5 Alternative Careers for Clinical Nurses

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Alternative Careers for NursesWhile bedside nursing has its benefits, after a while many nurses decide to leave the profession. Factors leading to this decision may include short-staffing, bullying or lack of upward mobility.

But before leaving your nursing knowledge and expertise completely behind, consider some attractive alternative careers:

  1. Insurance nurse
  2. Nurse recruiter
  3. Informatics nurse
  4. Medical writer
  5. Patient educator for a pharmaceutical company

Here’s a more in-depth look at each of these careers.

Insurance nurse

Opportunities for nurses in insurance companies are flourishing with the recent health care law, as more people in the U.S. are gaining health care coverage. Large insurance companies and managed care organizations such as Humana, Cigna, UnitedHealth Group and Blue Cross Blue Shield, all hire RNs in different capacities.

Telenurses work in call centers or from home and determine the best level of care for patients over the phone. Besides triage, telenurses also educate patients on good health behaviors, communicate test results and provide follow-up care.

Utilization review (UR) nurses balance the quality of health care provided to patients with cost efficiency. UR nurses conduct audits to make sure patients are receiving the care they need without raising costs too high with unnecessary procedures or overly long hospital stays.

Salaries for nurses who work at insurance companies range from $60,000 to $72,000.

Pluses: There are many opportunities for nurses in this industry.

Minuses: Nurses could feel a conflict of interest when balancing patient needs with cost-cutting recommendations for care.

Nurse recruiter

Many hospitals hire nurses to recruit nurses to work there. The thinking is that registered nurses will have an active network to draw from as well as the expertise to know if a candidate is a good fit. And hiring the right nurse is important. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of a bad hire equals 30 percent of a person’s annual salary.

If you’re interested in becoming a nurse recruiter, you’ll need to have stellar communication skills and experience with computer applications such as Word and Excel. Entry-level nurse recruiting positions are harder to come by, so if you already work at a hospital, you may want to see if you can transfer internally to Human Resources.

Hospitals are the largest employer of nurse recruiters, so you will most likely need to have at least a bachelor’s degree, or commit to completing your degree within a specified amount of time. Nurse recruiters earn around $75,000 a year.

Pluses: You can earn a good living without emptying bed pans.

Minuses: Requires sitting at a desk, so it’s not for everyone.

Informatics nurse

If you’re the “go to” technology person on your ward, maybe you’d like a career as an informatics nurse. In this career, you’d be responsible for implementing clinical IT applications and technology and training staff on how to use the new technology.

The demand for informatics nurses is growing faster than the demand for nurses overall, due in part to the new health care law. There are currently 11,000 nurses who specialize in informatics, and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) says 70,000 informatics nurses might be needed by 2020.

Average salary estimates for this specialty vary widely, with $100,717 reported by the HIMSS at the high end, down to $78,949 by Salary.com.

Pluses: Demand is rapidly growing for this nursing specialty.

Minuses: You may need to earn a master’s degree in Nursing Informatics in order to be competitive.

Medical writer

Have a way with words? As a medical writer you could use your nursing expertise to write articles, patient education materials or regulatory documents. At the heart of this specialty is the ability to translate complex medical information into layman’s terms. It’s a complete 180 from bedside nursing, but it could be just what you’re seeking.

According to the American Medical Writers Association, good medical writing involves thorough research, accuracy, the logical organization of thoughts and clear writing. Medical writers can either work for an organization or as a freelancer. The average yearly salary is $82,000, according to PayScale.com.

Pluses: Medical writing is an excellent work-from-home job.

Minuses: It’s solitary work with a lot of sitting. And then there’s those nasty deadlines.

Patient educator for a pharmaceutical company

Patients with chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and diabetes often have complex medication regimens and therapies, and require more assistance than a doctor can provide during a visit. To remedy this, more pharmaceutical companies are hiring RNs to educate patients on how to better manage their diseases.

Novartis, Pfizer and Merck Serono are just a few of the pharmaceutical companies hiring nurses in this capacity. Typically these nurses have a geographic territory and travel to the patient’s home. Salaries range from $52,000 to $94,000 annually, according to PayScale.com.

Pluses: The benefits of being a patient educator are helping patients thrive despite their chronic illnesses. Also, many of these positions are part-time or have flexible schedules.

Minuses: Nurses in this role have to be comfortable with the idea of working for a pharmaceutical company.

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