Alternative Careers in Nursing Part 1: Public Health, Home Care and Medical Centers

Love nursing and looking for new challenges? There are many exciting career opportunities for those new to the field, or experienced nurses wanting to make a change.

In this four-part series, we will examine the options available for nurses who are looking for careers other than the traditional hospital bedside nurse. From nursing outside the hospital, to corporate and administrative careers, to individual and international business opportunities, there is a plethora of choices when it comes to taking the next step in your nursing career.

In part one of this series we will take a look at the growing variety of nursing opportunities available in public health organizations, home care services, and medical centers.

Widespread Care with Public Health Nursing

Public Health Nursing stands as an option for those seeking to make a big difference in the lives of many. Rather than working one-on-one in a hospital, public health nurses work in the community to improve the overall health of the group. They are most commonly employed in county or state public health departments, correctional facilities, occupational health facilities, businesses, or schools.

While some public health positions are geared more toward administrative or educational work, there are still many opportunities for hands-on nursing. Community centers and schools offer nurses the opportunity to work with and help those who may not normally be able to afford medical services.

Home Care through Hospice

For those who prefer to work one-on-one with patients, hospice and other home healthcare opportunities provide a nice alternative to the hustle and bustle of crowded hospitals. Hospice nurses perform many traditional nursing duties—working closely with physicians, and providing emotional support for their patients—all in the comfort of the patient’s home.

These caretakers are RNs who have undergone additional training and certification from the state health department to be able to work as a hospice nurse. Coordinating with an advising physician, they are responsible for providing direct patient care, evaluating the patient’s condition, and functioning as a liaison between family and physicians.

Due to the terminal diagnosis of hospice patients, much of the nurse’s responsibility focuses on minimizing pain and improving quality of life for the remaining time of each patient—rather than curing an ailment. Although this can be emotionally difficult for some, there is satisfaction and purpose in being able to help the sick live out the remainder of their time with comfort and dignity.

Midwives: Out-of-Hospital Births Trending Upward

In March, the University of Maryland and Boston University published a study showcasing the rising number of births taking place outside the hospital. According to the study, out-of-hospital births increased in the U.S. by 72 percent between 2004 and 2014, and the trend is anticipated to continue. With the rise of home births and the advent of birthing centers, more opportunities are opening up for nurses seeking an exciting, hands-on, and fast-paced career through midwifery.

In addition to labor and delivery responsibilities, midwifery includes a variety of other duties and opportunities for work. The certified nurse midwife (or CNM) can provide basic gynecological care, contraception, prenatal and postpartum care, and aid in the care of the newborn as well. Beyond the patient care offered, midwives often aid in providing health education to women on subjects of childbearing and infant development.

The Shift to Psychiatric Nursing

Psychiatric mental health registered nurses assess the mental health needs of individuals, families, groups, and communities through private practices and mental health clinics—and treat them using a wide variety of therapy skills, medications, and psychotherapy techniques. They also work collaboratively through partnerships with primary care providers. In addition, they aid in policy development and healthcare evaluation and reform.

Psychiatric nursing does require specific certification and training beyond that of a basic registered nurse. Many positions call for advanced practice nurses, so nurses seeking to make the shift to psychiatric work may need to earn a master’s or doctoral degree in a field of psychiatric-mental health nursing in order to practice. These degrees help ensure their ability to successfully consult, diagnose, care for, and evaluate each patient’s psychopharmacological and psychotherapy needs. In addition, further education enables nurses to specialize in fields such as child and adolescent mental health, geriatrics, substance abuse, or forensics—allowing nurses the opportunity and freedom to customize their job to meet their interests.

An Occupation in Occupational Nursing

Finally, occupational nursing stands as a diverse option for those looking to break out of the traditional nursing mold, and the field is steadily growing. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-2017, occupational nursing is projected to grow 16 percent in the next 10 years—a staggering amount compared to projected growth of other healthcare industries. And it’s easy to see why.

The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses explains: “Occupational and environmental health nurses have a combined knowledge of health and business that they blend with healthcare expertise to balance the requirement for a safe and healthful work environment with a ‘healthy’ bottom line.” This combination of skill makes occupational nurses an invaluable asset to the organizations where they work, and creates a high demand for their services. In addition, the wide variety of opportunities and diversified job description make occupational nursing an attractive option for those nurses looking to do something a little different.

Check back with us for part 2 of our series which will focus on administrative, educator, IT, and research positions.


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