The word “nurse” brings a very specific picture to mind for most of us. We
picture someone in scrubs working in a hospital or a clinic, helping to treat
patients at the bedside and making rounds. But the skill set developed through
nursing opens up entire worlds beyond that traditional environment. Nursing
jobs away from the bedside are challenging, rewarding and not at all what you’d
In this article, we’ll go over some non-bedside nursing jobs and what they entail. We’ll talk about the duties of those nurses, the environments in which they work, and in some cases, what they can expect to earn. If you’re looking to move your career into a more interesting phase, you might consider pursuing a non-traditional nursing career.
From summer camp programs to the NASCAR racetrack, some surprising places need
medical professionals on hand. These career options could offer more work-life
stability, travel opportunities or a shot of adrenaline.
1. Cruise Ship Nurse
A nurse working in this role would help care for a cruise ship’s passengers and staff as part of the ship’s medical personnel. Depending on the size of the ship, the medical facilities could be quite state-of-the-art, rivaling an emergency room in a hospital on land. Cruise ship nurses work in the infirmary and report to the chief nurse. Working in this role requires at least two years of emergency care experience and an advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certification. Working on a cruise ship brings these nurses into contact with people from all over the world, and of course, offers the opportunity to travel. Nursing staff on a cruise ship are divided into three distinct categories: chief nurse, nurse practitioner and staff nurse. Duties here are much the same as nursing on land, but a cruise ship nurse could accompany a patient if they must be evacuated from the ship to land. Tours of duty are six months long, with two months off afterward.
2. Camp Nurse
If you’re someone who prefers the outdoors and doesn’t like to stay in one place for very long, camp nursing could be for you. There are myriad camp organizations that employ camp nurses. There are camps for children diagnosed with cancer, adults with mental disabilities or camps that center around an activity like whitewater rafting or horseback riding. The Association of Camp Nurses (ACN) lists opportunities on their website, so you can browse through them and see which one most closely fits your background. Those with experience in emergency care or pediatrics would be well-suited, and an ability to make decisions independently is key, as camp nurses often work alone. According to PayScale, camp nurses can expect to earn between $22-$41 per hour.
3. Correctional Nurse/Prison Nurse
A nurse working in this role will often be the first person to see an inmate
about a health complaint. A correctional nurse will assess the patient and
determine the requirements of care the same as they would if they were working
in a hospital. They conduct intake screenings, work in chronic care clinics to
help inmates manage chronic conditions, keep track of medications so they
aren’t misused and provide what’s known as “sick call” services. Sick call is
when an inmate requests to see a nurse for a sudden issue, which can result in
an appointment with a physician. This role could also offer the opportunity to
become a coordinator for programs like prison hospice care, in which inmates
are trained to take care of their peers during the final phase of their lives
4. Clinical Nurse Educator/RN Medical
This may be one of the more well-known non-bedside nursing careers, in which an experienced nursing professional opts to instruct others in the practices and techniques of the job. Nurse educators can work in a classroom setting in a university or nursing school, as well as in the field with nurses-in-training or with those who need a clinical education, such as people who work in insurance or public healthcare workers. Because being employed in this role often requires a bachelor’s or other advanced degree, nurse educators can train medical staff to instruct non-medical personnel in medical procedures and equipment. A very high satisfaction rate is reported with this job, and the median salary is just over $75,000 per year, according to PayScale.
5. Nurse Writer/Medical Writer
A background in or passion for writing as well as experience in healthcare can be leveraged into a career as a nurse writer. Their job is to write up training materials, manuals and educational papers for their employers. Nurse writers usually work for a healthcare provider, pharmaceutical company, medical equipment company or something in a similar vein. They must be able to research well, express specialized information in a readable manner and conduct interviews, similar to the duties of a journalist. PayScale reported that job satisfaction rates for this role are also high, and the median salary is similar to that of a nurse educator at just over $70,000 per year.
6. NASCAR Nurse
NASCAR drivers are just as much athletes as players in the NBA or NFL are, and the sport is one of the most popular in North America. When a driver has a crash, medical staff need to be on site to help. NASCAR nurses do initial assessments of the pit crew and drivers after an accident occurs, but a large part of their work is looking after the fans. This role can involve travel as well, if you’re working as an official part of the NASCAR team and following the races as they move across the country. NASCAR nurses also act as liaisons between the team and local medical staff working an event, making sure the proper equipment is on hand to handle anything from dehydration to lacerations and blunt force trauma.
