An RN with a master’s degree, who is certified in critical care, asked me how to go about looking for roles other than those in clinical nursing.
She was a clinical nurse manager for two ICU units and has 20 years of clinical experience, but has been unable to work for the past 13 months due to an unnamed illness.
It is not known if the illness was still present at the time she posted the question, and if so, how it might have been affecting her ability to work on a regular basis. Having acknowledged that, there are many options for her — and for you — if you find yourself wanting to leave clinical nursing.
Roles Outside and Inside Clinical Nursing
The first option is available because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Contact tracing is a necessary part of eventually overcoming the worse public health crisis in a hundred years.
Nurses make excellent contact tracers. Training may be required but would not be difficult to complete for this nurse (or any practicing nurse for that matter), since she has necessary the nursing education and experience.
A second choice also exists due to the pandemic but is clinical in nature. A nurse looking for a new role can join the nursing staff that is already providing care to COVID-19 patients, as many patients need hospitalization. This choice requires a current RN license and approval from a state board of nursing. The RN who submitted her question may not be able to fulfill this option due to her illness. But for those who can, it allows the provision of care to those who are suffering from the virus and also provides needed help and support to those providing care.
Many other alternative roles exist for this RN and for you as well. A quick search yields some interesting possibilities, including:
- Life care planner
- Medical writer
- Legal nurse consultant
- Risk manager
- Case manager
- Triage nurse for health insurance carrier
- Nurse informaticist
- Nurse recruiter
- Nurse faculty member
Obviously, not all of these would be attractive to every nurse, but delving into what might be of interest is a good start. There is a wealth of information on these alternative roles online, including educational requirements, positions available, and descriptions of what the role entails.
In addition, these established roles’ professional associations are a valuable resource. For example, the American Nursing Informatics Association’s website has detailed information about the organization, membership, a fact sheet, and a list of the current chapters.
Contacting the current chapter of a professional association representing non-clinical nursing members in your area would help in deciding if any are an option for you.
Would the Transition to a New Role Be Easy?
The reader who submitted the question also raised a concern about whether or not she had the capability to meet the needs of a non-clinical, new role.
Interestingly, this concern has been evaluated. The Southern New Hampshire University 2020 Workforce Trend Report acknowledges that nurses work in a variety of roles, such as discharge planning, computer literacy, and case management. These roles require “soft skills” rather than “technical skills”.
The Report states that communication, teamwork, critical thinking, and problem solving – all considered so-called “soft skills” – are better characterized as “power skills.”
So, for this RN, and for you, the transition to utilizing different skills in an alternative role should not be that problematic. Your undergraduate nursing program included the “power skills” you needed, not only in clinical nursing, but in non-clinical roles as well.
Will the transition be an out-and-out smooth one? Probably not. But the reader, and you, already have the skills needed to make the transition a successful one, once you identify what it is you want to do next with your nursing practice.
If you have already transitioned to a non-clinical nursing role, share your experience with the process and the end result with us.