Healthcare is a wide field with diverse careers in nursing. Contrary to what many people may think of a nursing job, not everyone who works in a healthcare facility offers patient care. Many healthcare professionals work behind the scenes to offer medical assistance but not directly by coming to contact with the patient.
Such a professional is always referred to as a non clinical nurse. Non clinical nursing jobs may include a nurse educator, informatics nurse, nurse administrator, or patient advocate. It is important to note that the requirements for becoming a non clinical nurse are closely related to those of a clinical nurse. These include acquiring a bachelor’s degree in nursing and meeting the requirements of licensure. Other relevant certifications may also apply depending on the nursing path one chooses to pursue.
In this article, we are going to delve deep into what non clinical nursing entails and how it compares with other nursing practices.
Clinical vs Non clinical Nursing Jobs
As we mentioned in the opening paragraph, working in a hospital or any health facility does not mean your work is clinical. A clinical nurse’s job is essentially the direct bedside patient care and treatment whereas, non clinical nursing supports patient care but indirectly.
A non clinical nurse may come into contact with a patient but does not offer clinical care like direct diagnosis or treatment.
A clinical nurse job also requires licensing and certification while some non clinical job posts like a certified nurse assistant (CNA) may not necessarily require one to have a license.
Difference Between a Nurse and a Nurse Practitioner
A nurse and a nurse practitioner are two correlated terms used in healthcare settings and can be easily confused. The major distinction between the two is usually the responsibilities which are determined by the level of education.
While a nurse may have general responsibilities of working in a doctor’s office to offering bedside patient care, a nurse practitioner, also called advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) is more educated and with higher authority over a registered nurse who hasn’t met the educational requirements.
Other than being a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, a nurse practitioner must also have a master’s degree or doctorate in nursing.
Non clinical Jobs that Nurses Can Do
A bachelor’s degree coupled with other certifications offers many opportunities for nurses who would wish to venture into non clinical jobs. This career path requires a little more advanced training compared to a regular registered clinical nurse and the rewards are also worth the effort.
Here are some non-hospital nursing jobs that nurses may consider:
- Legal nurse consultant
- Nurse educator
- Patient advocate
- Informatics nurse
- Academic nurse writer
- Hospice nurse
- Medical transcriptionist
- Nurse researcher
- Medical billers and coders
- Flight nurse
- Holistic nurse
- Camp nurse
One may also decide to become a certified nurse assistant (CNA) working under a registered nurse. A CNA, however, does not necessarily need a license to practice although some employers will demand the certification. A certified nurse assistant also has the opportunity to use the experience gained working as a nurse assistant to advance to the level of becoming a registered nurse.
Non-traditional Career Choices for Nurses
Until today, when you mention a registered nurse (RN), what comes first to many peoples’ minds is a direct caregiver offering bedside care to a patient in a health facility. A bigger population of registered nurses indeed work in hospitals taking care of patients. American Nurse Today reports that over 62 percent of registered nurses are direct caregivers in hospitals.
Over a third of the remaining nurses, which is approximately 2.7 million registered nurses in the US, work outside of hospitals. Below we discuss some of the non-traditional career choices that absorb these healthcare professionals.
Registered nurses, and particularly those with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree have an array of professional paths to take other than the hospital and clinic jobs.
Here are some of these less-known and also highly rewarding non traditional career choices for nurses.
1. Medical Writer
Medical writing can be a rewarding career for those who enjoy writing. These writings can always be about medical research, literature for marketing medical products, or even healthcare websites.
As an academic health writer, you have the freedom of writing and publishing your own books. You can also author medical textbook chapters in your area of specialty and sell them.
Medical writing is diverse, and one can write medical television scripts like those of movies you see with dramatic medical scenes to bring out a more natural feel of the hospital environment.
2. Cannabis Nurse
Cannabis nursing is yet another non-traditional healthcare job that is lately gaining acceptance across different states in the US. The benefits of medical marijuana are becoming widespread and so the need for cannabis nurses to guide patients on proper use. Any registered nurse can become a cannabis nurse. Here are more things you should know about cannabis nursing.
Some of the responsibilities of a cannabis nurse include:
- Guiding patients on proper use to avoid side effects
- Educating masses about marijuana strain effects
- Assisting in tapering and titrating doses
- Identifying how marijuana interacts with other drugs
- Helping to identify clean and safe marijuana for medicinal use
3. Flight Nurse
Also referred to as a transport nurse, a flight nurse is employed to accompany patients aboard air ambulance and other medical transport aircraft. A flight nurse works alongside other paramedics in offering both basic and advanced care and also treating other acute illnesses.