7. Flight Nurse
Perhaps the most action-packed on this list of non-bedside nursing jobs, a flight nurse isn’t what you might think when reading the job title. Rather than working on an aircraft, flight nurse travel to remote locations not easily accessible to help the injured. They provide specialized, hospital-level care to their patients as they’re being airlifted to a medical facility. This can be at the scene of a major accident, between hospitals or in a remote wilderness location. Flight nurse Matt Tederman, in an interview with PBS, detailed the time he had to help a snowmobiler in the rural plains of Omaha with a neck laceration from barbed wire. Helping to bring that patient back, he says, was a reminder of why he does the job. This position requires a BSN and three to five years of experience working in the ER or intensive care unit (ICU).
8. Parish Nurse
Last on our list of non-bedside nursing jobs is the parish nurse. Parish
nurses care for the members of a parish or religious congregation. They
approach their work differently than the other people on this list as they
integrate elements of faith into their work alongside medicine. Relatively new
as nursing specialties go, it was only recognized as such in 1998. Parish
nurses work mostly in churches, but you can also find them in hospitals or
social service agencies, as many hospitals have chapel areas set aside for
people to worship. If a hospital is faith-based, it’s more likely to employ
parish nurses. The duties of a parish nurse include visiting patients,
mentoring members of their religious community, acting as a patient advocate
and starting support groups. Parish nurses are required to hold active RN licenses
and have practiced as an RN for two years or more.
Want to Take the Next Step?
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While medical technology is booming, the art of caring is becoming a highly profitable field as well. By focusing on employee engagement, hospitals embrace the staff and the highly personable touch they have to offer. The healthcare workers are essential to improving HCAHPS scores and reducing hospital-acquired conditions (HACs) (source).
Employee Engagement versus Satisfaction
Employee engagement and employee satisfaction are miles apart. A nurse can be satisfied with a position, show up to every shift without complaint, and leave for a neighboring hospital that offers a seven minute shorter commute. Job satisfaction rewards the bare minimum of effort and reliability to the hospital. Employee engagement is the nurse’s dedication to working on behalf of the hospitals and patients.
Engagement Prevents Medical Errors
Nurse engagement requires more than showing up with a smile to do the job. It entails an emotional commitment to the company and its goals. A Gallup study showed that the most critical element in reducing medical errors is employee engagement. Engagement matters more than any other single factor including staffing.
How to Foster Employee Engagement
While employees welcome picnics and parties, the most important factors are recognition and feeling connected to nursing management. There is a significant positive link between a high-quality supervisor and nursing engagement. It is vital that nurse managers create an environment of appreciation, trust, and growth.
Employee engagement increases nurse retention and keeps costs down. It reduces medical errors, the transmission of HACs, and the hospital mortality rate. By believing in both the management and hospital, patients and nurses thrive.
In February, the California Future Health Workforce Commission issued their final report describing recommendations to maintain the workforce needed to meet healthcare demands for the present day and the future (source). The California Future Health Workforce Commission was established in 2017 “to help close the gap between the health workforce we have and the health workforce we need.” The commission includes senior leaders from philanthropies across the state (source). The plan develops critical strategies to address professional nurse recruitment.
While the document targets issues across California, the primary concerns are generalizable to the nation. Historically in the U.S., the supply of nurses has not kept pace with demand, predominantly in underserved communities. The impending nursing shortage and an aging population crisis impact communities nationally.
The following key strategies from the report translate well into tactics for professional recruitment.
- Increase opportunities to advance in the health professions allows professional development, advancement, and job progression. Increasing job satisfaction and salaries promote staff retention.
- Align and expand education and training by anticipating areas of deficits and coordinating community and healthcare stakeholders to encourage buy-in. To guarantee continuing improvement, recruiters must look at the shortage as a process instead of a resolved episode. Healthcare organizations and hospital systems have an essential role in addressing the crisis.
- Strengthen the capacity, retention, and effectiveness of nurses by identifying how to minimize burnout and maximize utilizing nurses efficiently.
The California Future Health Workforce Commission report gives recommendations that relate to professional nurse recruitment. By keeping nurses satisfied, promoting community involvement, and reducing burnout the healthcare systems can develop a three-prong approach to recruiting and maintaining a robust nursing staff.
While minority enrollment in nursing programs have nearly doubled in the last twenty years, nursing has a long way to go in appropriately representing minorities in the United States (source). The current enrollment data is insufficient to address the needs of a future diverse nursing workforce. It is imperative to advocate for minority nurses in both higher education and the profession.
