A lot of nurses have a love-hate relationship with their job. On the one hand, nursing is a fulfilling career: you are directly involved in saving people’s lives, you care for patients, and make their road to recovery less painful. You are making an impact on others’ wellbeing. Also, there’s the added benefit of nursing being a secure career choice as the job outlook is excellent, the salaries are growing, and the need for nurses is not going away anytime soon. What’s not to love?
But life as a Registered Nurse is a lot more nuanced. There is no denying that nursing is a hectic and fast-paced job. While some people might enjoy this, others find it frustrating. Then there’s the additional stress of being responsible for people’s lives. So, some of the things that make nursing such a desirable profession, also make it one of the most stressful career choices.
What Makes Nursing Jobs So Stressful?
Nursing is, unquestionably, a very high-stress environment. Although most nurses know right off the bat what they’re getting themselves into and are aware that nursing has its challenges, sometimes just how stressful being an RN can get takes a lot of professionals by surprise.
There are a variety of factors that contribute to the stressful nature of the job.
- Long hours. 12-hour shifts are not uncommon among RNs. The extended shifts and the scarce breaks (especially if you work in a busy ER) can definitely take their toll and drive you to the edge of exhaustion.
- Time pressure. Nursing is a fast-paced environment, and as an RN you must make sure you always keep up, which can sometimes have you feeling like you don’t even have time to catch a breath.
- Inflexible schedules. Nurses can work day, night, weekend, and even holiday shifts, which makes it harder to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
- Physical labor. The job implies a lot of lifting (equipment, patients) that can sometimes result in injuries. Also, nurses spend long hours on their feet with little break, and that is very tiring.
- Exposure to work-related dangers. Nurses have high exposure to infectious diseases; they use sharp equipment and handle chemical substances and potentially dangerous medication.
- Inadequate staffing. Due to the significant nursing shortage in the US, a lot of RN positions remained unfilled, which leaves a lot more work on the shoulders of not enough nurses.
- High nurse-to-patient ratios. Because of inadequate staffing, nurses have to care for more patients. This often results in less qualitative patient care, as well as higher levels of exhaustion for the nurses.
- Violence in the workplace. Sometimes it’s testy physicians, fellow colleagues, but most often it’s the patients. Sometimes they can be mean or aggressive, and even the family members can exhibit aggressive behaviors towards the nurses due to being worried and stressed.
- Due to a combination of some (or all) of these factors, many registered nurses end up experiencing burnout and feeling unengaged at work, which is neither good for the nurse, nor for the healthcare system in general.
If the above experiences seem familiar to you, and, as a result, you are contemplating a career change, then we have some good news for you. Because nursing is such a diverse and vast field, it is possible to get the fulfillment that comes with the job and still work in a less stressful environment.
However, bear in mind that no nursing position is entirely stress-free, as nursing is a demanding field in all of its forms. Also, stress is a subjective concept. For instance, some nurses could find working with babies the most peaceful career path, while for others, this would be the most trying and nerve-racking job – it all depends on how much you love babies. So, when choosing a low-stress career, it all comes down to your preferences and your expectations.
There are lots of people who fear that low-stress levels might equal dull, monotonous jobs. That is definitely not applicable to nursing. In this field, regardless of where you work: at a hospital, a physician’s office, or at a university, you will always find something to keep you on your toes and keep you challenged.
If you’re looking for the career shift that would allow you to spend more time with your family, still make a reasonably high salary, and give you the satisfaction of feeling fulfilled at work, look no further. We compiled a list of 10 nursing careers that are generally lower stress positions, to help you navigate the stormy waters of finding the nursing job that’s perfect for you.
Low-Stress Nursing Careers
Overall, a nursing job that brings no stress is a myth. But certain positions involve fewer high-risk situations and have better-defined schedules, which generally result in less stressful jobs.
1. Nurse Educator
This is one of the least stressful nursing jobs available. While the responsibility of educating the future generations of nurses is indeed tremendous, the work environment is definitely a lot more low-pressure, and the hours are reasonable. Nurse educators typically work in universities, colleges, and hospitals. Their main task revolves around providing training and knowledge to aspiring nurses, based on their own clinical experience. The salary of a nurse educator is higher compared to that of an RN. According to 2018 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for nursing instructors was $81,350. So, if you have a passion for teaching and are looking for a less stressful job, you should consider getting your MSN degree, as one of the prerequisites of becoming a nurse educator is holding an advanced degree: MSN or higher. Now is an especially good time to become a nurse educator as the nursing faculty shortage is one of the main catalysts for the severe current U.S. nursing shortage, so there are thousands of educators needed.
Your dream of becoming a nurse educator is now more achievable than ever before! Enroll in our MSNEd program and take your career one step further.
2. School Nurse/Summer Camp Nurse
If you love children, this might be the perfect opportunity for you. Schools must always have a medically trained professional on staff, and they usually hire registered nurses to fill these positions. Their main responsibility is providing basic care, such as first aid care for minor injuries and administering daily medication. One of the major benefits of being a school nurse is the fact that you enjoy all the perks of working in an educational setting. Hence, this job comes with lengthy vacation time and stable working hours. It is worth mentioning that ordinarily, schools only hire one nurse, so most likely, you will be working alone. Summer camp nurses have the exact same tasks as school nurses, with the only difference being the work environment. Lots of children enroll in summer camps, and for the sake of their wellbeing, nurses are there to oversee that summer vacation goes without health-threatening incidents.
