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What Are the Best Alternative Careers to Nursing?

Many people get into the nursing field because they want to make a difference. However, sometimes the careers we choose don’t always pan out the way we think they will. Other times, it’s just easy to get burnt out on doing the same things day after day. While the daily tasks of a nurse may change, as will the patients they see, they can feel the same desire for a career change.

If you’re a nurse, and just don’t feel as though your job is right for you anymore, it might be time to discover a different path, perhaps an alternative blood work career. Depending on the type of nurse you are, maybe you’re hesitant to change directions. Some nurses go through quite a bit of schooling – would those years of education be a waste? Absolutely not.

There are many different career paths where you can put your nursing skills to good use. Some of them still focus directly on working with patients. Others may stay in the medical field, but allow you to take a step back from your regular routine. If you’re not excited about your job anymore, you shouldn’t have to be concerned about making a change as there are lots of high-paying medical careers available.

In this article, we’ll cover when you should consider leaving your job as a nurse. Then, we’ll share several alternative careers for registered nurses, and you can qualify for some jobs in under one year. If you haven’t been in the nursing field for a while, we’ll also look at good jobs for ex-nurses.

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What Are the Signs That It’s Time for a Career Change?

In any career, the decision to make a change is a personal one. Whether it has to do with your overall happiness, money, or scheduling, everyone has their own specific reasons for wanting to try something different. If you’re currently in a nursing job and find yourself thinking about any of the following on a regular basis, it may be time to choose a new path.

  • You feel burnt out from the daily stress of working in a hospital.
  • You want more flexibility or control over the hours you work.
  • You’re considering retirement, but you still want something part-time.
  • You’re sick of taking on long shifts, especially on holidays and important events.

After choosing a different career path, you may decide to come back to nursing eventually. Or, you may choose something that is a perfect fit, and you’ll stick with it for a long time. Keep in mind that you never have to stay in a career that leaves you unhappy or unsatisfied. If you choose to stay in the healthcare industry, it’s booming with jobs like never before.

Your years of schooling, training, and experience don’t have to go to waste, depending on the type of career you choose as an alternative to nursing. Take stock of how you’re feeling about your current position. If any of the statements above sound like you, the careers listed in this article could end up being great options for starting something new and different.

Good Reasons to Consider a Non-Clinical Nursing Position

There are so many non-clinical nursing jobs available if any of the previous statements apply to you. Non-clinical jobs are perfect for:

  • People who don’t like working with blood
  • Detail-oriented and organized individuals
  • Those who don’t like working directly with different people
  • Those who want more flexibility
  • Highly-motivated workers

Why Stay in the Healthcare Industry?

Even if nursing isn’t what you want to do anymore, there are multiple reasons to consider another career path in medicine. The biggest reason is growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2022 one in eight Americans will have a job in the healthcare industry.

You don’t need to attend years of schooling or training for many of these jobs. Some of them require minimal schooling and are still extremely lucrative. The growth is due in part to the aging population, and in part to advancements in technology. Staying within the world of medicine will likely ensure you a good job, no matter what particular job path you choose.

Second, it’s always a good idea to think about what made you want to get into healthcare in the first place. It’s a wonderful opportunity to serve people and make a difference. Just because nursing may not be your passion anymore, there is undoubtedly another healthcare job that will fit your needs and wants.

Career Changes with Flexibility

You may love nursing itself, but just want a change of pace/scenery. There are great options for career changes for nurses. The options here will not only give you more time at home but can essentially allow you to ‘be your own boss.’ They aren’t as hectic or fast-paced as working in the ER. They also may not have the same competitive salary, but if money isn’t your concern, these alternatives can offer you more flexibility in your day-to-day life.

Case Management via Phone

If you have previous clinical experience, you may be a good candidate for telephonic case management. These positions are hired by insurance companies. They work with disability cases to ensure that both the patient and insurance company are being treated fairly. Not only do you still get to work with patients (via phone), but you can fight for their rights to ensure they are getting what they deserve from their employer and insurance agency.

This is a great job not only for an RN with clinical experience but for an ex-nurse with great management and organizational skills. If working with and helping people has been your favorite part of nursing, you continue to do that here through a different avenue.

Travel Nursing

Perhaps one of your biggest reasons for wanting to leave the ER or private practice was because you felt you didn’t get to travel enough. Becoming a traveling nurse is a perfect solution. You can choose whether to go across the country or the globe. Travel nurses are given assignments all over. The agency you work for will typically cover things like housing, travel expenses, etc.