Diversity in Professional Nursing
Increasing diversity among nurses is a core value of the profession. The National League for Nursing promotes diversity by endorsing a culture of inclusion and excellence by celebrating a diverse population of professionals. The American Nurses Association has a professional commitment to awareness of diversity issues and the individual nurse’s biases and perceptions. For the culmination of a diverse nursing workforce to take root, schools must aim to recruit, enroll, and retain minority nursing students.
Diversity Among Student Nurses
Modern nursing programs work to disseminate a curriculum that concentrates on how to address health disparities among ethnic minorities and others who face socioeconomic barriers. Early recruitment programs that value diversifying nursing education can bolster student retention and graduation (source).
The Diversity Impact Program
For example, Frontier Nursing University increases student recruitment and retention through the Diversity Impact Program. This program offers cultural awareness and support through a social network, activities, and events during the year to connect students, including a Diversity Impact conference.
By implementing a model where student nurses embrace and encourage cultural awareness, student retention and satisfaction improves. Creating an engaging model that embraces cultural diversity is imperative to minimize student attrition. When student nurses support each other, it enhances the outlook for the entire nursing profession.
Nursing entrance exams make or break a student’s chances for nursing school enrollment. By offering a challenging entrance exam, higher educational institutions screen initial applicants before admission. These tests assess the academic competencies and potential nursing capabilities of students. The chosen nursing entrance test varies by institution.
What is the best admission exam?
In 2015, a study statistically analyzed the pre-admission nursing exam results over five years to determine which tests predict success in an associate degree nursing program (source). The tests surveyed were the Pre-Admission Examination for Registered Nurses (National League of Nursing), the A2 admission assessment from Health Education Systems Inc. (HESI), and the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) from Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI). The analysis demonstrated that the HESI A2 examination scores correlated with success in the nursing program.
How many retakes is too many?
In 2018, studies addressed how nursing admissions should confront the issue where one student takes the entrance exam multiple times. The examinee scores higher with each attempt. The limitation of the study was that it only evaluated those students who scored high enough on the TEAS to be admitted to nursing school and completed the first semester. The results showed that the assurance of nursing success relates to the average of all test attempts. Admission for both ADN and BSN programs should depend on the mean of all score data. However, there must be a limit. Individuals who take the TEAS six or more times have significantly lower nursing performance than their peers (source).
Questions remain regarding the ideal entrance exam and the number of test retakes. It is time to establish a rigorous competency for nursing admissions that is expressly related to program data about student success.
Caitlin Goodwin MSN, RN, CNM is a Board Certified Nurse-Midwife and freelance writer. She has ten years of nursing experience and graduated with a MSN from Frontier Nursing University.
Indeed recently released a report of the 15 most difficult healthcare roles to fill in the United States, after reviewing which jobs remained unfilled after 60 days. Nurse practitioner roles and agency nurse roles neared the top of the list, ranked at third and fourth respectively.
Preparing for the Nursing Shortage
There is a strong need for more healthcare workers of all specialties, but especially nurses. As the nursing shortage continues, it remains likely that the US will be in need of at least 95,000 nurse assistants and 30,000 nurse practitioners by 2025.
59.7% of nurse practitioner roles remained open after 60 days of being posted. These roles in particular remain crucial as NPs have more responsibilities than registered nurses, and are able to write prescriptions. Agency nurse roles were similarly difficult to fill, with 57.8% of these roles still available after 60 days.
“To identify the hardest-to-fill healthcare roles, we compiled a list based on the percentage of jobs unfilled after two months,” Indeed wrote in its report. “Job postings can be open for longer than 60 days for different reasons; in this case Indeed uses this measure as a proxy for hiring difficulty.”
Indeed also noted that nurse practitioner roles, as well as pulmonologist and rheumatologist roles, had over two thirds of their job listings still open after 60 days.
“One of the biggest challenges facing the field of nursing right now is that many will soon retire,” Indeed reported. “This represents not only a shortage of people to do the job but also a large loss of institutional knowledge.”
Expanding the Recruitment Reach
Rethinking nursing recruitment efforts is key for hospitals looking to fill nursing roles of all specialties. Some hospitals offer bonuses, tuition coverage, and housing options in hopes of attracting top nursing talent. But expanding nurse recruitment to other states can help fill crucial roles sooner.
In its report, Indeed highlighted that the nursing shortage was not found in every region of the United State. Recent research by the US Department of Health and Human Services shows that in 2030, though some states are predicted to have serious shortages of nurses (California, Texas, New Jersey and South Carolina), others may have a significant excess supply of nurses (Florida, Ohio, Virginia and New York).