In the wake of the pandemic, a lot of people are finding themselves in need of a new career, or at least skeptical about whether their current career will remain a good one to be in. Fortunately, for those who are looking to move from their current field into something completely different, there are now plenty of great options for retraining, with affordable and convenient online degrees available for all kinds of professions.
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Changing Careers into Nursing
Nursing is one area that appeals to a lot of people looking to retrain and switch careers. Nursing is a good choice because not only is it rewarding and satisfying to work in healthcare, but it is also a profession that will always be in demand everywhere you might want to live. This has never been more evident than during the worst periods of the COVID-19 pandemic, where healthcare professionals were on the front line when it came to taking care of people who had the disease, as well as keeping other life-saving medical services available while hospitals were under intense strain. While this made it clear just how much hard work being a nurse or doctor can be, it also inspired a lot of people, who wished they were able to do more to help during the crisis.
Nursing is also a fairly future-proof career because while medical technology is always improving, and some tasks may eventually be done without the need for human diagnosis or intervention, the human side of nursing will always be needed.
Still, job security and the availability of opportunities aren’t the only things that make nursing a highly appealing career change option for a lot of people. Nursing is also a field with dozens, if not hundreds of different career paths you can go down, some of them interesting or exciting, many of them highly lucrative, and all of them rewarding in terms of making a difference to people, communities, and even medicine itself.
Here, we’re going to look at some of the many career paths you can follow if you change careers and become a nurse. Bear in mind that changing careers into nursing may not take as long as you might think, too, due to the availability of online accelerated nursing programs that allow people with a degree in a non-nursing field to complete an intensive course followed by a clinical work placement to qualify. If you are eligible for one of these programs, you could have your BSN much sooner than you might have anticipated, so this is well worth looking into if nursing is a profession you’d like to get started in.
Here are some of the many and varied options you could pursue once your nursing career has begun:
Trauma nurses typically work in settings like the emergency rooms at hospitals. As you might expect, they deal with patients who have sustained serious injuries or other unexpected emergencies, and they treat all sorts of different people, who are often in a critical condition.
As with all nurses who work in a hospital setting, this is usually a job where you work shifts, and you never know quite what is going to happen on any given day (or night). Trauma nurse work can become very hectic should there be a major incident in the area your hospital serves, such as a natural disaster, and this means this role is best suited to people who can keep a cool head in unpredictable circumstances. Naturally, this also makes it an appealing field of nursing for people who thrive under pressure, and it is also incredibly rewarding as in many cases you will be working to help people whose condition is changing rapidly – literally saving lives.
Working as a trauma nurse certainly isn’t easy, but for the right sort of person, the pros definitely outweigh the cons, and it is one of the most appreciated fields in nursing.
If you are interested in working with pregnant women and helping bring new lives into the world, then you can go on to qualify as a nurse midwife after some experience as a registered nurse. The main work of a nurse midwife is taking care of the medical needs of pregnant women throughout pregnancy and labor, and then post-partum care for the mother and newborn. Some midwives do also get involved in other areas of female reproductive health too, such as family planning, fertility, and gynecology.
This is a role where you are highly specialized in one part of the patient lifecycle, rather than treating all sorts of different people, so it allows you to become a true expert in the area of medicine you are dealing with. As you might expect, this role is most popular with female nurses, due to the focus on women’s reproductive health. Midwives get to know each patient throughout her pregnancy and post-partum period, and most mothers really come to rely on the advice and help of their midwife. This means it is a great role for people who want to form bonds with their patients and work with the same person over an extended period. Midwives are very important to growing families, and to their communities, and it is always rewarding to see new babies born, having played a part.
Another field that some nurses go on to specialize in is geriatric medicine. Elderly people need more medical care than any other age group, and this means there is a lot of demand for nurses who want to take care of senior citizens. Geriatric nurses can work in a range of settings, from care homes through to visiting elderly people in their own homes to provide treatment. As with midwives, they work with patients in one specific stage of life, and so can become very experienced and expert in the kinds of issues their patients commonly have.
