How to Find the Right Nursing Job for a Fulfilling Career
Today there are numerous options for choosing a meaningful career in nursing. Before you decide which path to follow, it’s important to consider your strengths and lifestyle as well as your desired income, so that you can pick the best job for you.
Many of the coveted nursing jobs require formal education and experience beyond the basics, i.e. an associate degree or bachelor of science in nursing as well as a nursing license and solid transferable skills.
In many careers, a certification recognizing the specialty is not required by law, but it may be used by employers as a measure of competence. Read on to find out which nursing jobs are available to you and what you can do to improve your chances at a successful nursing career.
How Do You Choose Your Nursing Specialization?
Many nurses choose to focus their practice in a particular field of nursing. Gaining a voluntary certification for a particular area of expertise is an excellent way to maintain high standards of care in your practice and demonstrate your commitment to a specific job.
A certification shows that you have taken the initiative to keep your skills up-to-date and maintain your professional competencies. Certificates are recognized by provincial governing colleges and employers, and you can even add the credentials to your RN title.
Specializations may relate to patient age (pediatrics, gerontology), health problems (pain management), diagnostic group (orthopedics), practice setting (emergency, school, research institution), the type of care (palliative, critical, occupational) or it can be a combination of these.
What Kind Of Nursing Career Specializations Are There?
Nurses can do a whole lot more than administer medication, check vital signs and assist doctors with treatment. Not only are nurses fully competent to collect raw data, but they can also interpret it correctly and make suitable decisions for their patients.
Long gone is the day when nurses only had a couple of options for using that coveted license which recognizes them as professionals. Here are some of the typical nursing careers you will come across.
Registered nurses (RNs) are nurses with an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing. They assist physicians in hospitals and in a variety of other medical settings, helping treat patients with illnesses, injuries, and medical conditions. The mean annual salary for a registered nurse is around $68,000 (*all salary values are calculated by Payscale).
Camp nurses give medical care to people attending camps and retreats. Because camp attendees can include children and adults, camp nurses possess a wide array of medical skills and knowledge. Their duties can range from establishing health centers to creating health plans for outbreaks of contagious diseases. The median annual salary for a camp nurse is around $45,000.
Unlike a nursing home staff nurse, a geriatric nurse or gerontological nurse does not look after patients of all ages but focuses on the needs of the elderly. Thus, getting to know the peculiarities of older persons through both experience and specialized study is what makes this job so meaningful. Geriatric nurses focus on preventative care, as older adults have a higher risk of developing age-related diseases such as osteoporosis or Alzheimer’s.
Not only do geriatric nurses look after their patients’ physical health, but they also ensure their good mental health. Often, they will act as a point of contact between their patient, the patient’s loved ones, and the physician. The median salary of a gerontological nurse is around $62,000.
Nursing Home Staff Nurse
Nursing home care requires independent thinking and good assessment skills since doctors may not always be physically present. The daily responsibilities of nursing home staff may include administering medication, helping patients with special needs eat, bathe, dress and use the bathroom. RNs often supervise staff who perform basic patient care.
Communication with patients who have lost the ability to communicate illness or accident may pose a challenge, therefore patience and compassion are essential qualities for a nurse working in a care home. The median salary is around $55,000.
Even if the salary is lower for other nursing jobs, consider that school nurses only work nine to ten months per year, have weekends and evenings off, and a have fall and spring vacations. Generally, a school nurse can work without direct supervision from a nursing coordinator.
Pupils are the main patients of school nurses. In this job, nurses perform wellness screenings as well as provide basic first aid and referrals for students discovered to be ill. However, there are many challenges school nurses may face such as reporting child abuse or neglect and dealing with the effects of poverty and dysfunctional families. School nurses also have to prepare to care for children with special needs, both physical and emotional. The median salary is $45,500.