To qualify as a flight nurse, one must be an RN and must also complete the Department of Transportation Air Medical curriculum.
See more professional and legal obligations by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) that flight nurses may need to start practicing.
Things You Can Do With a Nursing Degree Besides Nursing
As much as a nursing degree may offer many opportunities to registered nurses, these opportunities depend on the type of nursing degree you possess. Here we explore some of the doors open for those with a nursing degree but who do not want to work in mainstream nursing.
1. Nurse Administrator
A nurse administrator performs administrative functions like creating schedules, managing other nursing staff, performing staff evaluations, and developing workplace policies. Other key duties also include coming up with new staff training, attending administrative personnel meetings, and keeping established legal and ethical job performance standards.
A nurse administrator can be referred to as a human resource person in a healthcare facility. A bachelor’s degree in nursing is always the minimum requirement for this post. One must also be a registered nurse to hold the position of nurse administrator.
2. Legal Nurse Consultant
Attorneys will always seek expert advice on healthcare malpractices and other health-related legal cases. A registered nurse can work as a certified legal nurse offering such advice for courtroom cases. A legal nurse consultant acts as a bridge to help attorneys build concrete and scientifically backed up cases.
Other than healthcare malpractices and other nursing elements, a legal nurse consultant is also versed with worker compensation claims and product liability, hence, a legal nurse consultant can also work in an insurance company or a private consulting firm.
3. Nurse Researcher
A nurse researcher actively involves in identifying research questions, designing and carrying studies, collecting and analyzing research data before reporting their findings.
A nurse researcher works closely with scientists in fields such as medicine and engineering, pharmacy, and nutrition so that they can come with solutions to complex questions and problems.
To practice as a nurse researcher, one must be a registered nurse and BSN certified.
4. Hospice Nurse
A hospice nurse offers direct patient care but outside the clinical setting. A hospice nurse’s major responsibility is to give the patient the needed comfort on the last days of their incurable illnesses. They also offer emotional support and counseling to the families of the patients.
Least Stressful Nursing Jobs
Almost all professions come with some degree of stress at some point in the line of duty, but a nursing career exposes you to more extreme stress than most. Although a nursing career is fulfilling in many ways, this job can be stressful depending on a few factors like:
- Number of patients assigned to handle in a shift
- Technical skill level required
- Administrative pressure
- Physical and mental fatigue
- ‘Shared trauma’ while handling patients with extreme injuries and pain
The nursing field is wide and not all paths in nursing share the same stress levels. A good example would be a psychiatric nurse employed in a correctional facility. The levels of stress here would definitely be high compared to say a research nurse spending time in the laboratories.
Clinical nursing that involves direct handling of patients is more stressful compared to a typical non clinical role.
If you would like to get a less stressful non clinical nursing job, you can consider the following positions:
- Nurse educator
- Summer camp or school nurse
- Holistic nurse
- Legal consultant nurse
- Cruise ship nurse
- Hospice nurse
How to Secure an Alternative Nursing Career
The vast nursing field provides hassle-free alternative nursing options with the right certifications. A registered nurse with at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing has over 100 alternative nursing career paths to choose from. These include both clinical and non clinical nursing options.
Securing an Alternative Nursing Career
Unlike the traditional nursing practices associated with bedside patient care, today nursing is diverse, and for those who’d wish to remain in the nursing field but away from clinical jobs which might be more demanding and stressful. This plethora of options has made securing an alternative nursing career a breeze.
There are two major ways to secure a fulfilling alternative nursing career. First, by getting a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The second is acquiring a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). So, all the requirements revolve around the education levels.
It is important to note that most leadership roles and advanced positions in nursing require nurses to have prior clinical experience before assuming an office job. These jobs are thus more suitable for a BSN career change as opposed to graduate jobs.
As a result of advanced training that one receives after completing a BSN or MSN program, more nursing career opportunities will be available compared to nurses without undergraduate or postgraduate programs:
Some of the responsibilities you will be entrusted with include:
- Ability to make more complex decisions
- Supervisory roles and departmental coordination
- Ability to educate communities and patients on matters relating to health
- Ability to create treatment plans and nursing care procedures
Places to Find Alternative Non clinical Nursing Careers
In most cases, those seeking alternative nursing careers are always clinical nurses who want to venture into more satisfying non clinical jobs. Here is a list of some of the places you can get a non clinical job after successfully undertaking a BSN or MSN program.
