We often think the word ‘nurse’ refers to just one job, however, the truth is that there are many different career paths open to you if you work in the field of nursing. This means that you can pursue a role in an area of healthcare that is of particular interest to you, or that you are especially well suited for. In this article, we run through a few ideas for how you can take your nursing career to the next level, in order to help you decide which is the right direction for you. Bear in mind that most of the options below require you to have either a master’s degree in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP).
Direct Patient Care Roles
The following are positions that involve working directly with patients in a clinical setting.
This role involves specializing in childbirth and women’s reproductive health more generally. You’ll care for expectant mothers throughout their pregnancy, assist with the labor and delivery of babies, and also provide postpartum care. These days you can take online midwifery programs in order to become qualified, during which you’ll study topics such as primary care of women, the role of the nurse-midwife, and care during pregnancy. The job also involves educating patients on contraception, conducting preventive health screenings, and assisting with fertility referrals. Many midwives work in hospitals, but you could also be employed in specialist clinics or private practices.
This is an advanced nursing role with a requirement for certification in anesthesia. You could work in any number of settings, from hospitals and clinics to dental offices, and with patients of all different ages. Your duties might involve assessing a patient and taking their medical history, educating them and their family about anesthetics, and getting their informed consent before a procedure. Then you’ll administer the appropriate anesthetic, monitor the patient carefully throughout their procedure, and assist them with their recovery afterward. During training, you’ll study modules such as clinical anesthesia, advanced pathophysiology in anesthesia, principles of anesthesia, and advanced health assessment for nurse anesthesia.
A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner is another advanced role, in which you specialize in helping patients with a wide range of mental health conditions. You could work with people of all ages and from all walks of life, who are suffering from disorders such as anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, substance abuse, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. This could be in a number of settings, including hospitals, clinics, prisons, and mental health centers. You’ll be involved in diagnosis and treatment, using both medication and therapy to provide the best possible care. Possible modules to study during training include advanced health assessment and practice in psychiatric mental health nursing, addictive behaviors, psychopharmacology for the advanced practice nurse, and psychotherapy.
Geriatrics is concerned with the care of the elderly, and with the country’s senior population steadily increasing, this is an area that’s likely to become even more important over time. You’ll focus on not only physical health but also mental health and emotional wellbeing, with a particular emphasis on conditions such as arthritis and dementia that are most prevalent in older people. You could work in hospitals, assisted living facilities, care homes, or visiting patients in their own homes. You’ll need plenty of patience and a positive attitude for this role, as well as empathy and strong communication skills.
Indirect Patient Care Roles
The following are positions that involve working in different spheres of nursing, to care for patients in a more indirect manner.
Nursing informatics is an interesting area that combines nursing with computer and information sciences in order to improve patient outcomes and the practice of nursing more generally. In many cases, this will be by designing and integrating new technologies into the healthcare system in your workplace, such as electronic medical records and innovative software. You might help to test new systems, train staff on how to use them, assist with troubleshooting, and evaluate how successful the implementation is. To prepare for the role you’ll study modules such as statistics for evidence-based practice, database management, information security and privacy, and clinical information systems.
For those who are interested in passing their nursing knowledge and skills on to the next generation, becoming a nurse educator could be a great choice. Whether in a university, college, specialist school, teaching hospital, or other learning environments, you’ll help both new students and experienced nurses to boost their skills and become better at their jobs. This requires being well versed in theories of teaching and learning, being able to design and deliver top-quality curriculums, and having the ability to assess students. This is of course in addition to having high-level clinical skills and in-depth knowledge of nursing.
Another option if you have an interest in science and academia is moving into research. Nurses can work within many different areas of medical and pharmaceutical research, helping to design and run studies in order to test and evaluate various medications and treatments. This is a great opportunity to contribute to the field of healthcare and improve our understanding of different diseases and conditions. You might be involved in the recruitment of participants, monitoring the progress of patients, and carefully recording information throughout clinical trials. There could also be the chance to write up your results and even publish your findings in industry journals. Possible workplaces include universities, research organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and teaching hospitals.
Those who have their sights set on the highest level positions might want to think about moving into a leadership role. Jobs such as nurse executive concentrate on the administrative side of nursing, which includes duties such as the hiring and training of staff, management of budgets, and development of patient care procedures. You’ll need excellent communication and collaboration skills, as well as a high level of professionalism.
While studying in preparation for this role, you could cover modules such as evidence-based leadership in healthcare organizations, quality improvement and patient safety, health policy, healthcare economics and finance, advanced decision-making in healthcare, planning and evaluating care for populations, and creating excellence in professional practice environments.