Pediatric Home Care Nurse
Practicing nursing outside of an institution is unique in many ways. Assessing needs and responding to them appropriately, especially when patients are children, can be a challenge when there are no professional peers to consult. Following orders and paying attention to details, while at the same time taking initiative and responding to the unexpected is part of what this job is about. Median salary is around $62,700.
What Are the Entry-Level Nursing Jobs?
One of the simplest routes to a direct-entry nursing career is as a nursing assistant. Nursing assistant positions are widely available and the training is minimal, so to get started in the nursing field quickly, this is a good option.
The exact title of a nursing assistant depends on a variety of factors, but some common titles include certified nursing assistants (CNAs), registered nursing assistants (RNAs), licensed nursing assistants (LNAs) as well as less official terms such as direct care workers, care assistants, home assistants or personal care assistants.
Another option is to start as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). LPNs perform a variety of tasks under the supervision of an RN. They administer medicine, check vital signs, and give injections. If you want to dip your foot in the world of nursing, becoming an LPN is often a great way to start.
What Nursing Jobs Can You Get with a BSN Degree?
With more qualifications, more job opportunities and a variety of positions open up to you.
Here are some titles you may gain after receiving your Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
Case Management Nurse
Case management nurses are in charge of long-term patient care. If you decide to pursue a career as a case management nurse, you will probably work with a specific group of patients. You may choose to specialize in treating people with specific illnesses, such as cancer, or you can work with patients from certain age groups, such as in pediatrics.
Because your goal as a case management nurse will be to treat patients at optimal times to maintain their health and keep them out of the hospital, you often will research the latest treatment options and procedures. To ensure your patients get the best possible care in the most cost-efficient way, sometimes you can also work with insurance companies. The median salary for a case management nurse is around $69,000.
Nurse Informatics Specialist
Nursing informatics integrates nursing science, computer science and information science to manage and communicate information in the practice of nursing. Nursing informatics specialists support health care providers in offering the best services for their patients.
In a nursing informatics work environment, you’ll manage and communicate data and information to consumers, nurses, patients, healthcare providers and patients. Nursing informaticists frequently work in hospitals, health care facilities, consulting firms, universities, and corporations. The median annual salary is around $93,000.
Certified Nurse Midwife
A certified nurse midwife works with women who have relatively low-risk pregnancies, from prenatal visits through labor and delivery. They can also provide care and counseling for new mothers after pregnancy.
Some certified nurse midwives work alongside gynecologists to help women throughout their reproductive lives, from puberty to menopause. This is one of the most in demand nursing jobs out there, according to Nurse Journal. The median annual salary of a certified nurse midwife is about $88,000.
Burn Care Nurse
Burn care nurses are advanced practice nurses who work mostly in burn care units, intensive care units, and trauma centers. They not only care for their patients’ physical well-being but also the emotional and psychological trauma that a burn may cause.
Burn care nurses also play a big part in educating the families of burn victims on the treatment of burns. Burn care nursing is one of the most challenging specialties in nursing, requiring sharp clinical skills. The median annual salary for this role is around $70,000.
Clinical Nurse Specialist – Home Care
To become a clinical nurse specialist, you need an advanced degree, a certification, and more than a few years of experience. In this role, your job is to assess a home care facility’s nursing practice and its impact on patient care outcomes. This means you have to ensure that all staff has a good level of clinical competency in their particular positions.
This job is for you if you are looking to go into a managerial position, involving dealing with budgets and departmental processes. It gives you full authority for personnel actions and typically requires a master’s degree. The median salary of a clinical nurse specialist in home care is around $67,600.
Flight Transport Staff Nurse
Emergency transportation services for patients who are critically ill can make a difference between life and death. To ensure that patients reach their destination safely and are in the best possible shape, medical professionals are on board to provide adequate care.
Flight transport staff nurses perform emergency medical care both in the public sector and the military. Sometimes, they are also required to assist pilots with navigation and other duties, but their primary responsibility remains with the patient. Because these can be very frightening times for the patient, it is the nurse’s job to communicate with them and ensure they remain calm. The median salary of a flight nurse is around $72,000.