Whether you’re ready to see the world and do what you love, or you’re looking to advance your career and put something interesting on a resume, becoming a traveling nurse is a unique and rewarding experience.

Different career options for people with a nursing degree

Home Health Care

If you don’t want to give up your nursing skills or don’t want to stop taking care of people, but you need a less-hectic pace, consider making house calls. It’s not just a thing of the past. There are multiple agencies you can work with to make house calls. They deal with homebound patients that often require special care or a certain number of hours by a healthcare professional.

Home care nurses have become increasingly popular, due to the aging population. It should be relatively easy to find a position with a home health care agency if you have the right qualifications.


Although this isn’t directly a job in the ‘healthcare’ field, many childcare workers or private nannies are required to have some health experience. It could be as minimal as first aid training. But, a former nurse is even more likely to get a job like this, based on their experience. If you love working with children and take their health seriously, this could be a great change of pace.

Parents may even hire you to manage the healthy lifestyle and nutritional habits of their children if they struggle in that department. It’s a surefire way to change a young life and develop healthy habits in them early on.


Alternative Careers with a Nursing Degree

Again, just because you might want to shift away from bedside nursing doesn’t mean your education has to go to waste. Multiple healthcare jobs can be performed with a nursing degree. You can decide whether or not you’re looking for something more intense, or more laid back. These jobs offer a variety of both options, depending on your needs.

  1. Paramedic: Being a paramedic can be a fast-paced, high-stress job, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. Also known as EMTs, paramedics help those in need during emergency situations. You must have a fast reaction to medical emergencies. It’s your job to not only provide immediate care but safe transportation to a medical facility. For paramedics, the lives of patients are in their hands immediately, before they ever get to a hospital.
  2. Health coach: If you want to focus on helping people lead healthier lives, becoming a health coach is a great option. Health coaches spend one-on-one time with individuals, offering them the advice, tools, and resources needed to make better, healthy choices for their life. This can include things like helping someone to lose weight, lower their stress, or sleep better.
  3. Medical journalist: Although this might seem like a job far-removed from nursing, you can use your experience and skills to your advantage. Medical journalists report on important healthcare issues locally and globally. An ex-nurse can easily bring a sense of inside experience to each piece he or she writes. If journalism interests you as much as public healthcare, this is a unique and lucrative path to take.

Non-Nursing Jobs for Nurses

Some healthcare jobs require very little training or additional schooling. The experience you gain as a nurse can be a great way to get your foot in the door for many of these careers. If you want to remain in the healthcare field, but feel you might be better suited for a different job, any of these medical-related jobs could be a good fit.

  1. Phlebotomist: The training required to become a phlebotomist can sometimes take less than a year, including certification. A phlebotomist works with different patients and staff members every day. Their main objective is to safely draw blood from a patient and properly label it to be taken to a medical lab for testing. Phlebotomists must have great people skills, be highly organized and professional, and have the ability to work with a medical team. Phlebotomists can work in hospitals, clinics, or even private practices. Some phlebotomists even work as ‘freelance’ individuals. They are hired out by different businesses and organizations who don’t need a full-time phlebotomist on staff. This includes things like nursing homes, prisons, the American Red Cross, etc. Phlebotomist or nurse? Read this guide.
  2. Medical secretary: If you think your skills might be better suited for administrative work, consider becoming a medical secretary. A medical secretary does much more than answer phone calls. They must have specific medical knowledge that can offer support to a healthcare team, and patients. This includes managing medical charts. If you’ve had experience in nursing, you likely already have all the tools necessary to be outstanding in this position.
  3. Occupational therapist aide: Remaining in healthcare doesn’t mean there aren’t new, unique branches of it to try out. An occupational therapist aide helps to provide rehabilitation services to anyone with an impairment. This can be physical, mental, or emotional. You’ll work directly with an occupational therapist, and do everything from schedule appointments to fill out insurance forms.
  4. Diagnostic medical sonographer: If working with medical equipment and machinery is something you loved about your nursing job, take that passion toward a career as a sonographer. A diagnostic medical sonographer is responsible for assessing and diagnosing medical conditions by using specialized equipment. This equipment emits sound waves into the body of a patient to help confirm what possible conditions that patient might be facing.
  5. Surgical technologist: If you want to look into a more specialized career in healthcare, consider becoming a surgical technologist. You’ll be responsible for preparing operating rooms and assisting surgeons. It allows you to remain in a hospital atmosphere, but work in a department that more condensed and focused on one particular thing.

