic activities.
According to the Indiana Center for Parish Nursing, Parish nurses serve many roles, including:
- Integrator of faith and health.
- Health educator, providing educational programs, health screenings and illness prevention education.
- Health counselor, providing individual health counseling services in the home, long-term care facility or church.
- Health advocate, helping others navigate through healthcare systems.
- Referral agent, finding resources and making referrals to agencies, organizations and support services to improve the member’s quality of life.
- The developer of support groups, organizing groups designed to assist the participants with a specific issue.
- Volunteer coordinator, organizing, recruiting and training volunteers to provide assistance.
9. Transgender Youth Nurse
With a greater awareness and acceptance of the transgender population, more and more patients are seeking medical care and at younger ages.
The Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles sees many of these young patients. Bianca Salvetti, a nurse practitioner there says,“We usually have a waiting list of 100 now, and have been adding 5-6 patients per week.”
“Many young people have had these feelings for a long time and just didn’t know how to articulate them.”
The hospital provides hormone treatments, pubertal blockers, chest binders and outpatient surgery.
“The best part of this job is helping somebody become their authentic self. They usually don’t see happiness at the end of the tunnel. I like being part of the team that helps them get to a place where they can be who they really are,” she says.
She helps educate her patients, making sure they understand how to give themselves their hormone injections, apply binders for their chests, or just deal with their day-to-day issues.
10. Health Policy Nurse
With the healthcare system getting increasingly complicated and expensive, some nurses are advocating for change to make it more accessible and affordable.
Health policy nurses do not work with patients at a clinical level. Rather, they work to influence and create public policies that will ultimately lead to a healthier population. You can find them in research firms, government offices, and healthcare organizations.
With this wide variety of work settings, an average salary for a health policy nurse is difficult to determine. However, one website estimates that average to be around $95,000 annually.
In addition, because global health policy requires a broader view of the healthcare system, health policy nurses should hold advanced degrees.
11. Nurse Health Coach
Personal coaches have become increasingly sought after. From nutrition and fitness to careers and business, and even relationships and love, coaches can be found in almost any aspect of our lives.
With a greater focus on the individual, personal health coaches can promote wellness, resiliency, and quality of life by guiding their patients to strategies for a healthier lifestyle. They serve to bridge the gap between your doctor visits and everyday life.
These nurse health coaches work in a variety of settings, including insurance companies, corporations, consulting firms, and many are self-employed with their own practice.
Aspiring coaches should complete some form of healthcare or medical degree. Afterward, they should seek additional certification from organizations such as the National Society of Health Coaches or complete a coaching program at an accredited college.
12. Cannabis Nurse
As more states realize the benefits of medical marijuana and make it legal, desperate patients will need guidance on how to properly use these substances to treat their often life-limiting illnesses and conditions. That’s where the Cannabis Nurse comes in.
Because of marijuana’s unique status of federal illegality, cannabis nurses must also assist their patients in navigating these gray areas and empower their patients with information to discuss with the rest of their healthcare team and loved ones.
Any licensed nurse can become a cannabis nurse and the American Cannabis Nurses Association offers a thorough education on this emerging specialty.
Weigh Your Options
These are just a few of the awesome careers nurses can pursue. And while it may not seem as exciting or glamorous to work in a hospital or clinic, there are still many benefits to working in those traditional settings. Access to state-of-the-art medical equipment, incredible growth potential, and being part of a large medical team are just a few worth mentioning.
Before you give up on your hospital job and pack up to become a yacht nurse, find out if there are other great opportunities nearby. A simple change of scenery can do wonders for your career.
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