- Research Laboratories: You can work here as a research nurse alongside scientists studying diseases and testing new medicines.
- Insurance and Law Firms: Here, legal nurse consultants work alongside attorneys to help them build authentic health-related cases whether for healthcare malpractice or individual patients seeking compensation from insurance firms.
- Private and Public Learning Institutions: Nurse educators work in learning institutions such as universities or technical schools. They develop curricula, teach and prepare nursing students to successfully transit into the nursing profession.
- Healthcare Facilities: Healthcare facilities may employ you as administrative personnel strictly handling non clinical assignments like recruitment and other HR functions.
- Cruise Ships: Here, cruise ship nurses work to offer medical attention to passengers aboard the ships.
Employment Outlook for the Healthcare Management Field
Healthcare management involves planning, directing, and coordinating operations by healthcare providers.
A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics portrays the outlook for healthcare management as growing progressively. There is a projection of continued growth of up to 17 percent by the year 2024, this is faster than the average across all occupations.
Types of Nurses in High Demand
As we’ve discussed, the nursing field is very diverse and has some of the highest-demand professionals. A nurse is among the most sought-after careers in the nursing field. However, to qualify for the most rewarding and desirable non clinical roles, you need to go an extra mile in advancing your nursing knowledge base.
Here, we sample a few types of nurse that employers are constantly recruiting.
1. A Registered Nurse
A Registered Nurse, mostly referred to as an RN is now the standard nursing practice in the United States. An RNs’ job responsibility differs across different healthcare facilities. National Council of State Boards of Nursing, however, outlines the general scope of a registered nurse’ tasks as:
- Risk potential reduction
- Care management
- Psychosocial integrity
- Infection control
- Basic care
Some of the actual duties a registered nurse is expected to complete include:
- Coordinating with other healthcare professionals like doctors to offer care to patients.
- Recording patient’s medical history and present symptoms.
- Educating patients and parents about medical conditions management.
- Administering drugs as per the doctors’ recommendations.
- Offering direct patient treatment and care.
- Carrying diagnostic tests on patients and analyzing the results alongside other healthcare professionals.
2. Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
An Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) has both the educational requirements and licensing required for a registered nurse. However, for an APRN, a master’s degree in nursing is also mandatory.
An APRN is a registered nurse with some degree of experience and advanced level of education. Given the advanced level of education, APRN is authorized to take on specialized roles in patients’ care that a registered nurse with an associate degree or diploma cannot perform.
APRNs are also authorized to diagnose illnesses, manage chronic diseases, teach the public about health, offer continuing education via courses and conferences to stay updated with developments in the field.
APRNs have the opportunity to branch into other specializations and more rewarding careers like certified nurse-midwifery to offer reproductive and gynecological health care. APRNs can also further their education and transition well in most of the non clinical careers including nurse anesthetists, nurse educators, or even become a forensic nurse among many other nursing careers.
3. Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners are nursing professionals who have completed more advanced programs and have more authority over an RN. In most cases, they specialize in a specific nursing segment.
To qualify as nurse practitioners, the aspirants are expected to first complete a Bachelors in Science Nursing program, although a Doctorate in Nursing Profession (DNP) is lately preferred.
Nurse practitioners are highly trained and authorized to diagnose illnesses, educate patients, and also treat other conditions. They can also write patient prescriptions, a privilege that an RN does not enjoy.
Nurse Practitioners are also authorized to assume the role of a public health nurse teaching and educating communities about health-related issues.
Nurse Practitioners are also better placed to specialize and take a more advanced form of healthcare practice compared to their RN counterparts who lack educational requirements.
Administrative Career Path for Nurses
An administrative career in nursing is among the most exciting non clinical nursing paths that those who wish to venture into the business aspect of healthcare administration can consider. Given the advanced level of education by nurse practitioners and growing demand as reported by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, NPs are better placed to take on most of these administrative roles.
An entry-level into health business administration requires at least a Bachelor’s in Science Nursing (BSN). One can start with a position as a nurse manager and scale up into becoming a nurse administrator which is a high-level administrative role.
Here are some of the best schools for a nurse practitioner preparing to take on administrative nursing roles.
