How Nurses Can Plan Career Changes in 2024

9 Min Read Published November 13, 2023
How Nurses Can Plan Career Changes in 2024 is inviting all nurses to make 2024 the year you make those big career goals happen. Want to get beyond the bedside? Want to make more money? Want to have more autonomy and respect? Or just want to figure out what your next move is? Keep reading to find out how to plan a career change and then how to make it actually happen.

How to Plan Your Next Nursing Career Change

Figuring out what your next step should be, starts with figuring out what you want and what matters to you. Think about the following things as you're planning out your career goals:

What Are Your Strengths?

Do you love sharing your knowledge and helping other nurses? Maybe becoming a nurse educator is the right path for you. Are you a natural leader? Then you might think about advancing into a management role. 

What Are You Most Interested In?

Do you love crime dramas? Add forensic nursing to your list of career possibilities. Or maybe you're interested in helping people look and feel their best -- in that case you may want to look into aesthetic nursing.

What Are the Reasons You Got Into Nursing in the First Place?

Think about the beliefs and values that drew you to this profession in the first place and see if that leads you in any particular direction.

What Do You Want to Change About Your Current Role?

Perhaps the most important question on this list, what do you need in your next career? Do you want to work from home? Do you prefer not to have a direct patient care role? Do you want to explore new states? Are you ready to advance your education? This could be a number of things, but only you will know what matters most to you in this next role. It’s important to think about what is important to you for the next stage of your career as a nurse!

>> Show Me Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Jobs for Nurses Who Want to Change Career Paths

Once you've thought about what matters most to you, you can then explore the plethora of career opportunities that the field of nursing has to offer. You can explore a full list of all the types of nurses or see an explainer of nursing ranks and levels, or keep reading for some of our top suggestions for nurses wanting to make career changes.

Careers for Nurses Who Want to Leave the Bedside

If you want to get beyond the traditional bedside role, there are a lot of options available to you. In fact, the growth for non-traditional bedside roles is growing exponentially and the opportunities are endless. From aesthetic nursing to telehealth there's something for everyone. Below are a few options to consider, and you can also explore 10 more non-bedside nursing jobs.

Aesthetic Nurse or Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner

Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurses and Aesthetic NPs help people through the use of non-invasive, in-office treatments such as injectables and skincare treatments. Aesthetic nurse practitioners often help plastic surgeons and cosmetic dermatologists, providing pre-and post-operative care related to plastic surgery as well as delivering care to patients under the supervision of a physician. 

Nurse Educator

Nurse Educators are master's-prepared nurses (MSN) that generally work in academia; however, they can also work as a unit-based educators. They develop coursework curriculum, teach courses, evaluate educational programs, oversee clinical rotations, and conduct research. Nurse Educators need a minimum of a Master's of Science in Nursing degree. Nurse educators in the hospital setting will focus on continuing education, orientation for new nurses, as well as education-related to products utilized in the unit. 

>> Show Me Online Nurse Educator Programs

Telehealth Nurse

Telehealth nurses are Registered Nurses that use telecommunication technology such as video, phone, email, and messaging to provide high-quality care to patients. They often help patients with minor health problems and can help determine if patients need to seek emergency care, make an in-person appointment with a physician, or can be treated without further guidance. 

Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses care for victims of violent crime, abuse, or neglect while gathering evidence to support law enforcement. Forensic nursing is a unique specialty that blends the worlds of nursing, science, and the legal system. There are several types of forensic nurses that you can specialize in if this field interests you. 

Research Nurse

Research Nurses, also referred to as Clinical Nurse Researchers or Nurse Researchers, develop and implement studies to investigate and provide information on new medications, vaccinations, and medical procedures. They assist in providing evidence-based research that is essential to safe and quality nursing care. 

>> Show Me Nursing Research Programs

Home Health Nurse

Home health nurses provide care for individuals in their own homes. This care may be needed because of an injury or illness for which a patient has already been hospitalized, or for those who require medical supervision but who either do not require or do not want to be in an institutional setting. 

Hospice Nurse

Hospice nurses care for patients in their final weeks of life, providing both acute clinical care and compassionate palliative care meant to deliver a high quality of life and to help them and their families as the end draws near. 