Geriatric nurses are very important to families and communities, as everybody likes to hope their elderly relatives will be treated with kindness and dignity, and that they themselves will too when they get old. However, it can be a very challenging job, as many patients a geriatric nurse will work with are likely to have mental as well as physical issues, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Geriatric nurses therefore need to be patient and thick-skinned, as well as caring and knowledgeable. Good people skills are also important, as in many cases a geriatric nurse will need to keep the family of the patient updated on their health.
Nursing doesn’t always have to be 100% about treating patients. Nurses who are interested in advancing medicine as a whole can move into working in medical research. This can involve working in a research hospital or even working in a lab or university setting. Research nurses fill the gap between scientific research and the healthcare industry, doing things like collecting samples and data from patients involved in trials and advising researchers on the patient side aspects of their research.
This can be a great career option for nurses who are also interested in scientific advancement in medicine, and it can be very interesting work.
Another career for nurses who want to be involved in innovation as well as directly helping patients is working on the informatics side. Technology, both in terms of medical devices and the software used in diagnosing conditions and administering healthcare, is an essential part of the health industry. It is only likely to become more important in the future, too. The companies that develop things for the medical industry always need assistance from people who understand healthcare and the needs of patients and clinicians, and this is where informatics nurses come in.
To become an informatics nurse, you would need a strong interest in technology, and you may also need to undertake some formal education in the healthcare informatics field, such as a master’s degree. However, if you are moving into nursing as a career change from a technology-related field, you may find that you will already be employable in this capacity after you have obtained some experience as a nurse.
Leadership Roles in Nursing
Like most other professions, nursing does give you the option to progress into management rather than specializing (though you can of course also do both and move into a leadership role in your specialism). Management positions tend to involve less contact with patients on a day-to-day basis and a lot more managerial work, for instance, administration, HR, and communicating with senior management at the hospital or clinic you work at. It can be quite well-paid work and is a good thing to aim for if you like the idea of organizing and supporting other nurses, and are OK with spending less of your working day treating patients directly.
There are advanced nursing qualifications as well as healthcare leadership programs that you can look into once you have some nursing experience, if a leadership role seems like the right direction for you to aim your career in. Again, if you are moving into nursing from a management-type role in a different industry, this may be helpful to you in taking on leadership roles in your new field.
Family Nurse Practitioner
One of the most popular career paths for nurses is to aim to become a family nurse practitioner, or FNP. These are highly skilled and educated nurses who can take on a lot of similar work to GPs. Family nurse practitioners undertake advanced degrees and gain the FNP accreditation, which attracts a very good salary as well as being one of the most highly sought-after nursing roles. An FNP can diagnose common conditions and prescribe drugs, as well as administering a wide variety of treatments and medical procedures. In many areas, especially rural ones, family nurse practitioners are mobilized to make up for the shortage of doctors, as they can treat a lot of the most common ailments and conditions themselves. FNPs can support people throughout the whole patient lifecycle, from newborn babies to geriatric patients, and this is why they are so important to families and communities.
Becoming an FNP is a good thing to aim for if you like the idea of doing similar work to a doctor and having a lot of autonomy and respect while following a nursing career path rather than going through the qualification route to becoming a GP. It is demanding and will require a lot of further study once you feel you are ready to make the move from registered nurse to FNP, however, it is a lucrative, interesting, and rewarding job that could be well worth it if you are ambitious about what you want to do as a nurse.
Oncology nurses treat people who have been diagnosed with cancer. They are vital in helping people who are fighting cancer through things like chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which they are involved in administering, as well as in helping with pain management and the general comfort of people with terminal cancer. Some oncology nurses specialize in specific common forms of cancer, such as breast cancer, but most treat patients with any variety of the disease.
Naturally, this is a type of nursing where a good bedside manner is essential, as many of the people you will be treating are very seriously ill. However, it can be extremely rewarding to help people in these situations and to know that you are making one of the most difficult times in their lives slightly more bearable. It requires a high level of knowledge and expertise but is a fairly popular choice for nurses who enjoy caring for patients more than any other part of the job.
As you can see, there are lots of different directions you could take your new nursing career in the long-term, all of them with different ways of working, and all of them suited to different people. Of course, first, you need to get started on qualifying as a nurse, so why not start looking into that career change today?