Job Tasks in Nursing Administration Career
Nursing administration is wide and includes tasks such as:
- Creating work reviews
- Developing work policies and procedures
- Giving performance reviews
- Attending administrative meetings
- Creating staff training programs
- Keeping legal and ethical standards for staff job performance
- Recruiting and hiring nursing staff
- Creating budgets in collaboration with other departments
- Carrying quarterly/yearly nursing staff evaluation
Most duties by a nursing administrator are carried out from the office and require very minimal or no direct contact with the patients. Apart from working in a health facility, administrative nurses may also work in other set-ups such as a nursing home, a private doctor’s office, clinics, or even in a home healthcare organization
Prospective Career Jobs in Masters in Nursing Administration
Apart from the lucrative posts an administrative nursing career with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) offers, advancing into an MSN administration nursing degree comes with improved privileges.
Below are some of the jobs nursing graduates with an MSN or management leadership can do:
- Chief Nursing Officer
A chief nursing officer (CNO) also referred to as chief nursing executive is the highest rank in nursing management within any healthcare organization.
The chief nursing officer’s role includes guiding both the business and nursing aspects of a hospital system and directing general patient care operations. Chief nursing officers also work hard to ensure that established healthcare delivery standards are being followed to improve the patient care experience.
- Director of Nursing
A director of nursing is tasked with administrative processes such as hiring and training nursing staff, developing work schedules, and managing departmental budgets.
A director of nursing may also be approached from time to time to advise medical nursing staff and the management on nursing policies and procedures. This is a highly-ranked position and most nursing directors report directly to the CEOs.
- Nurse Informatics
Nurse informatics is a specialty that uses healthcare data to evaluate patients’ care and other healthcare support systems. The information is always integrated with data from other departments, analyzed, before coming up with better ways of improving patient service delivery.
- Nurse Administrator
A nurse administrator is an advanced role practice that overlaps with that of a CNO. Both are registered nurses with advanced skills in leadership, nursing, and healthcare. These professionals interact with nursing staff and managers, executives in the organization, patients, and also patients’ families.
The two professionals also interact with the general public to educate them on various health issues. Although they freely interact with almost everyone within a health facility, their roles are purely office-based.
Nurse administrators are also some of the highly paid non clinical nursing professionals.
- Quality Improvement
Quality improvement entails positions such as clinical quality manager and Director of Quality Improvement. These professionals are tasked with ensuring patient care policies and standards are created and adhered to. Their key duty is to make sure a patient gets a positive experience in all aspects when leaving the health facility.
The position of healthcare quality improvement is available to registered nurses who have master’s degrees in nursing administration.
- Nurse Manager
A nurse manager role is correlated with a nursing director. The role requires advanced levels of education, usually a BSN and in other cases an MSN degree. Demonstrated leadership abilities and a strong clinical nursing background are other requirements for a nurse manager.
A nurse manager may also act as an educator to both the public on health issues and also offer mentorship to the newly absorbed nursing staff and experienced nursing professionals.
- Legal Nurse Consultant
Legal nurse consultants are yet another high-demand administrative nursing path that involves close working relations with insurance firms and attorneys. Legal nurse consultants will help both private and government professionals gather, analyze, and interpret medical information for use in legal proceedings.
- Clinical Nurse Researcher
A clinical researcher is actively involved in pharmaceutical and medical research. They review tons of information, evaluate data and use the findings to improve patient care. These highly trained professionals use their expertise to carry medical trials and design scientific studies that help improve patients’ experience and healthcare operations. A clinical nurse works closely with a physician in most of their research studies.
Clinical nurse researchers may also draft grant proposals to secure healthcare system funding, including research equipment.
- Forensic Nurse
Forensic nurses are trained registered nurses who help in solving violence, abuse, human trafficking, and other related cases. Forensic nursing is a diverse nursing path in itself and forensic nurses can work in both non-traditional and traditional careers. Some of the job titles for a forensic nurse include correctional nursing specialist, forensic nurse investigator, forensic psychiatric nurse, forensic clinical nurse specialist, forensic nursing education director.
Some of these areas include:
- Anti-violent programs
- Psychiatric institutions
- Correctional facilities and law firms
- Medical examiners offices
- Colleges and universities
- Hospitals and other health centers
Heavy cheques await those who enter nursing administration or other non clinical healthcare jobs. A 2019 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average salary of medical service managers which also includes roles in administration and leadership management was $116,150 per year. The job outlook also remains positive with steady growth in demand expected in the coming years.