How to take the next steps in your nursing career 

To most people, nurses are all the same and do the same thing — care for patients. While this might be true on some level, as all nurses do care for patients, not all nurses have the same job. There are different fields of study in medicine and healthcare requiring specialization, and there is also the need for nurses who have specialized knowledge and skills to manage patients with different needs. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is estimated that there will be about 203,200 job openings for registered nurses annually from 2021 to 2031. This suggests that nursing professionals are in high demand due to an aging population and a shortage of nurses. 

Qualified nursing professionals have many opportunities to choose from for their next career move. However, with so many options available, how do you know which one is right for you? This blog post will explore some of the most popular job options for nurses and give tips on making the best decision for your career.

The benefits of exploring different job options 

Nursing is a fulfilling career path to pursue. The joy of being directly involved in patient care and building people back to their full selves, or helping them maintain the best quality of life possible given their present circumstances, is what keeps many of those who choose a career in nursing going. 

However, like every other professional, nurses can get in a rut and feel stuck in their jobs if they are in a role they do not care about or find too demanding. In that case, exploring different career options within nursing can help nurses to build better careers and feel more fulfilled. Here are some of the benefits of exploring different job options as a nurse:

  • Opportunity for better pay

Nurses who are specially qualified have the potential to make more money by exploring different job options. Human anatomy is complex and diverse, so the care of different parts of the body and the ailments that afflict them require in-depth knowledge. Nurses who have acquired this specialized knowledge can negotiate better pay. 

  • Specialized area of care 

The symptoms and manifestations of diseases differ. Some nurses may find themselves uninterested in dealing with complicated symptoms and may want to explore different fields. For example, psychiatry is an area of medicine that requires constantly dealing with patients who may be aggressive. A psychiatric nurse will be able to manage patients’ bouts of anger and aggression and may even help them to calm down and connect with reality. 

  • Better control over participation in patient care 

Exploring new job options in nursing will also open you up to the possibility of being more involved in the care of your patients. Some lower-level nurses often complain that they do not have any opinions as to the care of their patients even though they usually interact with the patient more than anyone else involved in their care. Exploring different career options is a way to land yourself the opportunity to control your patient’s care better. 

  • Better control of working hours 

Long shifts and short breaks can drive nurses to the point of exhaustion. However, this is not the reality for all nurses. Nurses in specialized fields can enjoy better schedules and shared shifts as the workload is reduced and they are in high demand. 

  • Work benefits 

Nurses work in different environments, which would also mean that the compensation and benefits are different. While some nurses work in a regular hospital, others offer their services to nursing homes and outpatient centers. Nurses who explore the job options in different environments can demand benefits like health insurance, travel, and paid leave from employers. 

  • Professional recognition 

Earning qualifications and certifications in different nursing fields will give you professional recognition and improve your reputation as a nurse. By exploring a specialty, you earn credentials that stand out as a professional nurse. 

Different job options for nurses

Nurses are essential workers in the healthcare industry. They provide patient care in hospitals, outpatient clinics, private practices, rehab centers, nursing homes, assisted living centers and residential homes. Recently, nurses have been applying their professional knowledge and skills in advocacy groups. In this manner, there are many job options for nurses. They include:

  • Nurse practitioner
  • Certified dialysis nurse 
  • Psychiatric nurse 
  • Surgical nurse 
  • Nurse midwife 
  • Legal nurse consultant
  • Nurse educator or researcher 
  • Pediatric nurse 
  • Chief nursing officer 

Qualifications and skills needed for each job option

The nursing profession is qualification driven. To become a nursing professional and achieve your nursing career goals, you must have undergone the training as required by the body or institution in charge and clocked the required hours of work experience. Below are some of the qualifications that nurses must obtain for a career in nursing:

  • CNA certification training 

To land an entry-level nursing role, you must become a certified nursing assistant (CNA). A CNA typically needs to obtain a high school diploma or its equivalent and a CNA certification. Enrolling in an accredited training program is the best way to become certified as a CNA.

These programs typically last around six to eight weeks and cover everything from basic nursing skills to patient care and communication. Once you have completed the program, you will need to pass a certification exam.

  • Licensed practical nurse program 

A licensed practical nurse has more specialized roles than a CNA, including taking blood pressure, passing IV lines, dressing wounds, changing catheters, and monitoring patients’ progress over time. 

To become an LPN, you must enroll in and complete a nursing program in an accredited institution. LPN programs are usually offered by technical colleges, community colleges and career colleges. 

Unlike the CNA training, an LPN program can last up to a year, after which you must take a certification exam. 

  • Associate degree in nursing 

An associate degree in nursing will qualify you to become a registered nurse (RN). An RN has more specialized roles than any of the entry-level nurses already listed. To obtain an ADN, you must undergo a two-year program, after which you take the NCLEX exam to get certified. 

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing 

A BSN will also qualify one to become a registered nurse. However, because a BSN is a more intensive program offered in colleges for four years, people who undergo these types of programs earn the designation of a registered nurse and a BSN after taking the licensing exam. 

BSN nurses also tend to be considered for administrative roles first. Someone with an ADN who wishes to become a BSN can take a bridge program that will earn them the BSN. 

  • Master of Science in Nursing 

A Master of Science in nursing is an advanced nursing program that allows nurses to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). An APRN is closer in rank to a physician and can work without their supervision and make solo diagnoses in patient care. You can also use an MSN to pursue a specialization in any area of nursing, such as nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, etc. 

  • Doctor of nursing practice degree

This is an advanced degree that clinical nurse specialists take. A clinical nurse specialist can work as a primary care provider and participate in medical research, and they often work in a team that requires multidisciplinary specialists. They can pursue careers as pediatric nurses, psychiatric nurses, geriatric nurses, or any other area of specialization. 

