Working as a nurse can be an incredibly rewarding job, and although it can be tough, it is easy to see why a lot of people are attracted to this role. It’s a career path that will challenge you, allow you to care for others, and give back to your community. It is a well-respected job and one that will always be in demand, providing you with the stability that can give you peace of mind. There are plenty of learning opportunities when you are working as a nurse, including discovering new talents and strengths within you that you might not have realized you had.
After years of studying and working hard to get your nursing degree and license, you may be relieved not to have to worry about taking classes or thinking about what comes next for a little while. It’s always good to have a break and get stuck into your job as a nurse, but after a little while, it’s also beneficial to start thinking about what your next steps might be. Another great benefit of working in nursing is that there are lots of different career paths you can explore, and these progression opportunities can be exciting and very rewarding. If you are a nurse who is starting to wonder what you would like to do next in your career, here are some options to help you start figuring things out.
Train as a Midwife
Going through pregnancy and giving birth can be an incredibly exciting but sometimes daunting experience. Expectant parents need the support of midwives to help them feel more confident and safer throughout this time and want to know that there will be a reliable team with them when it’s time to welcome their child into the world. If you like working with parents and love babies, this could be the perfect career path to pursue in your nursing career. To become a midwife, you will need to have specific training, and you will need to get an MSN or DNP qualification with a focus on midwifery. After this, you will also need to pass the CNM examination.
If this role sounds appealing to you, but you’re not quite sure yet if it would be the right career for you, consider asking to shadow a midwife in your hospital or another medical setting to get a better understanding of what you can expect as part of a daily and weekly routine in this role.
If you love spending time with children but being part of the pregnancy and labor process isn’t quite right for you, then working in pediatrics could be the perfect alternative. Although seeing patients of any age suffer from illness or injury can be tough, seeing children in this state can take more of an emotional toll. However, being able to support them and their parents through these challenging times, making the kids smile, and, hopefully, seeing them recover can be an incredible thing to be a part of. You can expect to help with managing medications, recording patient progress, helping dress wounds, recording and observing symptoms, and giving advice to patients and their families regarding care at home.
Another option you might want to consider for the future of your nursing career is becoming a nurse practitioner. If you want to continue working as a nurse but would like some additional responsibilities, this role can certainly provide that for you. As a nurse practitioner, you will be able to make diagnoses, write prescriptions, order tests, as well as assess and examine patients. You can work as an NP in a hospital or smaller healthcare clinics such as a GP office. The latter could be ideal if you would prefer to move toward a calmer working environment, as although there can still be pressures working in a GP office, the hours tend to be preferable to working shifts in a hospital ward. If the work of an NP sounds interesting to you, read more about the benefits of working as a nurse practitioner.
If you are someone with strong leadership skills, a person who loves to be organized and generally take charge in scenarios, then you might have already considered aiming to move into the position of Head Nurse later in your career. It’s a good role for someone who enjoys working in managerial positions, but it does come with a lot of responsibility. In this role, you will be in charge of the nursing staff in the facility you work in. This will include tasks such as creating shift rotas, overseeing and organizing staff training, and liaising with doctors and the hospital administration and management staff, to name but a few responsibilities.
If you are interested in becoming a Head Nurse, you will need to show that you are a strong team player and have excellent communication skills. These are both desired qualities in nurses anyway, but if you do want to be in charge of the nursing team one day, it is even more pressing than you can prove you are capable of this. You won’t necessarily need a master’s degree in nursing for this role, but it will certainly help your chances, so do consider returning to your studies to achieve this qualification if you can.
This might be a position you are interested in at a later stage of your nursing career, as having that wealth of hands-on experience as a nurse will certainly be useful when you’re teaching a new generation of healthcare workers. However, that doesn’t mean you need to wait for decades if this is a side of healthcare that you would like to focus on. Many nurses do go on to become educators, whether that is working on organized training programs or in a more academic setting for new nursing students. This can be a welcome change of pace for those who are looking to work less in the typical healthcare environments that they are used to while still engaging in a career that they are passionate about. If you do want to become a lecturer in nursing, you will need to get a higher degree, however, ideally, a master’s in nursing or a Ph.D. In some cases, you may be able to study for these degrees while still working in an educational environment.
