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Nursing Roles Beyond the Bedside


Throughout the duration of the pandemic, nurse burnout rates have been at an all-time high. Many experienced nurses are leaving the profession, and the younger generation of nurses entering the field are facing immense adversity. Exploring nursing roles beyond the bedside may be the answer for nurses looking to make a change that incorporates their education and experience. For the first time, RN turnover has exceeded the hospital average for turnover, and in 2021, RNs exited the bedside at a staggering rate. It's crucial that efforts are being made to accommodate the needs of nurses in order to keep them in this essential profession. On the bright side, before leaving the profession altogether, many bedside nurses are beginning to migrate to different areas within the profession in hopes of reigniting their love for the profession.

What's causing bedside nursing burnout?

Nurses' top concerns must be identified and considered when addressing this paramount issue.

  • Presently, the most prominent factors in nurse burnout are the implications of COVID-19. While society is beginning to heal from the pandemic, the problems it created remain overwhelmingly permanent for the healthcare industry.
  • Many new nurses feel that bedside nursing is not what they imagined it would be. The expectations of bedside are not the reality, and this has caused many new nurses to transition into other areas of nursing.
  • While new nurses may leave bedside nursing fairly quickly, more experienced nurses who have been in bedside nursing for years just need a break. The emotional and physical toll of bedside nursing eventually becomes too consuming.
  • Nurses are versatile individuals who often want to challenge themselves by branching out to a new area of their careers, and the profession has a multitude of avenues to explore. Therefore, some nurses do not feel satisfied remaining stagnant in bedside nursing.
  • Bedside nursing often does not allow for a healthy work to life balance which is causing a shift in the profession. Nurses are searching for a more flexible schedule where they can have a healthy relationship with their work and personal lives.

Popular roles beyond the bedside

  1. Flight Nurse: Flight nursing is arguably one of the most exhilarating areas within the nursing profession. Being a flight nurse requires nurses to be "little bit of an expert in everything," according to veteran flight nurse Allen Wolfe. For Wolfe, one of the highlights of flight nursing is that it offers nurses autonomy. Flight nurses are highly skilled, and the role is a great option for those nurses who want to do more to gain a sense of professional satisfaction.
  2. Health Policy Nurse: Health policy nurses have the ability to effect change for the profession on a larger scale. This specialty allows nurses to bring their experiences and expertise to the forefront and make a difference in the healthcare industry at large. Bedside nurses making the switch to health policy can expect to take courses in theory, research, communications, and leadership. They learn about the regulatory landscape that drives healthcare policies, healthcare economics, and the impact of policies in caring for global populations. They need strong writing and critical thinking skills to articulate and make a case for their ideas.
  3. Infection Control Nurse: The COVID-19 pandemic has reiterated the critical importance of infection control nurses. The demand for this specialty continues to skyrocket with a goal of being better prepared for future outbreaks. Whether it's a contained infection or a global pandemic, colleagues will look to the infection control nurse for guidance in controlling and eliminating infectious threats that may be present.
  4. Telehealth Nurse: Telehealth has taken the world by storm since the onset of the pandemic. And the demand for these nurses is at an all-time high and becoming a standard in the healthcare industry rather than just an added option. Telehealth nursing is often an integral part of large acute care institutions, serving as an intermediary step in which nurses assess a patient's condition and determine if an in-person visit is necessary. Healthcare professionals may also use remote nursing sessions to diagnose lower-risk conditions, outline treatment options, educate patients about self-care at home, and more. Telehealth nursing is a great alternative for nurses who are looking to avoid many of the stresses that come along with bedside nursing.
  5. Nurse Educator: Being a nurse educator allows experienced nurses to share their knowledge and expertise with new generations of the profession. Nurse educators have the platform to not only educate, but also inspire and influence young nurses as they prepare to enter the workforce. Along with the personal gratification that comes from witnessing a new nurse's growth and transformation, nurse educators also benefit from flexible schedules in a varied and ever-changing work environment and much more.

In addition to the nursing specialties listed above, many nurses are branching out into areas such as: Informatics, research, case management, administration, and recruitment. Other specialties seeing new roles and opportunities include home health, ambulatory care, and many nurses are also seeking entrepreneurial routes. The nursing profession has many options and avenues to explore. As technology continues to advance and the world is presented with new challenges, the nursing profession continues to adapt and overcome. The healthcare industry cannot survive without an essential pillar of nurses. While these challenging times may induce feelings of burnout, nurses should consider the vast options available within their profession before leaving altogether. The impact nurses have in the delivery of safe and effective care is quite significant. We have chosen a profession where our possibilities are endless, and nurses should feel empowered to follow their passion into new areas of healthcare. Learn more about nursing roles beyond the bedside through these courses: Nursing Informatics (1 contact hour) Nursing informatics supports nurses, patients, the interprofessional healthcare team, and other stakeholders in their decision-making in all healthcare settings to achieve desired outcomes. This course provides a better understanding of how nursing informatics and technology impact quality patient care. Teaching Tomorrow's Nurses (1 contact hour) Today's faculty faces unparalleled challenges as they prepare students for increasingly complex nursing roles. Integrating new knowledge into the curriculum and using technology to enhance learning and preparing nurses to be lifelong learners offer educators opportunities to influence nursing's future. This module discusses the innovative teaching strategies nurse educators are using to meet these challenges. It also describes the ways faculty can meet the learning needs of diverse student populations, the forces driving changes in nursing and nursing education, and the rewards and challenges of becoming a nurse educator.