Aside from the already listed qualifications, there are also bridge programs that accredited institutions offer to help nurses transition from one role to another. An example is the post master’s FNP at Rockhurst, a second-degree MSN that qualifies a registered nurse with an MSN in a different specialty to become a family nurse practitioner. 

How to prepare for a new job as a nurse

If you are thinking of making a switch to a new nursing job, there are a few things you need to consider first:

  • Mental readiness 

A new role would require that you take on added responsibility and you must be prepared for the challenges that would come with the job. For example, as an entry-level nurse, most of your responsibilities require minimal decision-making in patient care. As you advance in your career, you will be required to apply more clinical knowledge and make decisions that can either make or mar a patient’s treatment. The most important thing is whether you feel ready for a new challenge. Nursing is a demanding profession, and if you are not ready for a new level of responsibility, you may feel overwhelmed.

  • Consider the workload 

Another thing to consider is the workload. Will the new position require more or fewer hours than your current job? How much travel will be involved? Will you be able to maintain your current lifestyle? These are important factors to think about before deciding. If you already have a family or are on the cusp of starting one, you should consider what changes you will need to make in your personal life to accommodate your new responsibilities. 

  • Do your research 

Make sure you research the new position thoroughly. Talk to those working in that field, read up on the requirements, and explore the potential benefits and drawbacks. This will help you make an informed decision about whether the job is right for you. 

  • Get training in your new role

If you are ready to go ahead with pursuing a new nursing role, your next step would be to get training. Depending on what role you are pursuing, you can enroll for an online degree that would allow you to continue working. Also, you might not need to pursue certification for some roles, if you are able to train within the organization you are working in. 

Many hospitals provide new nurses with training specific to their roles within the organization. Make sure you attend all your required training sessions to familiarize yourself with the tasks you will be responsible for performing on the job.

  • Familiarize yourself with the organization

If your new role requires you to change your working environment, then you must familiarize yourself with the new organization. For example, if you used to work in a hospital and are taking up a role as a geriatric nurse in a nursing home, you will need to understand the workings of a nursing home properly. One of the most important things you can do before starting a new job is to learn about the organization where you will be working. Get to know its history, its mission and its goals. This information will help you understand the culture of your new workplace and how to best fit in.

  • Get a mentor 

Whether you are transitioning to a new and advanced field within the same organization or changing organizations totally, you need to get a mentor. A mentor will help you break into your new role easily and will guide you in making decisions that are pivotal to your career. A mentor will also help you understand the policies and procedures that come with your new role and how you can stay grounded. A mentor also helps you to recognize new opportunities that are available to people in your field so you can take advantage of them. 

How to decide which nursing job is right for you

Professional advancement as a nurse cannot happen in a vacuum. This means that your nursing career is directly tied to your personal life, skill set, strengths and weaknesses as an individual, and even your core values. All these will play a role in your decision to pursue a career path in nursing. However, as easy as it may sound, many people do not know how to go about it. In order to decide which nursing job is right for you, you need to consider the following:

  • Personality traits

One of the first things you need to consider is your personality type. Different nursing jobs will require different types of personalities. For example, if you want to be a pediatric nurse, then you need to have a bubbly and outgoing personality since you will be working with kids. If you want to be an emergency room nurse, then you need to have a calm personality since you will be working in a high-pressure environment.

  • Working hours

Another thing you need to consider is your working hours. Some nursing jobs will require you to work long hours, while others will have more flexible hours. If you have a family, you must consider your childcare needs when choosing a nursing job. Another thing to consider is if the job is flexible enough for you to pursue your personal interests and if it is easier to advance your career while in that role.

  • Location

A factor to consider is your location. Some nursing jobs will require you to live away from home. For example, if you are considering working in a rehabilitation center, you must be aware that you will need to be away from your home for days at a time. Is this something that your current life needs can accommodate?

  • Travel

If you are looking for a nursing job involving travel, you need to consider how much time you are willing to spend away from home. For example, some traveling nursing jobs will have you working in remote areas for weeks or months at a time. If this is something that interests you, then make sure you investigate jobs that will offer this type of opportunity.

  • Income

Of course, you need to consider your income when choosing a nursing job. Some nursing jobs will pay more than others. It is important to find a job that pays enough for you to live comfortably but also offers other perks and benefits that make the job worth your while. You need to consider everything from daycare for nursing mothers to comfortable lounges for shifts and practitioner’s insurance.

  • Level of involvement in patient care

Something to consider is the level of involvement you want to have in patient care. Some nursing jobs will have you working directly with patients, while others will have you working behind the scenes. It is important to find a job that matches your personal interests and goals.

  • Administrative functions

Another consideration is the administrative functions of the job. Some nursing jobs will require you to do more paperwork and administration than others. If you are someone who likes to be in control of their own work, then you need to find a job that gives you this autonomy. If you find that you are more fulfilled in administering care to patients, you might want to find a job that allows you to be as involved as you want.

Final thoughts

With so many different specialties and subspecialties in the nursing field, it can be overwhelming to try and decide which one is right for you. In this article we have outlined the benefits of exploring different job options for nurses, the qualifications and skills you need for each job, how to prepare for a new job as a nurse, and how to decide which nursing job is right for you. 

This should help you start narrowing down your options and determine which nursing area interests you most. Once you have a better idea of the path you want to take, plenty of resources are available to help guide your journey, including books, websites, articles like this one, and even online courses if you want to get a head start on your education!


You may be interested in: Here’s Why All Nurses Should Have Nursing Malpractice Insurance