3. Nurse Administrator
Leadership roles typically come with a higher level of independence and more flexibility. Nurse administrators still work in hospital settings; however, they are spared the daily stress of dealing with patients and providing bedside care. Their job focuses on the administrative side of running a hospital, such as organizing patient and employee records, coordinating medical services, creating schedules, conducting performance reviews, and planning budgets. Usually, nurse administrator positions are filled by nurses with prior clinical experience since dictating nursing policy and procedures requires thorough inside knowledge. For sure, assuming this kind of leadership role is not without its challenges, but if you’re looking for a change of pace, this might be an optimal career track for you.
4. Public Health Nurse
This is another great opportunity for nurses who find themselves overly stressed in hospital settings and want to avoid as much as possible the hustle that defines direct patient care. Public health nurses care for communities and entire populations rather than just specific individuals. Their main goal is to improve the community’s health and to assure access to care. As a public health care nurse, your professional duties would consist of informing and educating people on the spread, prevention, and treatment of diseases, designing and implementing health education campaigns, as well as monitoring health trends and pinpointing health risk factors specific to individual communities. Although under significantly less stress compared to their fellow RNs, public health nurses still hold a vital role. They don’t wait for the patient to come to them. Instead, public health nurses go to their patients in an attempt to treat the cause, not the symptom.
5. Nurse Researcher
If you would trade your career as a registered nurse for one focused on academics and research, then maybe your calling is to be a nurse researcher. Nurse researchers typically work in universities, colleges, or research facilities, so their job implies limited patient interaction. If you go down this career path, your main goal will be to improve the state of the healthcare system by studying diseases, healthy lifestyles, and different outcomes of medical treatments. Research is by no means an easy career, but it is less stressful than the alternative. Also, studying aspects of health, illness, and healthcare and advancing patient care is a good reason to get to work in the morning.
6. Nurse Informaticist
Nurses who find dealing with patients stressful and dealing with computers a lot more stress-free couldn’t have asked for a better position. As a nurse informaticist, your main goal will be to improve patient outcomes by maintaining and developing medical data and systems. You will be the bridge between IT professionals and nurses, and a big part of your job is going to be incorporating analytics to impact patients in the long term. This role requires high levels of technical skill, but, ultimately, your efforts will help improve the quality, as well as the speed of care.
7. Case Management Nurse
This is the job for nurses who don’t want to leave patient care altogether but would like a more focused and individualized approach to the assistance they offer. Case management nurses are the professionals who work with patients over more extended periods, overseeing the long term care plans for their patients. In this role, you will manage people who require ongoing medical attention (such as HIV/AIDS or cancer patients). While the job still involves direct patient care, it takes out the unpredictability as you get to know your patients and get accustomed to the subtleties of their disease. Also, the fact that case manager nurses focus on a limited number of patients instead of treating as many people as possible in a short amount of time is a welcome change of pace.
8. Home Health Nurse
If working with patients isn’t what you find stressful, but rather it’s the hospital environment that you would like to change, then you might want to transition from being an RN to being a home health nurse. This job typically implies providing care to patients in their homes, and the duties of a home health nurse vary from administering medication and monitoring vital signs to assisting with daily activities, such as bathing or shaving. In this role, registered nurses get to focus their attention on a single (or very few) patients, so the quality of care is up to the highest standards.
9. Clinic Nurse
The main difference between traditional RNs and clinic nurses is the fact that the latter work in clinics as opposed to a hospital. Clinics are smaller and normally work on an appointment basis, which makes the nurse’s job less stressful, as the flow of patients is mostly steady, so they can offer care to one patient at a time in an orderly manner. Also, nurses who work in clinics, in generalist physician’s offices, pediatric offices, and so on have a general idea of the workload they expect on a day to day basis. Since clinics do not hold patients overnight, nurses enjoy more stable working hours. As a clinic nurse, you’ll have to be an expert at multitasking since your job description will include a range of activities, from assessing patients to administering medical tests, but also addressing messages from patients, performing telephone triage, and educating patients on various health topics (healthy diet, diabetic living, etc.)
10. Occupational Health Nurse
This is yet another excellent opportunity for nurses who want a less stressful job away from the hospital or clinic settings, as well as a flexible work schedule. Occupational health nurses oversee business settings and focus on developing business health and safety programs. Educating employees on living healthier lifestyles and avoiding job-related injuries is another essential task for occupational health nurses. They also observe workers who have been injured on-the-job, assist with their rehabilitation, and provide emergency care to injured employees who are on the clock. Aside from introducing employees to the rules of a safe working environment, in this position, you will be expected to find ways to lower the costs of disability claims or other related expenses for the company you work for.
Find out what are the most sought out nursing careers in 2020!
If your job as a registered nurse is getting too stressful and overwhelming, it may be time for a change. Lucky for you, the nursing field offers a myriad of career opportunities and, with the right amount of research, you can definitely find something that fits your interests and doesn’t leave you exhausted, stressed, and unengaged at the end of the day.
You don’t have to choose to be a registered nurse to the detriment of your personal or family life. With these lower stress career options, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can do the job you love and help people while also having time to spend time with your family and enjoying a balanced schedule.
Truthfully, none of these options are entirely stress-free (no job ever really is). You just need to find the stress level that is just right for you.
Having a BSN degree significantly improves your chances of getting a less stressful nursing job. Get your degree and start loving what you do again!