When people imagine what nurses do, they often think of bedside nurses who tend to sick people in hospitals. Although there are many nurses who do this type of work, there are also nurses with jobs that look very different than this.
For example, private duty nurses go into patients’ homes to provide care, and clinical trial nurses interact with study participants. Public health nurses are responsible for monitoring and guarding the health of an entire community while other nurses are in charge of quality control at health care clinics. Some nurses concentrate on analyzing health care data, specializing in a field called informatics. There are also nurses who become executives of health care organizations, conduct scientific research or serve as faculty at universities.
“I think nursing is one of the absolute best professions there is,” says Anne Dabrow Woods, chief nurse in the health, learning, research and practice division of Wolters Kluwer, a global firm that supports professionals in a variety of fields. “I’ve been doing it for over 36 years. I haven’t regretted one minute of it, and I plan to keep doing it for a long, long time. I love it and I would tell anybody that.”
Woods describes her Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP, degree and a Master of Science in Nursing, or MSN, degree as her “two best career decisions” and she suggests that a nurse’s job options expand greatly with a graduate degree.
“It opened up a world to me that I wouldn’t have had access to if I had stayed being a bachelor’s-prepared nurse,” says Woods. In addition to working at Wolters Kluwer, she serves as an acute care and critical care nurse practitioner at Penn Medicine’s Chester County Hospital in Pennsylvania, and as an adjunct faculty member in the graduate nursing program at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Below is a guide to the litany of employment options available to nurses.
Numerous Job Options for Nursing School Graduates
A nursing degree can be used in a variety of ways. This is especially true of graduate degrees in nursing, which often lead to management roles and frequently prepare a person for a lucrative career as an advanced-practice registered nurse such as a nurse anesthetist, a nurse midwife or a nurse practitioner.
Nursing school faculty say that the following job titles are feasible for and popular among nursing degree recipients. However, although some of these occupations are attainable with an undergraduate education in nursing, many require graduate nursing school. These are just a few examples of nursing positions, not an exhaustive list:
— Academic dean.
— Flight nurse.
— Nurse anesthetist.
— Nurse informaticist.
— Nurse midwife.
— Nurse practitioner.
— Nurse researcher.
— Nursing school professor.
— Nurse scientist.
— Staff nurse.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary among U.S. advanced practice nurses in May 2019 was $115,800, and the bureau predicts that the number of these nurses employed in the U.S. will be 45% higher in 2029 than it was in 2019 — a job growth rate more than 10 times higher than the estimated overall rate among all professions during that time frame.
The employability of registered nurses — who must have either a bachelor’s, associate’s or diploma in nursing — is not quite as good as for nurses with greater training, but it is still high. The median salary among U.S. registered nurses as of May 2019 was $73,300, according to the bureau, which predicts that the number of those jobs will be 7% higher in 2029 than in 2019.
Many health care employers will not consider hiring a nurse unless he or she has either a bachelor’s degree or a higher-level degree in nursing, says Donna Havens, Connelly endowed dean and professor at Villanova University’s M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing in Pennsylvania. “Most of them look for nurses that are educated at least at the baccalaureate level in nursing. … Research documents exceptionally well that, the better educated the nurse who cares for you, the better the outcomes.”
She notes that nurses work in all kinds of places, not just health clinics and hospitals. “They work in every industry. They work everywhere where people need their knowledge and their skills and expertise. It’s a wide-open market, and a very interesting thing is that — over the course of one’s career in nursing — you could hold many, many different titles and jobs.”
Health care device and technology companies often employ nurses, because those nurses are capable of coming up with ideas on how to “improve the products” and enhance the customer experience, Havens says.
She notes that nurses with Ph.D. degrees in nursing are specifically trained to conduct research in the field, while those with DNP degrees are experts at figuring out how to apply research findings.
Carol Musil, dean of Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing in Ohio, says that nurses who want to develop expertise within a particular branch of nursing often choose to pursue advanced education in that field.
“When nurses are at the end of their undergraduate training and education, they often have an opportunity to specialize in an area that’s of interest to them,” says Musil, who has a Ph.D. in nursing and is the school’s Edward J. and Louise Mellen Professor of Nursing. “So, for instance, a nurse might graduate with their undergraduate degree and then decide they’re interested in emergency room nursing or intensive care nursing.”
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