Nurse Seeks Role Possibilities Outside of Clinical Nursing

By | 2021-03-16T15:53:21-04:00 March 16th, 2021|6 Comments

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.

Other Options

Many other alternative roles exist for this RN and for you as well. A quick search yields some interesting possibilities, including:

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.

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About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.


  1. Avatar
    Judy Newberger RN, CNM (ret.) March 20, 2021 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    I left nurse-midwifery and worked as a maternity case manager for awhile. My knowledge was used to assist high risk pregnant women receive the care they needed navigating the insurance world while providing much needed education to reduce the risk of worse complications and prematurity.
    I am now 73 and my retirement position has been as the faith community nurse for my church. This position uses so many of my acquired non-clinical nursing skills for our church members and clergy.

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    bonnie solitaire March 21, 2021 at 8:36 am - Reply

    You left out a very critical role in which nurses integrate their clinical knowledge with evidenced based research, physician collaboration and financial resiliency as a clinical resource director. In this role we are responsible for vetting new and existing products through clinical value analysis. Does the product have evidence based research to back it up, does it produce superior Pt outcomes, what are the financial implications to the healthcare system, what is the potential reimbursement and what impact does it have on profit margins. Let’s face it no margin no mission. Healthcare is a business and if we want to continue to operate and take care of those who need our care we must produce better outcomes while containing cost and improving profit margins.

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    Pat Browne March 21, 2021 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    As 32+year RN with a B.Animal Sciences who has practiced ‘Bedside’, ‘Deskside’, and now am considering the need for a ‘Call Center’ for ‘Earthside’ Nursing to include the skill sets of Permaculture and regenerative building of our environments, the cross over of understanding Human systems and Health maintenance is easy to correlate. The issue is the capital needed to navigate the morass of bureaucracy and ‘guidelines’ within holistic medicine. Nursing suffers from having few unions which focus on the limited criteria of hourly wage potential instead of seeding ‘village wise ones’ throughout the community.

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    Angie Willis RN April 7, 2021 at 12:14 am - Reply

    There are other nursing positions for someone unable to do clinical nursing. I became w/c dependent 22 years ago but was able to begin working prn approx. 8 years ago so I looked into MANY different positions. Some on your list require certifications plus a min. of 5 years of experience (i.e. Case manager and any job with an insurance company – 5 years is BARE minimum and the competition is crazy). Other positions that require no extra training or certifications are: Biometric clinic positions (there are a lot of companies who do these for employers), flu shot clinics, COVID vaccines, telephone triage nursing, home care nurse, hospice nurse, infusion nurse and there are others but this is a start.

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    Maria Labao, RN May 1, 2021 at 10:01 am - Reply

    I used to be a Labor and Delivery Nurse / Family Childbirth Center RN for many years after graduation. With young children and being a military wife, it was a struggle to juggle those roles. Long story short, I am now a school nurse, taking care of special needs students with various medical/ developmental/ behavioral needs plus educational support on the side. I love school nursing, enjoy immensely working with children, K -12 grades. Do I miss clinical nursing? I do! Maternity is my first love. But with so many pros of school nursing, I am very appreciative of my field right now. Hope this helps:)

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    Tommy May 3, 2021 at 6:37 am - Reply

    When you work in a hospital, you come in contact with things that you never have imagined. For instance, you will come in contact will children who are addicts. Women in their thirties who have experienced trauma or young men who are suffering from chronic ailments. Since inception, we are taught that our bodies are our temple. As we enter our teenage, we tend to push our bodies to their max potential. When working in the medical field, nurses realize that that they are not invisible. We come to this conclusion that the way we nurture our bodies directly affects our overall wellbeing. As a nurse, you are likely to take care of your overall wellbeing and ensure that the people around you also care for themselves.

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