If you have worked in hospitals and other fast-paced healthcare environments and you think you are ready to change gears and find something that has more sociable hours, working as a school nurse could be a good transition for you. Looking after the health and well-being of students is important, and you can also help to educate them on how to take care of themselves properly at home, or even assist with sex education when students reach that age. You could find work in an elementary school, high schools, or even educational establishments for more mature students, such as universities or other centers. This can also be a suitable job for those with children, as often, these hours fit well around their school day.
Clinical Nurse Specialist
This is another excellent role for those who want to take on more responsibility, but while an NP focuses more on direct patient care, a clinical nurse specialist, or CNS, tends to do more work revolving around administration, research, and program development. You will still be able to carry out examinations and provide direct patient care, but you will also be focusing on conducting research and managing a team of medical professionals. You can also work within an educational setting as a CNS. Your specialist area might be in geriatrics, cancer care, critical care, pediatrics, mental health, or another area that you find interesting.
To become a CNS, you will need to take the relevant examinations and get your state CNS license. You will also need an MSN or DNP to do this.
When a patient needs to have surgery, an anesthetic is applied to help stop the pain, but it requires an expert anesthetist to make sure that the dosage is right and everything is working correctly. As a nurse anesthetist, this will be your responsibility, and you will be there to make sure that the patient has followed instructions for pre-op regarding taking anesthetic, making sure that they are comfortable throughout the surgery, and helping them in aftercare, too. You will also need to assess the patient before administering anesthesia to make sure that this is a suitable option for them, identifying risks such as allergies or a potential overdose due to other medications that may interfere with the anesthetic. You can expect to work in hospitals, emergency rooms, intensive care units, and outpatient surgical clinics in this role.
To become a nurse anesthetist, you will need to have your BSN degree and work within the ICU or a similar environment for one to three years to gain some experience in these areas. You can then apply to a recognized and accredited nurse anesthetist program. Once you have completed your studies on this course, you will then take a national examination and get your NA license.
Working with the elderly and helping them maintain good health and be more comfortable in their golden years can be a very rewarding job. If you have always enjoyed the company of senior citizens and have the drive to care for them in this later stage of life, then working as a geriatrics nurse is likely the ideal role for you. One of the great benefits of this role is that it can allow you to work in a variety of environments, so finding a place that suits you shouldn’t be too difficult. For example, you could remain in a hospital setting if you would like, or you could choose to work in an assisted living facility or nursing home. Alternatively, you could go end up visiting patients in their homes if this is their preferred approach to senior care.
As a geriatrics nurse, typically, you will be responsible for medication management, observing the patient, and checking for any symptoms. Monitoring their progress and reaction to medications and/or treatments will also be part of your job. You may find that you are helping with palliative care in some circumstances in this role, too.
This isn’t a role that you might typically consider for your nursing career, but for those who do not mind traveling and would like to work in different places, it could be ideal. As a travel nurse, you will be sent to different hospitals and healthcare settings around the country, and potentially even abroad in some cases. This will be to help with short-staff problems in these establishments, and you will only be working there for a temporary period, perhaps a few months at a time. This career path isn’t for everyone, and it may not even be something that you would like to do for the entirety of your career. However, if you are still in the process of deciding on a more permanent career path, or you don’t mind the idea of traveling around as part of the job, this role could be ideal for you.
Working as a nurse is not for the faint-hearted, and although it can be a very challenging career choice, there is a lot of reward in it as well. Not only do you get to actively help others in their time of need, but you are also part of a vital service that society needs. Furthermore, nursing can provide you with stability and is a job that will always be in demand. It can also offer a variety of interesting roles within healthcare, which means your career can lead you to new and exciting experiences and allow you to discover your true passions in this field. If you are a nurse who is starting to contemplate your next career move, consider the suggestions above. Although there are many, many other options available to you, perhaps some of the above will serve as inspiration to help you find your true calling as a nurse.