medical career paths to qualified nurses
Careers

Which Medical Career Paths Are Open To Qualified Nurses?

According to the 2021 census, healthcare is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. New career pathways are regularly created for nurses, and the demand for experienced medical staff continues to grow. This means candidates can expect good working conditions, an enviable salary, and generous opportunities for personal and professional growth. Here is a look at some of the most popular careers for qualified nurses and advice on determining whether these roles would suit you.

Gerontological nursing

These highly trained specialists are experienced nurses who have completed a master’s program in their chosen field. Working in clinics and hospitals, they manage extremely detailed programs of therapy and medication for people as they get older. They are also responsible for monitoring a range of age-related conditions, arranging tests, and interpreting the results. Next, they create a treatment plan that keeps the patient stable and improves their quality of life.

If you can manage complex therapies and are looking for a new challenge, an MSN-AGACNP like the one offered at Rockhurst University is a great place to start. With this type of program, you’ll be able to complete the online coursework from home, allowing you to fit your studies around your current schedules, but you’ll also gain practical experience during clinical placements.

Cardiac nurse

After earning their degree and cardiac care certification and working the required clinical hours, cardiac nurses work in rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and respite homes. As the number of patients with cardiac problems increases, the need for nurses to assist with their care also grows.

Cardiac nurses work alongside consultants, physicians, and other nurses to care for patients. They also take part in monitoring patients, providing postoperative care, and taking vascular readings.

If you have an interest in heart health, enjoy problem-solving, and want to work as part of a team, this could be a great career choice.

Certified registered nurse anesthetist

After graduating with their first degree and gaining an RN license, nurse anesthetists move on to a master’s qualification. They also need to practice for a year in their chosen role before working more independently in a surgical center, hospital, or physician’s office.

These highly trained nurses specialize in providing anesthesia for patients who are having surgery. Because the role is so complex, they are particularly well-paid.

If you want to provide care to patients before and after surgery and appreciate the chance to become highly trained, this role will be very rewarding.

Nurse manager

Experienced and qualified nurses who add a nurse manager and leader certification to their resume can become nurse managers. They are employed by outpatient facilities, surgical centers, and hospitals to provide supervision.

Working in an administrative role rather than completing hands-on tasks, they manage many of the organizational activities in a facility. They create schedules for other nurses, manage the clinical budget and work to recruit the best possible nurses. They also develop training programs for staff and arrange mentorships.

If you want to stay in medicine and work with a team but would prefer an administrative position, a nurse manager is one to consider.

Mental health nurse

In addition to their first degree and an RN license, mental health nurses have a master’s in their chosen specialty. Along with rehabilitation centers, general hospitals, and psychiatric hospitals, they work in the community.

They help diagnose psychological disorders in their patients and arrange a treatment plan. Part of their work involves counseling people who may be very upset or confused.

If you want to help all types of people with their emotional and mental health needs and are willing to form a close relationship with them, mental health nursing is a good choice.

ER nurse

ER nurses have graduated, earned their registered nursing license, and gained a certified emergency nurse qualification. They work mainly in the emergency room of hospitals and are part of a large team.

Alongside a physician, they carry out a wide range of tasks once the patient has been examined and is stable. They make the patient comfortable, review their medical charts and dispense the proper medication. They may also tend to a range of minor wounds and injuries.

If you are interested in direct patient care and would thrive in a high-pressure environment, becoming an ER nurse is a good career path to consider.

Clinical nurse specialist

Some clinical nurse specialists continue their education through a doctorate degree while others conclude with a master’s. Either way, they work in a physician’s office, hospital, or home healthcare service.

These highly trained nurses often take on a leadership role in the facility, ensuring that patients have an excellent experience and are given the best quality care. Furthermore, they can provide advice and information to other members of the nursing team.

If you have a passion for medicine but want to work in a leadership position, this specialty could be the ideal choice.

Nurse midwife

After graduating from a BSC program and gaining their license, a registered nurse can eventually progress to a midwifery certification. Once they have completed the qualification and put in the clinical hours, new midwives take up positions in community clinics, physicians’ offices, and hospitals.

They care for women who are pregnant in the lead-up to giving birth. This involves running educational programs and meeting women at prenatal appointments. In hospitals, they also assist women who are going into labor and manage their birth plans.

If you would like to help patients with almost every aspect of pregnancy and childbirth, becoming a midwife could be the perfect career path.

Family nurse practitioner

Generally employed in hospitals, hospices, and physician’s clinics, family nurse practitioners are master’s graduates with a registered nursing license. Before qualifying, they are also asked to carry out 500 clinic hours of faculty-supervised work. Their extensive training equips them to work in primary healthcare settings, assisting patients of all ages.

They can diagnose conditions and develop a course of treatment, examine patients, and prescribe medication.

If you plan to take on a responsible role and prefer to care for patients independently, this could be an excellent choice.

Nurse practitioner

One of the most highly qualified positions in the field, nurse practitioners have a master’s degree in their specialty and other certificates in their area of expertise. They are based in hospitals and doctor’s offices, serving both as primary care providers and specialists.

When a patient or their family needs advanced services and care, they will step in. In addition to performing examinations, they can order a series of tests and arrange a course of medication.

If you want a more in-depth role in medicine but plan to remain in primary care, becoming a nurse practitioner could be a great career move.

Geriatric nurse

Graduate nurses can complete a certification in gerontological nursing to become geriatric specialists. They tend to work mainly in nursing homes, hospices, hospitals, and physician’s offices.

They treat older patients who have a health condition, illness, or injury. Part of their role is helping people maintain an excellent quality of life into their senior years. They may also help to design the care plan for a person developing Alzheimer’s disease or cancer.