Nurse Manager in Long-Term Care
Knowing a bit about long-term and institutional care will not cut it for this career. Advanced education, managerial skills, and five or more years of clinical experience will prepare you for assessing and managing those who actually provide the care. Maintaining and recruiting staff will probably be part of this managerial role and the need to keep up staff morale.
You will be responsible for both professional and paraprofessional caregivers. Advocating for their needs will be an important part of this job, as you strive to maintain a competent team. The median salary of a nurse manager in a long-term care unit is about $73,500.
Head Nurse in Occupational Health
If you found working as a staff nurse in occupational health invigorating, discovered that you enjoyed assessing and planning your own work, and at the same time, thought about how you could help others be more relevant and fulfilled, you may be ready for a head nurse position.
Nurses who have been part of an organization for a long time may resent a new person asking them to change their way of doing things, so this might be a challenge. Learning how to gain the trust and confidence of others, without demeaning or failing to value “the way we always did it” will make you successful. Median salary for this position is $81,000.
Registered Travel Nurse
Although some travel nursing assignments are available for licensed practical nurses, most jobs are for registered nurses with a BSN.
Flexibility and the ability to work in a variety of locations and settings are two qualities that are important in travel nursing. Excellent communication skills are a must, as travel nurses need to understand both the medical and social needs of patients. Travel nurses need to be able to adapt quickly to new environments and be skilled at learning new technology systems. The mean annual salary of a travel registered nurse is around $64,000.
How Do Travel Nursing Jobs Work?
A travel nurse works temporary jobs nationally and internationally, sometimes for weeks at a time and sometimes for a few years. Travel nursing started due to a shortage of registered nurses in various parts of the country.
Although the length can vary, typical travel nursing assignments last about 13 weeks. After an assignment is over, you might be asked to renew your contract and sign up for an additional 13 weeks. At that time, you can take other travel assignments somewhere else in the country or go back home.
After your paperwork has been processed, if you are accepted, you will likely be assigned a recruiter. Your recruiter will then designate a contact person to help guide you through the rest of the process. Think about where you would like to go, the type of nursing you would like to do and the size of the facility you hope to work in. Providing all this information to your recruiter will help find the right assignment for you.
What Kind of Nursing Jobs Can Be Done from Home?
Although it may seem like an ideal job, working from home may sometimes be more difficult than imagined. Efficiency and productivity are extra important when your job depends on what you accomplish remotely. It’s essential that you remain focused when working from home, as it can be tempting to take a long lunch or get side-tracked by your kids a few too many times.
Necessary skills for working from home include self-motivation, organization, and top-notch communication skills. If you think you might be lacking in any of these areas, put some work into developing in these areas before you take up this kind of a job.
Telephone Triage or Telehealth
Most telephone triage nursing jobs are work from home. The company you work for supplies the software and any other equipment you may need; all you need is a private room to be able to communicate with your patients.
Keep in mind that you will be required to work weekends and possibly night shifts, so you do need to be flexible with your schedule. The median salary of a telehealth nurse is around $65,500.
Insurance Company Nurse
While it may not be a sector that initially comes to mind, insurance companies need nurses. These nurses perform many tasks, like managing specific cases, medical coding, clinical research, and insurance audits. They may also have a hand in treatment plans and evaluating illnesses.
Insurance companies do offer work-from-home positions, though you may need to have a few years of experience in a health care setting before that option is available.
If you have knowledge of medical terminology, medical tests, procedures and the language that the medical profession speaks, this is a great job for nurses.
You can work for hospitals, clinics, physicians, legal profession (those that deal with malpractice, etc.) and insurance companies. The medical transcription business is employing more and more people every year and is not likely to become outsourced overseas, due to security and privacy issues. The median salary for a medical transcriptionist is around $30,000.