There are dozens of additional jobs in the medical industry that don’t necessarily require a lot of schooling or training. Your experience as a nurse can help you in just about any healthcare job, but if you want to get back into the field quickly, these types of jobs are the best way to go. From there, you may be able to work your way up to different medical positions, with additional training.

Non-Hospital Positions for RNs

If you love your nursing job, but not the setting or the pace, your skills can be used elsewhere. Consider the following nursing positions that don’t require you to fall under the stressful work of a busy hospital:

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  • Physician’s office nurse: Working for a small private practice is a great way to continue your nursing career in a smaller, slower-paced environment. You’ll get to know your patients, you’ll work with a smaller team, and the hours are typically 9-5.
  • Diabetes management nurse: Specialty nursing jobs allow you to focus in on something specific really, and work with patients who have a condition that interests you. Diabetes management nurses work with diabetic patients, helping them to manage their disease and giving them the necessary resources to live a healthy life.
  • Insurance firm nurse: Insurance companies often look for nurses who can assess medical claims. It gets you out of a hospital setting and puts you into more of an office environment, but you still get to work directly with medical terminology and patient cases every day.
  • Nutritional nurse: Nutrition and fitness nurses are often hired by individuals. They help people with specialized nutrition and exercise plans. These plans are often specifically designed around an individual, to help them achieve optimal health.
  • Rural nurse: Though this can be a difficult job, it is also extremely rewarding. Rural nurses work in areas that don’t have immediate access to healthcare. Or, their overall healthcare system is poor.
  • Outpatient nurse: Known as one of the ‘lower key’ positions of a nurse, an outpatient nurse treats patients on an individual case basis. Then, they either send them home or to receive additional medical care.

Additional nursing careers in more specialized departments include:

  • Family nurse practitioner
  • Acute care
  • Grant writing
  • Health facilities surveyor
  • Nursing student mentor

Being an RN doesn’t automatically mean you’re confined to the ER. If you love the work, consider your different options before making a completely different switch to another job.

Potential careers other than nursing

Best Jobs for Retired Nurses

Some of the best medical jobs for older adults go back into the field in a more relaxed fashion. People are working longer than ever, so even if you retire from the clinical world, it doesn’t mean you have to give up nursing altogether. If you’re still interested in the healthcare field, but want a more leisurely schedule, consider some of the following positions:

  • School nurse: A school nurse works within an administration to make sure the physical, mental, and emotional health needs of each student are met. As a nurse on campus, you may not have to work every day, and your hours may be limited. It’s a very different environment from a hospital setting, and it can be a joy to work with children on a daily basis.
  • Parish nurse, camp nurse, cruise ship nurse: These are just a few examples of places where qualified nurses may be needed on a regular basis. They aren’t full-time positions, and often only will hire one or two nurses for a specific amount of time. Or, you may become a particular business’ or organization’s ‘on-call’ nurse as needed. If you don’t mind inconsistencies in scheduling and want to try something different, look into area organizations that could use your services.
  • First aid class instructor: Nurses learn basic life-saving skills at the very start of their training. People take first aid classes for many different reasons, but when a qualified nurse is instructing them, they know they’re getting the best possible training. Look for opportunities to showcase seminars or hold first aid training classes in your local area.
  • Medical equipment salesperson: As a nurse, you’re regularly surrounded by different medical equipment and machines. It’s your job to know how to use a lot of this equipment. So, who better to be a dealer of medical supplies? You’ll be confident in what you’re selling, you’ll know the proper talking points, and you’ll be able to sell the most effective equipment on the market.
  • Freelance health writer: There is a huge market for health topics on the Internet. If you’re a nurse with years of experience, your expertise and opinion can turn into a lucrative career for healthcare blogs, medical websites, etc.
  • Lifestyle counselor: You’re used to managing patients on all different levels. Why not use that experience and expertise to help people make positive, healthy choices in their lives?
  • Volunteer nursing: Many different organizations look for volunteer nurses to help out when necessary. See what kinds of opportunities are available near you.

A Wide Variety of Different Careers for Nursing Professionals

The healthcare industry continues to grow and thrive. It shows no signs of slowing down in the near future, so there should always be a job available in your area of interest. No matter the role you have, you can still help to improve the quality of someone’s life – or, even save it.

If a career in nursing isn’t for you, or you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of a busy ER, consider any of the options here. Just because clinical nursing didn’t work out the way you thought doesn’t mean that you should avoid the healthcare industry altogether. You may enjoy a rewarding career as a phlebotomist. Your skills could be better placed in a different position that offers you more fulfillment.