If you want to work with seniors and provide a wide range of life-changing care, this will be a rewarding role.

Critical care nurse

Nurses who work in critical care are degree-level graduates with an RN license and relevant certification in critical care. They tend to work in hospitals and physician’s offices, delivering emergency care to critically ill or injured patients.

The work can be highly stressful as patients can come to them in a very distressed state with serious wounds. CC nurses also monitor life support systems once a person has been stabilized and may assist in the care of cardiac patients.

If you would like to help patients through major traumas and become part of a dynamic team, you’ll find this role exceptionally gratifying.

Perioperative nurse

Sometimes known as an operating room nurse or a surgical nurse, perioperative nurses are graduates who have earned first assistant certifications. Once qualified, they work in hospitals, outpatient wards, and surgical centers.

They focus on caring for patients before they go in for an operation and when they are brought out of surgery. Additionally, they have the skills required to set up a room for surgical operations, organize the tools that will be needed, and use bandages to manage patients’ bleeding.

If you want to work closely with surgeons to help patients get through their procedures safely and you can handle a high-pressure environment, you might enjoy this role.

Orthopedic nurse

By adding an orthopedic nurse certification to their list of qualifications, a registered nurse can branch out into orthopedic care. These nurses are based in rehabilitation centers, physician’s offices, and hospitals.

Working to manage diseases and a range of musculoskeletal issues, such as fractures and joint replacements, they are specialists in physical care and disease management. After a bout of illness or surgery, an orthopedic nurse helps get a patient back to a good level of health.

If you want to use your specialist knowledge to get patients back on their feet and make a difference to their quality of life, consider a role in orthopedic nursing.

Nurse educator

Registered nurses with a first degree can earn a master’s degree in a relevant subject to become nurse educators. Working in community colleges, teaching hospitals, and universities, nurse educators teach students who want to work in the healthcare industry.

Although the focus will be on general patient care, they will also look at specific areas of medicine and trends in the healthcare system. They also prepare students for the real-world experience they will get when they first take their place in the field.

If you like working in medicine but are looking for a teaching role, you could be a great influence on trainee nurses in this role.

Nursing administrator

Nursing administrators are master’s graduates in their chosen field with a considerable amount of nursing experience. They are employed in general wards in hospitals and care centers. Their role includes managing larger numbers of nursing teams across various departments of the facility. They may also be called upon to supervise healthcare teams and other members of staff.

To keep the unit running smoothly, they create schedules, monitor training programs, and handle performance reviews. If the department is experiencing organizational problems, the nursing administrator will step in to help.

If you love the challenge of managing a lot of people and want to remain in a medical setting, this role could be the one for you.

Oncology nurse

After qualifying as an RN, oncology nurses need to gain 1,000 hours of training on the job and work for an oncology certificate. With the proper knowledge under their belt, they take on a role in cancer treatment centers and hospitals.

Their primary role is to aid in the treatment of cancer, but they also give advice to patients and discuss treatment options. They monitor cancer patients throughout their cycle of treatment, taking note of the progress they make and any symptoms they have. They can also work with people who are in remission and prescribe medication when necessary.

If you would like to assist and inform people who are dealing with a critical illness, you will feel fulfilled in this role.

Nursing informatics specialists

Nurse informaticists are experienced nurses with a master’s degree in informatics. They are employed by a range of healthcare facilities and help to maintain medical IT.

Bringing the benefits of IT into the medical world helps to develop healthcare technology that improves patient outcomes. Because they have practical experience in patient care, nurse informaticists can collaborate with IT professionals to ensure specific healthcare technology will function well in a hospital setting.

If you are an experienced nurse with a penchant for IT and want to work at the forefront of medical technology, this could be a great choice.

Public health nurse

After passing a community health nursing exam, registered nurses can apply to become a public health nurse. Working in community clinics, hospitals, and schools, they teach the local community about best practices when it comes to health. They also work with people in their own homes to assess their healthcare needs and create a plan for their treatment.

Public health nurses are called upon to coordinate intervention plans that might involve hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and clinics.

If you are interested in caring for and educating large numbers of people in the community, you could look into becoming a public health nurse.

Legal nurse consultant

After gaining several years of experience as a registered nurse, it is possible to become certified as a legal nurse consultant. These specialists don’t work directly with patients or even in a medical setting. Instead, they can work independently as consultants or with a legal firm.

Their job is to assist with cases that include a medical element. They must carry out a significant amount of research, from interpreting health documentation to highlighting new discoveries and writing briefs for the legal team.

If you are interested in law and want to use your medical knowledge in a legal setting, this could be a fascinating role.

Choosing the right path

Many nurses are drawn to the profession because they know it will offer them varied career choices. You can start in a maternity ward, move to a trauma department and then become a nurse practitioner if you choose.

By completing new courses and adding qualifications to your resume, you can relocate to a field that interests you without leaving the profession. At each stage, you’ll find new rewards and some challenges. Of course, you can also choose to stay in a role you enjoy or continue to work your way up in the specialty you prefer.

When you first go into nursing, the options can seem endless, but there are ways to narrow down the field. First, you should think about the talents you have and where your interests lie. Are you passionate about helping children or seniors every day, or would you prefer to see a range of patients? If you have a particular ambition, think about what career path can get you there and where you hope to be in five or ten years.

Once you’ve made a choice, try to gain some experience working in that environment, even if it’s just voluntarily a few times a month. Sharing a day with the professional you plan to work alongside will give you great insight into their job and whether it’s right for you.

The system is constantly changing, which creates new roles and opportunities for nurses. Whichever career path you follow, be sure to take plenty of time to reach your decision and think about why you want that role. That way, the choice you make is likely to feel right in the long term, allowing you to enjoy a long, successful, and diverse nursing career.

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