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12 Non-Traditional Career Choices for Nurses

12 Non-Traditional Career Choices for Nurses

When you think of registered nurses, where’s the first place you picture them working? Chances are, you see them practicing in a hospital setting to provide direct patient care. And that’s true for many RNs. According to American Nurse Today, just over 62 percent of all employed registered nurses work in hospitals. This means that more than a third of the 2.7 million working RNs in the U.S. are employed in settings other than hospitals. RNs, and especially those who have their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN), have many options open to them outside of hospitals and clinics.

Here are 12 non-traditional careers that allow nurses to really shine! Many offer you additional control over your hours, or even the opportunity to work on your own.


Medical Device or Pharmaceutical Sales Representative

Having a background as an RN gives you a significant advantage in this lucrative industry. First of all, sales representatives (reps) who are RNs have great credibility. They also have the knowledge to understand the product and clearly explain how it can be medically beneficial to patients.

In addition to selling products, most reps are also responsible for training and educating the staff on how to use them. Nurse reps may even work with surgeons in the OR to train them on how to use a new device. These reps are also often employed by manufacturers in the product development phase, where they are responsible for testing and evaluating the products. That means you could have a hand in the actual creation of a new medical device!

Nurse Health Coach

Another option for an RN is to work as a nurse health coach, helping people adopt healthy lifestyles. Nurse health coaches often work with individuals who have complicated health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes. They help their clients make choices designed to reduce complications and hospitalizations, and help them achieve an improved level of wellness. Many insurance companies hire nurses as health coaches in an effort to keep their customers as healthy as possible and reduce costs. The career also offers nurses the opportunity to go into business for themselves. Certification is required for nurse health coaches.

Nurse Researcher

If you like numbers and enjoy working with data, a nurse researcher could be an interesting career choice. Although nurse research scientists typically need to have master’s or even doctoral degrees, nurse researchers with BSN degrees often work in other capacities alongside these scientists. The responsibilities of nurse researchers at the BSN level may include the following:

  • Compiling and organizing clinical data
  • Reviewing and analyzing collected data
  • Collaborating with other members of the research team, including investigators and statistical consultants
  • Screening and recruiting subjects for clinical studies

The National Institute of Nursing Research reports that research nurses develop knowledge that is “designed to manage and eliminate symptoms caused by illness, enhance end-of-life and palliative care, prevent disease and disability and build the scientific foundation for clinical practice.” Pretty heady stuff!

Hospice Nurse

Being a hospice nurse offers an opportunity to provide direct patient care outside the traditional hospital or clinic setting. Hospice nurses spend much of their time caring for patients who are at the end of their lives in a home setting or long-term care facility. They help provide pain relief and promote the patient’s independence for as long as possible. They also offer much needed emotional support for the families of patients in their care.

Cruise Ship Nurse

If you love to travel, meet new people and discover new places, here’s a career option that could be a very appealing choice. Cruise ship nurses are responsible for the day-to-day health of the passengers. They report directly to the onboard physicians and nurse practitioners. They are also the first ones called in an emergency to provide first aid care until the ship doctor arrives at the scene. Of course, your lifestyle has to allow you to travel and spend a great deal of time away from home. But oh, the places you’ll go!

Nurse Educator

A variety of organizations draw on the expertise of nurse educators, including medical device manufacturers, community clinics and government offices, pharmaceutical companies, research facilities, textbook publishing companies, and of course, colleges and universities. The opportunities are growing fast, too, because of the growth of online jobs, such as teaching through online educational institutions. This career also offers possibilities for self-employment. Many nurse educators offer speaking engagements, make continuing education presentations or teach patients to manage complex health conditions.

Legal Nurse Consultant

As legal nurse consultants, nurses work within a legal team. They are the medical experts who help attorneys read medical charts and understand medical terms and lab work. They may even testify in court and have the opportunity to travel to wherever they’re needed. This career path can be a fascinating and well-paid option, but it does require additional certification through the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants.

Public Health Nurse

Public health nursing focuses on improving community health by emphasizing prevention. The American Public Health Association recommends nurses with BSNs for this career, because BSN programs provide study in areas such as clinical prevention, healthcare policy and finance, which are essential to this job. These nurses are usually employed by state, public or government groups and focus on the health of the community. Schools, community organizations (such as those that provide disaster relief) and community health clinics are some of the places where public health nurses work.

Case Manager

RN case managers coordinate the various elements involved in caring for an individual patient. It is their responsibility to use resources and services in the best, most efficient way possible. They work with many different types of patients, such as the elderly who need in-home care, people with disabilities, and hospital patients with complicated needs.

Case management is a highly collaborative career that requires nurses to work with physicians, other nurses, social workers, nursing home and assisted living personnel, and many other medical and non-medical professionals. It also requires a deep understanding of insurance reimbursement. In short, a case manager must think and work holistically, to see that care and discharge plans meet the physical, social and emotional needs of patients. Case management certification is desirable.

Nurse Manager

If you prefer to remain in a traditional hospital setting, you may choose to move into a leadership role. One of those is nurse manager. BSN level nurses can use their skills and experience to provide leadership and guidance to other nurses. They are responsible for department administrative duties, and deal with personnel issues to help create a productive and supportive atmosphere. Another responsibility is to keep a close eye on the quality of patient care.

Medical Writer

If you love to write, you may find medical writing is a very satisfying career. These nurses write for medical research and healthcare websites as well as marketing literature for medical products and more. An academic nurse writer can author textbook chapters in their specialties or write and publish their own books. For this level, a graduate degree is usually required.

Healthcare Recruiter

When it comes to recruiting and screening applicants for healthcare jobs, nurses are often the go-to people to fill the job. Medical recruitment involves evaluating CVs and résumés, conducting interviews and verifying credentials. The main places to find a job as a healthcare recruiter are at recruitment agencies, hospital HR departments, and staffing firms.


As you can see, being an RN or a BSN nurse can open a lot of interesting and rewarding doors. The skills and experience of these nurses are keys to a lot of great career opportunities!


Learn how great nurses get their start at




The Facts about Your Nursing Career; American Nurse Today; Retrieved from

The Truth about Nursing; Retrieved from

10 Non-Clinical Nursing Jobs: Forget the Hospital or Clinic; Retrieved from

The BSN and Career Mobility, Retrieved from

15 Super Great Non-Hospital Nursing Jobs for Nurses; Retrieved from

Accelerate Your Nursing Career: BSN Career Guide; Retrieved from

10 Jobs for Nurses Outside the Hospital (Can I Have #6 Please?!) by Heather Hawkins; Retrieved from

What Does an Independent Nurse Educator Do?; National Nurses in Business Association; Retrieved from

Nursing Explorer – Case Management Nurse, Retrieved from

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