Some nurses might choose to seek out careers in nonclinical roles for a variety of professional and personal reasons. They could be burned out on clinical nursing, or just prefer a change of pace and an opportunity to sharpen new skills while still using and leveraging their education and experience in nursing.
Before switching careers, you might want to take a few steps to prepare for the major life change:
Research multiple careers of interest: To decide where to focus efforts, learn about the skill requirements, schedule and compensation for desired careers prior to launching a job search to determine which nonclinical career would be the best fit.
Try out a job on a part-time basis prior to making the full-time leap. Sometimes, the grass seems greener on the other side, but nonclinical jobs might not provide the career satisfaction desired. Therefore, it may be a safer plan to test the waters by getting a part-time side-gig in a nonclinical role before making the move out of clinical care.
Prepare for financial or schedule changes: Switching from one job to the other often creates unintended consequences in various aspects of daily life. You should explore how a new nonclinical role could affect finances, as well as work schedule and commute. Then, you can implement any necessary arrangements and accommodations (transportation, childcare, budget, etc.) prior to making a major career change.
Many nonclinical roles are ideal for people with a background in clinical nursing, and health care-related skills and expertise are often in high demand by a variety of employers. Here are some nonclinical career options for nurses who wish to make a change:
Health care administration
Health care administration or hospital executive is an excellent option for nurses with clinical experience who would like to make a career transition into an administrative leadership role. Health care administration is often a lucrative career, and jobs are available in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, public health organizations, long-term care facilities and physician offices. Some employers may require an additional degree in public health or business such as a Master of Public Health or Master in Healthcare Administration. Some potential roles include chief nursing officer, operations officer, medical director and medical administrator. Certifications are available from a variety of professional associations, including the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management and the American College of Healthcare Executives.
Health care corporations, magazines, websites and journals are always seeking quality clinical content. Many nurses have a suitable background of clinical knowledge, medical terminology and health care experience to offer companies and publishers. The American Medical Writers Association provides information, career guidance, conferences, networking and certifications for medical writers.
Medical legal consultant
Nurses’ clinical expertise is valuable to the legal profession in forensics, medical malpractice, medical product liability and insurance claims. “If you enjoy medical problem-solving, researching and analyzing information, and working with others, then legal nurse consulting may be for you,” according to an article on Nurse.org that provides more details on how to become a nurse legal consultant. As a legal consultant, nurses can provide expert testimony, help secure expert witnesses, act as a jury consultant, or help with research and preparation of exhibits to be presented in the case. According to career website Glassdoor.com, legal nurse consultants earn an average annual income of about $82,000, with upside earnings of $116,000 or more annually.
Medical sales companies benefit from nurses’ firsthand knowledge and experience with the medical devices and equipment they are selling. Working as a medical sales representative might require travel, long hours on the phone or in meetings, and sales skills such as relationship building, negotiation and prospecting. However, careers in medical sales are often financially rewarding and provide a suitable job option for those who enjoy working with people and building relationships.
Working as a patient advocate is a fitting career for nurses who still want to continue to work directly with patients and their families, while making an impact from a nonclinical standpoint. Advocates help patients and their families to successfully navigate the health care system bureaucracy, including insurance companies, hospital system red tape, clinical research options and more. They ensure patients receive the highest quality of care for the best price, while protecting patients’ rights and most effectively using the insurance benefits available to them. Similar roles may be called case manager or care manager. Online job aggregator Indeed.com lists multiple jobs for “RN patient advocate,” including this one at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Atlanta.
Health care staffing
Medical staffing is a large industry that always needs strong recruiters and account managers who are familiar with the health care industry. Medical recruiters help match health care employers with health care professionals for permanent or temporary employment opportunities. Nurses can be successful recruiters because they know the industry and the lingo, as well as what questions to ask and how to match clinical skill sets for the best fit. For nurses who love working with people and significantly affecting the lives of other health care professionals, medical recruiting could be a great fit — whether in physician staffing, nurse staffing, or recruiting other clinicians for temporary, travel or permanent positions.
For more of this kind of content, sign up for the Pulse newsletter here.