Ready for a career shakeup or looking for a job that aligns more closely with your interests? The great thing about working as a nurse is that you have highly in-demand practical and soft skills that can take you into all sorts of environments and niche roles. While many nurses stick to more traditional roles working with patients in hospitals, clinics and emergency departments, there are many other ways to put your dynamic skills to use and forge a rewarding career.
What are unconventional career opportunities in nursing?
Unconventional, non-traditional, or alternative nursing jobs differ from traditional nursing jobs in location, patient-base, or aspect of delivery. Basically, they’re outside the four walls of a hospital which is what you might be used to. Some of these jobs only require a registered nurse (RN) license, but most will necessitate a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) if not a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), plus you might need special certification depending on the specialty of your particular nursing practice.
When you’re thinking about taking your nursing career in a different direction consider the following:
- What do you like best about nursing, or why did you want to become a nurse in the first place?
- What do you not enjoy about nursing or wish you could change about your current job?
- What type of work environment and schedule do you prefer?
- How much interaction would you like to have with patients?
- What other interests do you have that you might be able to integrate into your nursing career?
Keep your answers to these questions in mind as you consider what jobs might be right for you.
Non-Traditional Career Choices for Nurses
It is entirely possible to find non-traditional nursing jobs that still have contact with patients if that’s what you’re looking for. However, a lot of alternative nursing paths simply involve nursing tasks in an unusual setting or with a very specific set of patients. Check out our lists below for unique nursing jobs that are both centered on patient care and those that aren’t. Salary figures are estimates for each role but can vary depending on the level of education and years of experience you bring to the position.
Research Nurse - $73,3281
Research nurses work with medical teams to develop and implement clinical trials and other studies. Especially early on in their careers, research nurses are responsible for working with trial participants, ensuring study protocol is followed closely, recruiting subjects, administering treatments, writing papers and presenting at industry conferences. Nurses with master’s or doctorate degrees may serve as the primary investigator for a trial and be able to lead an exploration into a topic they’re interested in.2
Sports Medicine Nurse - $105,6543
Do you love sports or are you an athlete yourself? Consider getting into sports medicine for a fun career path. Sports medicine nurses are needed in a variety of settings like professional athletic teams, universities and fitness clubs. An interest in orthopedics would be useful for this job. You’ll likely work with patients to treat and recover from sprains and strains, tendon injuries and teach athletes how to keep their body functioning in top form. It’s likely you would need to complete a sports medicine fellowship in addition to a BSN or MSN in order to secure one of these roles.4
Plastic Surgery Nurse - $76,5275
Working as a nurse aesthetician is a good career for those up for precise and emotional work. These nurses might work with patients who’ve suffered burns or other injuries resulting in disfigurement but could also work alongside plastic surgeons on both necessary and elective surgical procedures. Similarly, if you like the idea of working in the beauty industry and helping people feel better about their appearance, you could be a nurse esthetician providing minimally invasive procedures like varicose vein cauterization, Botox, dermal fillers, lymphatic drainage, laser treatment and more.6 The salary estimates for nurse estheticians can vary widely depending on the location of their practice and treatments offered.
Non-Bedside Nursing Jobs
Traditional bedside schedules of twelve-hour shifts can be exhausting. Fortunately, there are many careers in the healthcare profession that don’t require direct patient care and can offer more flexible hours or a completely different style of schedule and give you a chance to use different skills and take on new responsibilities.
Nurse Informaticist - $101,8527
Nursing informatics combines medical knowledge with analytical and informational science to manage data, share information and improve processes. This role is good for someone looking for an alternative nursing career who also is interested in technology and data. Nursing informatics has improved healthcare delivery and care continuity with increased adoption and utilization of electronic medical record systems and similar technologies. Most nurse informaticists will still work in hospitals and ultimately have the goal of patient safety but won’t be dealing directly with patients. Most nurse informatics professionals hold a master’s degree in either nursing or informatics.8
Healthcare Lobbyist - $77,9029 or Nurse Consultant - $85,83010
If you’re interested in improving the healthcare system or the policies surrounding it, consider pursuing a career as a nurse lobbyist or legal consultant. These individuals must have a good handle on the intricacies of lawmaking and how policies are successfully changed or implemented. Nurses working as lobbyists bring critical first-hand experience to the role and also can thrive using their patient relation skills as lobbying requires a lot of relationship building and networking. Professionals in these roles need to have attention to detail and apt analytical skills for evaluating public health and healthcare issues while also being a keen researcher.11
Nurse Educator - $79,11712 or Nurse Faculty - $100,28613
Are you losing energy for patient care but still feel passionate about the field of nursing in general? Take on a career in nurse education! Nurse educators are leaders in hospitals, health systems or clinics who take responsibility for continuing education opportunities and skills workshops for their staff. If you would rather teach younger nurses instead of your coworkers, you could get into academia and work in a college of nursing on faculty.14 Nurse faculty are in high demand as a large number of faculty hit retirement age and universities struggle to offer enough cohort spots for thousands of applicants.15 You’ll want to earn a master’s degree to pursue any education career path and it helps if you can specialize in nurse education.
