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Hospitals Aren't for Everyone -- Even Nurses

While hospitals are the largest employer of nurses and account for 61 percent of the nation's nursing jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), not all nurses wish to work in this type of setting. Fortunately for those nurses, there are several non-hospital employment options available, though it's wise to evaluate both the possible benefits and drawbacks.

What Are Some Nursing Jobs Outside of Hospitals?

There are a number of viable career paths for nurses seeking employment outside of a hospital setting. Below are some examples of such jobs with the greatest projected job growth:

Health coach. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Annual Trust study, 50 percent of employers who offer health benefits to their employees also offer wellness programs. In exchange for participation in the program, employees receive discounted health insurance premiums and other benefits. Insurance companies hire nurses to oversee these programs and serve as health coaches to enrollees interested in smoking cessation, weight loss, stress management and lifestyle changes, often via an online portal.

Home health nurse. As Baby Boomers approach retirement, the demand for home health nurses is expected to rise in tandem. According to a Center for Health Workforce Studies report, home health jobs are projected to increase by 60 percent from 2014 to 2024. Nurses provide care in patients' homes that ranges from managing medication to monitoring vitals and changing wound dressings. Nurses also supervise home health aides and other personnel.

Dialysis nurse. While dialysis nurses are employed by hospitals, there are even more positions available with freestanding dialysis centers and in-home care agencies. With 468,000 patients requiring dialysis each year and end-stage renal disease cases increasing by 21,000 cases per year, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), nurses are instrumental in ensuring these patients receive critical, lifesaving treatments.

Nurse educator. The demand for nurse educators is projected to rise by 35 percent from 2012-2022, according to the BLS. Nurse educators operate in slightly different capacities depending on the employer. Some work as nursing instructors and faculty for colleges and universities while others are employed by medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and governmental offices and clinics with a focus on educating physicians and other healthcare providers as well as consumers and the general public.

What Are the Benefits of Non-Hospital Employment? 

Possible benefits of working in a setting other than a hospital include:

  • Traditional work schedule. Hospital nursing schedules must accommodate round-the-clock patient care including nights, weekends and holidays. A more traditional work schedule is often available in other employment settings, which is a significant motivating factor for nurses with families or who just don't want to work odd hours.
  • Deeper patient relationships. Designed for acute or short-term stays, hospitals leave nurses less time to develop strong patient relationships. Working in dialysis or home health, for example, creates an environment in which long-term relationships are fostered and prioritized.
  • Less demanding. Many hospital nursing jobs are physically and emotionally demanding with little downtime to recover. Non-hospital careers such as nurse educator positions are generally less demanding in these capacities though challenging in other ways.

What Are the Drawbacks of Non-Hospital Employment?

Potential disadvantages of non-hospital employment include:

  • Undesirable shiftwork. Non-hospital settings are less likely to require overnight, weekend or holiday shifts, though this still remains a requirement for nurses working in some positions outside of the hospital.
  • Lack of scheduling flexibility. There are times when scheduling flexibility is important. Nurses working in a non-hospital setting will likely have fewer opportunities to change shifts or hours without seeking employment elsewhere. These types of scheduling requests are often more feasible for internal hospital employees due to the multiple shifts and departmental coverage needed.
  • Fewer patient interactions. Some non-hospital careers result in fewer face-to-face patient interactions. For many nurses, this aspect of patient care is very important and would be considered a downside to pursuing a career such as a health coach where interactions are potentially mostly online.

Beyond the Hospital

Although hospitals employ more than half of the nursing workforce, working as a hospital nurse is not a career path that all nurses desire. With demand growing in sectors from education to home health, there are many opportunities for nurses to develop rewarding careers beyond the hospital's walls, though a thorough evaluation of the benefits and drawbacks of non-hospital employment is always advised.

Learn more about the University of Texas of the Permian Basin's RN to BSN Online.


Sources:

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Kidney Disease Statistics for the United States

Center for Health Workforce Studies: Health Care Employment Projections, 2014-2024: An Analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Projections by Setting and Occupation

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Projections to 2022

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation: Workplace Wellness Programs Characteristics and Requirements

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses

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