7 Unexpected Things You Can Do with Your Nursing Career

By Sarah Stasik

Nursing schools often point new grads and students toward common nursing career paths, including specialties such as NICU nursing, med-surg and labor and delivery. It’s also not uncommon for nurses to take a slightly different approach, especially after years of direct patient service, and seek a career in educating other RNs or healthcare management. But there are some truly unexpected nursing career paths out there if you know where to look — and they all involve putting your nursing skills and knowledge to work to help others.

If you’re ready to take a step off the beaten path when it comes to your nursing career, check out some of the potential options below.

7 Unexpected Nursing Career Paths or Options to Consider

Whether you just need a break from the daily grind, want to step away from direct patient care or are seeking a way to bring more meaning to your RN credentials, one of these options might be right for you.

1. Volunteer aboard the Africa Mercy

“A very unique opportunity for travel nurses is to join the volunteer crew with Mercy Ships on the world’s largest private hospital ship, the Africa Mercy,” says Pauline Rick of Mercy Ships. “Travel nurses work a job or two in the US and then take a break to volunteer for several weeks or months on board the floating hospital. They care for patients who receive free operations, most having conditions not normally seen in the US due to a lack of access to surgery in Africa.” Rick said RNs who are interested in expanding their horizons by volunteering aboard such a ship can take advantage of many nursing opportunities, including stints in a floating PICU.

2. Become a hypnotherapist

Erika Flint is a hypnotherapist who has seen a trend of nurses coming to train with her. She says a lot of traits that make a good nurse translate well into the hypnotherapy field, and nurses who learn this new skill can start a practice of their own.

“RNs who train as hypnotherapists may have experienced fatigue from long hours, frustration with paperwork and disillusionment with modern medicine,” says Flint. But learning hypnotherapy allows them to combine their patient care knowledge with a new skill to help patients reduce sensations of pain or face stressful situations, including end-of-life care.

“Medical issues are always conducted with a referral from a provider,” says Flint, “and hypnotists often work in conjunction with a client’s medical team.”

3. Become a health policy nurse

If you have an eye (and ear) for details and want to make a large impact on health care, you might consider becoming a health policy nurse. Since health policy in the United States is made at all different levels — including federal, state and local governments — RNs who take this career path will need excellent people and communication skills and the fortitude to lobby on behalf of best practices and good health policies.

RNs who are looking down this nursing career path early on may want to invest in public health classes or concentrations in nursing school.

4. Take a job as a flight nurse

Medical helicopters are typically manned by one pilot, one EMT and one flight nurse, who is responsible for providing patient care before and during a transport. Medical helicopters respond to emergencies when necessary to get critically injured or ill patients to treatment centers as fast as possible, but they may also transport patients between treatment facilities.

To become a flight nurse, you’ll need an RN or BSN and appropriate experience. Since there is often only a single flight nurse on each flight, this isn’t a nursing career path for beginners.

5. Help organizations hire nurses

Nurse recruiter may not be a career you think of when you get your RN, but who better to find the best nurses for the job than someone with experience working as an RN? Moving into HR as a nurse does require excellent communication and people skills, but it can be a great way for you to impact future patient care while stepping away from the exhaustion and hectic schedule of shift work.

6. Turn charisma into a job as a health coach

Nurses with the right personality and strong public speaking and motivational skills can launch a rewarding careers in health coaching. You can work with individuals directly to help them understand how to eat and exercise their way to better health, or you can offer coaching services to assist individuals in navigating their own health care or a chronic illness. Nurses who are willing to speak at events, create social media and YouTube channels and interact regularly with their audience are most likely to find success as coaches.

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7. Turn your knowledge into a writing career

Want to share your nursing knowledge to help others but aren’t comfortable standing in the limelight? Consider becoming a medical writer or turning your nurse knowledge into a blog or book. As a writer, you can write articles and information for magazines and websites or publish your own content as eBooks and blog posts. Obviously, for this nurse career path, you’ll need excellent writing and grammar skills. Check out how to monetize your blog.

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Your nursing career path is unique to you, and some of the ideas above demonstrate how valuable a nursing degree and related experience can be. If you’re not sure where you want to go with your nursing career, consider starting with travel nursing. You’ll get wide-ranging experience that you can funnel into numerous career opportunities in the future.