Pharmaceutical Sales Representative - $89,86216
If you want a competitive role that will take you much further than the bedside, you could try your hand at pharmaceutical sales. You don’t need to be a nurse to work in pharmaceutical sales but it can help lend legitimacy to your pitch and your familiarity with the field could give you a competitive edge. Sales reps work for pharmaceutical companies to convince healthcare professionals to use and prescribe the medications made by their employer. Reps are pretty independent and responsible for setting strategies, finding prospective clients, educating the clients on the medication, and using data to effectively make decisions.17
Medical Writing - $102,30918
Medical writing can take all sorts of forms. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the importance of accurate and easy-to-understand medical journalism to the forefront of the public’s attention and medical journalists remain necessary as the virus becomes a part of daily life and other public health issues work their way to the front. Working as a medical writer as a former nurse you could help develop educational materials, consult on script writing for medical television shows and movies, write for healthcare mobile applications, and more. If you’re a strong writer and want to put your nursing knowledge to use outside of the hospital, medical writing could be just the job for you.19
Most Unusual Nursing Jobs
Health emergencies happen everywhere which provides opportunities for nurses to work in some really unusual environments. If you’re up for a real adventure, check out the following jobs.
If you like action and high-speed racing, you could try to get a job as a NASCAR nurse. Some nurses employed by NASCAR serve as first responders to crashes and incidents on-site. Others help with research and development to continue to make the sport safer.20
How could you not want a job at the “Happiest Place on Earth”? At Disney as well as all other amusement parks, nurses work to keep staff and visitors safe, tending to all sorts of maladies and incidents.
Love the outdoors? You could get a position as a camp nurse. This might be a good summer position for a nurse that works at a school during the rest of the year.
Yacht/Cruise Ship Nurse
If you’ve got the travel bug, but want something more unique than travel nursing, think about getting a position on a cruise ship or yacht. Working on a private mega yacht can be pretty lucrative and gives you a one-of-a-kind experience caring for patients on the high seas. However, it’s not all luxury, you will likely have to serve as a member of the crew in another aspect as well like as a deckhand or a steward.21
Go after the nursing career you want
At Oklahoma City University, we equip nursing students to take on all sorts of dynamic roles within the field of healthcare. Plus, we offer the RN-BSN, MSN and RN-MSN completely online, so you can learn when and where you want. Schedule a call with an Admissions Advisor to find out how you can get the career you want with OCU’s online nursing programs.
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from payscale.com/research/US/Job=Clinical_Research_Nurse/Salary
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from nurse.org/resources/research-nurse/
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/What-Is-the-Average-Sports-Medicine-Nurse-Salary-by-State
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/how-to-become-sports-medicine-nurse
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Plastic-Surgery-RN-Salary
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from beautyschoolsdirectory.com/blog/nurse-esthetician-rn
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Informatics-Nurse-Salary
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from himss.org/resources/what-nursing-informatics
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from payscale.com/research/US/Job=Lobbyist/Salary
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from payscale.com/research/US/Job=Nurse_Consultant/Salary
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from dailynurse.com/health-policy-analystlobbyist/
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from payscale.com/research/US/Job=Nurse_Educator/Salary
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from salary.com/research/salary/benchmark/professor-nursing-salary
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from indeed.com/hire/job-description/nurse-educator
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from aacnnursing.org/news-information/fact-sheets/nursing-shortage
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Pharmaceutical-Sales-Representative-Salary
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from ziprecruiter.com/Career/Pharmaceutical-Sales-Representative/What-Is-How-to-Become
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Medical-Writer-Salary
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from info.amwa.org/ultimate-guide-to-becoming-a-medical-writer
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from nurse.org/articles/nascar-nurse/
- Retrieved on September 28, 2022, from nurse.org/articles/yacht-nurse/