Careers for Nurses Who Want to Make More Money

If you know that you definitely want to make more money, check out the options below as well as our list of the highest paying nursing jobs in 2024.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

CRNAs are the highest-paid registered nurses, earning on average more than $181,000 per year. CRNAs administer anesthesia and other medications as well as monitor patients who are receiving and later recovering from anesthesia. You'll need a doctorate degree to become a nurse anesthetist.

>> Show Me CRNA Programs

Nurse Practitioner

A Nurse Practitioner (NP) is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) that has earned either a Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). NPs earn a higher salary, have more responsibility and more career opportunities than many other types of nurses. They can serve as primary care or specialty care providers and typically focus their care on a specific population such as families, children, or the elderly. 

>> Show Me Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

Clinical Nurse Specialist

A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is a type of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) that's completed a graduate-level education and clinical training. Like nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists specialize in specific patient populations; however, unlike NPs, they focus more on educating nurses and improving patient outcomes.

Travel Nurse

With more and more nurses wanting to travel the country and still work in a profession they love, travel nursing has become increasingly popular. It offers guaranteed shifts at a higher pay while exploring a new city as often as one wants, generally 13-weeks at a time. Furthermore, nurses often have the ability to extend a contract if the new city is starting to feel more like home. 

Careers for Nurses Who Want More Autonomy

Do you want more control of your work? Then perhaps you need a nursing role with more autonomy and responsibility. Roles in leadership are ideal for you; however, it does take an advanced degree and years climbing the management ladder. Check out these nursing leadership roles:

Chief Nursing Officer

A Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) is the highest administrative role within the nursing profession. Being a CNO involves communicating with nursing departments about business matters, best nursing practices, and nursing issues. Education to become a CNO includes a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or higher, with a focus on business administration. 

Director of Nursing

Nursing Directors are key administrators in the healthcare system. They collaborate with other healthcare professionals while overseeing the day-to-day operations of a nursing department. With high pay and many opportunities for career advancement, it’s a highly sought-after position. Nursing Directors typically have years of bedside clinical nursing experience as well as leadership skills, and an advanced education -- either an MSN or DNP.

Nurse Manager

Nurse Managers manage and oversee the nursing staff in a healthcare facility. They create schedules for employees, give annual performance reviews, and help create policies within the unit. Managers can oversee one specific unit or may oversee several units within a healthcare facility. This will depend on the organizational structure of the facility. Nurse Managers are usually required to hold at minimum a Bachelor's in Science in Nursing (BSN). Most major health care institutions will also require completion of an MSN degree or current enrollment in a master’s level program. 

How You’re Going to Achieve Your Nursing Goals This Year

Once you've decided which direction you want to go, you then have to figure out how to make it happen.

1.) Put Your Goals Into Writing

Write down exactly what you’re going to accomplish. To get ahead of any future doubts, you can also write down potential excuses you may give yourself down the road along with rebuttal statements.

2.) Look Back at What You’ve Already Accomplished

Just in case the above steps weren’t enough to get you motivated, you’re also going to make a list of your previous accomplishments. That way when you’re feeling down and like you can’t do this, you can look at this list and know that you have what it takes.

3.) Share it

Keep yourself accountable by sharing what your goals are on social media so that you and all the other nurses you’re doing this with can keep each other accountable.

4.) If You Need to Advance Your Education, Explore Nursing Schools

After you’ve reviewed the process for getting that next degree, you need to start exploring schools. This will give you a sense of application deadlines, prerequisites, entrance exams, etc. 

5.) Brush Up Your Resume

If it's been a while since you last updated your resume, or if you just want it to be in the strongest shape possible, check out our Ultimate Guide to Nursing Resumes in 2024 to learn how to optimize your resume for robotic resume readers, the role you're applying for, and what to include to land your dream job.

6.) Apply For Jobs

Once your resume is in good shape and you know what you're looking for, you're ready to apply for nursing jobs. Be sure to check out the job board and others to learn about the latest nursing roles in your area.

7.) Prep for Interviews

If your newly updated resume was strong enough to land you an interview, make sure you're ready by checking out the 31 Top Nursing Interview Questions & Answers as well as the Complete Guide to Nursing Interviews to learn everything you need to know to nail the interview.

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Why 2024 is the Best Time to Make a Major Career Change as a Nurse

It may seem daunting to start any major career changes, especially in these uncertain times, but you owe it to yourself to go for what you want! Because if not now, when?

There will never be the perfect time to make your dreams come true, but hopefully, this gives you a guide for where to start. We can't wait to see what you make happen in 2024!  

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