Many nurses enter the field to care for patients in the hospital setting. While that’s certainly how most nurses spend much of their time, the nursing career opens the opportunity to do many kinds of work, in and out of the clinical setting.
“When I think about my own career path and how I got to where I am, it’s just amazing,” said Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP, Senior Clinical Editor, Lippincott Nursing Center, Wolters Kluwer Health, Learning Research & Practice. “… Research, advanced practice — there are so many opportunities in nursing that I wouldn’t change this career for myself.”
Here are three ways in which you can advance and specialize your nursing career.
Becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) means you can specialize your career and fulfill roles such as clinical nurse specialist, or nurse anesthetist, according to the ANA. APRNs also often serve as primary care providers, providing primary, acute, and specialty health care as a nurse practitioner.
Nurse specialists provide expert advice and advanced clinical skills in a niche area of nursing, according to registerednursing.org. Nurse anesthetists prep and administer anesthesia to patients in addition to providing pain management services. In particular, becoming a nurse anesthetist means a lot more money — upwards of $150,000 a year, according to nurse.org.
To become an APRN, you must attain at least a master’s degree, in addition to becoming a registered nurse and in some cases passing a certification exam.
If you like teaching but want a hybrid of clinical and classroom experience, you might consider becoming a nurse educator.
As a nurse educator, you’ll be teaching nurses at nursing schools and teaching hospitals, training the next generation of nurses. Many nurse educators still work in clinical settings, so if you’re passionate about directly treating patients, you wouldn’t have to give that up entirely.
Another bonus of becoming a nurse educator is that you’ll have more of a set schedule than solely working as an RN. In addition, working in the classroom setting is less physically demanding than being on the hospital floor.
Becoming a nurse educator is a multistep process. First, you must first earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Then, you’ll have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Lastly, for most nursing educator jobs, you’ll have to obtain at least a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN); to teach at the top schools, you’ll also need a Doctor of Nursing Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Spending at least two to five years in a clinical setting is also recommended, according to registerednursing.org.
For those who enjoy research, you might consider a career in nursing informatics. In nursing informatics, you’ll be pulling together nursing science, computer science and information science to conduct research and train others on new technologies, according to nurse.org.
You can enter the field as a registered nurse through on-the-job training or continuing education, although formal education is increasingly important, in such specialty areas as clinical informatics, consumer-health informatics, educational informatics, public-health informatics and research in nursing informatics, according to the American Nursing Association (ANA). Because you’d be working out of the hospital, likely at a government agency or pharmaceutical company, nursing informatics is a good choice for nurses who are experiencing burnout or who otherwise want a change of pace from the typical nursing role.