Beyond Scrubs: Utilizing your Nursing Career into Other Fields of Health Care

Kathryn Norcutt has been an active member of the health care community for over 20 years. During her time as a nurse, she has helped people from all walks of life and ages. Now, Kathryn leads a much less hectic life and devotes much of her free time to writing for RNnetwork, a site specializing in traveling nurse jobs.

Forensic Nurse
This field is certainly not for the faint of heart. Nurses in this line of work are in contact with victims or perpetrators of violent crimes, so their jobs can be very challenging. However, for those who are passionate about justice, being a forensic nurse can also be rewarding. Forensic nurses spend a great deal of time working with investigators. They collect evidence from the people involved, provide evaluations and host community outreach programs to prevent violent crimes. Nurses should not expect their jobs to be identical to television dramas. On the subject of forensic nurses, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics [1 – page 5 of document] says that forensic nurses in television dramas are under-credited for their many problem-solving contributions. While there are a variety of paths to becoming a forensic nurse, each one includes a considerable amount of education. Nurses may enter this sub-specialty by becoming death investigators or sexual assault nurse examiners [2]. Alternately, there are masters and doctoral programs designed specifically for forensic nurses.

Legal Nurse Consultant
Since court cases vary widely in nature, experts are needed from almost every field imaginable. Some cases require a nurse’s assistance. Legal nurse consultants work with attorneys and their legal teams to evaluate the details of various cases. In this setting, a nurse must review medical documents. Legal nurse consultants also work with insurance companies, government agencies and large medical facilities. To become a legal nurse consultant, professionals must receive specialized training and pass the American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board’s official exam [3].

Nursing Informaticist
Nurses who decide they want to further their careers by earning a medical informatics degree or a degree in information technology can work as nursing informaticists. These jobs rarely include patient contact. Informaticists work for consulting firms, corporations and large medical facilities. They perform a wide range of IT developing and marketing duties. As technology advances, the need for more elite software programs and electronic organization systems continues to rise. The systems these specialists develop usually focus on reducing overall costs and improving quality of care. Most of the nurses who become informaticists train nurses who are working in health care settings how to use new systems [4]. With their additional degrees and training, nursing informaticists can earn attractive salaries.

Nursing Administration
While nursing administrators or managers may still find themselves interacting with patients, the majority of their days are spent performing administrative tasks. They are often responsible for interviewing and hiring new nurses and nursing support staff [5]. Since they must oversee all activities, they are responsible for maintaining files for each employee. They are also responsible for reviewing patients’ care plans and concerns. Administrators must develop efficient policies for their facilities. Whether they work in public health clinics, hospitals or other settings, they are vital players in the overall success of facilities. Since these jobs come with a great deal of responsibility, a Master of Science in Nursing is usually the required degree. Some nurses also choose to combine a Master of Business Administration degree with the MSN degree.

Nursing Researcher
Since the days of Florence Nightingale, research and nursing have been fields that intersect with one another. Nursing researchers are scientists who are committed to improving the field of nursing through both quantitative and qualitative methods. They are responsible for postulating ideas, collecting data, analyzing study results and reporting the data they uncover [6]. This field is ideal for nurses who have always dreamed of making large-scale discoveries or molding new ideas. Since nursing researchers are constantly striving for more effective treatments and medical devices, their jobs are very rewarding. The pay is also rewarding, but this title is only awarded to nurses who pursue their education to the highest degree. A doctoral degree with an emphasis in research is an ideal asset for professionals entering this field. Some of these jobs are temporary, so individuals who enjoy variety can also appreciate this sub-specialty of the nursing field.

Nursing Instructor
Nurses who are strong leaders and enjoy helping others succeed often choose the rewarding path of nursing education [7]. By becoming an educator, nurses have the opportunity to teach one or more specific subjects they enjoy. For example, nurses who specialized in pediatrics in college could teach classes related to that specialty. There are also a wide variety of general subjects that nurses can teach. Nurses who teach subjects that also require hands-on experience may find themselves in scrubs for clinicals. However, their roles in working with patients include showing students how to perform various tasks and how to respond to different situations. Instructors may work for private nursing schools, universities, vocational schools or community colleges. To become an educator, a nurse must earn a masters or doctoral degree in nursing education.

Travel Nursing
Nurses who seek alternative sub-specialties are usually people who enjoy challenges and are not afraid of change. They embrace new experiences. It is possible to enjoy a wide range of alternative jobs and non-bedside jobs by joining a travel nursing agency. These agencies give nurses the opportunity to enjoy new work experiences, meet new people and see other cities. Travel nurses are needed for temporary jobs and special projects. Agencies often pay for the majority of a nurse’s travel-related expenses or provide reimbursement. One of the most important lessons nurses learn during school is that life is precious, so it is important to make the most of it. By becoming a travel nurse, every motivated nursing professional is able to find a way to showcase his or her talents, experience new places and learn to enjoy life even more.

1 http://www.bls.gov/opub/ooq/2003/fall/art01.pdf
3 http://www.aalnc.org/page/LNCC/?
4 http://explorehealthcareers.org/en/Career/91/Nursing_Informatics
5 http://diplomaguide.com/articles/Nurse_Administrator_Career_Summary.html
6 http://www.discovernursing.com/specialty/nurse-researcher#.UQ-BoB2sSC0
7 http://www.mynursingdegree.com/nurse-educator/career-overview.asp

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  • Amy Johnson

    Thank you for explaining some less known nursing specialties. I have been a forensic nurse for 4 years and I find myself frequently explaining what it is that I do, and that it isn't CSI! I am currently a doctoral student in a nursing program, and an elective that I am taking is on healthcare informatics and the role that technology plays in the future of nursing. It is overwhelming to think about all the aspects of IT that I wasn't aware of prior to this course. I feel that it would be beneficial to nursing students entering the workforce to be exposed to these specialty areas to broaden their horizons.

  • Elena Shella Tejada-Villamor

    Hello Ms. Kathy Quan,

    This is a useful insight on the most unique nursing specialties. While most people would visualize nurses to be the ones that attend to patients at the emergency rooms, ORs or nursing homes, you are right to point out that the nursing career can be taken to other healthcare fields.

    As an editor of Nursing Explorer, I know what it takes to accomplish a nursing degree and eventually build an impressive portfolio. And the specialties you mentioned here need much more than hard work!

    Kudos to you on your inspiring blog and I look forward to reading more posts soon!