Home Health Care Nurse
Most of a home health care nurse’s work is done from home. You have to see patients in the morning and spend the afternoon finishing all of the paperwork that needs to be in by the end of the day. Luckily, you can do it on a computer and transfer it wirelessly to the office. This job is not for all nurses because you must be highly organized, be able to work independently and have very good clinical skills. Not a job for a nurse that’s fresh out of nursing school. The median salary for a home health care nurse is $60,000.
As a marketing nurse, you will likely work for a pharmaceutical or a medical supply company, helping to sell the goods, moving them from the producer to the buyer.
As a sales nurse, you work from home and have a territory (just like in home care) where you meet with clients or speak to them on the phone, selling or marketing a product or service. For this job, you may get a company car or an allowance. Travel is also likely to be a part of this job, but it has great benefits, so if you like selling, this can be a perfect choice for you. The median salary is around $58,000.
Can You Apply for Nursing Jobs Before Graduation?
To improve your chances of landing a job quickly after graduation, it’s recommended that you start your job research and application process about six to eight months before your graduation date. It’s actually preferable that you start applying to jobs before finishing your education so that you can avoid an indeterminate period of unemployment after graduation.
Although this will likely be a long process, especially if you start with no experience to put on your CV, there are ways in which you can stand out from other candidates. Voluntary work as a CNA, an outstanding performance during clinical hours, and a well-written resume all play a part in getting you noticed and attracting the best offers.
Can You Work Two Nursing Jobs?
Though not technically impossible, the chance of landing two full-time positions and being able to make the schedules work with both are very slim. It’s also unlikely that one hospital will offer you employment for two full-time jobs, which means that you must also factor in transit time between your home and each of the two workplaces.
Working two full-time jobs as a new graduate is not advisable, as the quality of life drops significantly and you probably will end up overworked and lose interest in the profession altogether. However, taking up two part-time jobs can be a good experience, especially if you can find complementing positions, such as working one job in a hospital or care facility and another one in home care.
What Is the Hardest Nursing Specialty?
There is no doubt that no nursing specialty is a piece of cake, but some prove to be a lot more challenging than others. Depending on your working style, preferences and experience, some jobs may seem easier than others. However, there are some positions which nurses generally agree to be the hardest. In no particular order, the most difficult nursing jobs are in oncology, psychiatry, ER, ICU care, correctional nursing, long-term care, and geriatrics.
Which Nursing Jobs Are the Least Stressful?
Being a nurse in a hospital can be a hectic and stressful experience. Conversely, the least stressful jobs are considered to be those which involve more administrative work and less patient care. Note that, sometimes, with lower stress levels comes lower pay, especially if you don’t have advanced qualifications which can help you move up the career ladder.
Among the least stressful positions in the healthcare sector are travel nurse, school nurse, camp nurse, nurse administrator and nurse researcher.
Which Nursing Jobs Pay the Most?
Nurse salaries vary by experience as well as by state, but there are some positions which will bring you a higher income than others. To find out more about nursing salaries across the USA, read our post about the best and worst paying states for nursing.
The highest paying nursing jobs tend to be those which either require specific specializations (such as informatics nurse or nurse anesthetist jobs), or a higher level of education, typically at Masters or Doctorate level. Head nurses and those in managerial positions who work in institutions such as long-term care facilities also tend to be paid better than average.
Other well-paying nursing jobs are certified nurse midwife, pain management nurse, and general nurse practitioner.
Because choosing the “best” job is so subjective, it’s important to decide for yourself what is more important – a high salary or fulfillment and job satisfaction. Since nursing is a vocational career, it’s important to take pride in what you do, but also to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
As there are so many possible paths to follow in your career, don’t be afraid to try something new if you haven’t yet found your perfect fit. Going back to school can drastically improve your chances of finding a meaningful and satisfying job, so make sure you keep your skills up-to-date.