12 Alternative Nursing Career Paths

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If you’re curious about exploring different nursing career paths, Mercer’s ABSN track provides the foundation to earn your BSN and enter into a number of alternative nursing careers. These careers can include military nursing, school nursing, home healthcare nursing, telehealth nursing, informatics nursing, and beyond.

Military nurse giving patient a vaccine shot

Nursing is an incredibly rewarding career that ranks as one of the most popular professions in healthcare. The world of healthcare is constantly evolving, and as healthcare roles shift, nurses are primed to take on even more prominent roles in patient care across the range of clinical practice. The demand and profile of nursing careers make the field an attractive option, and the increasing requirements of nursing and nurse leadership positions mean that earning a BSN is one of the best possible foundations for your future career.

If you have a previous non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you can earn a BSN degree in as little as 12 months through Mercer University’s Second Degree Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track.

Mercer ABSN students will complete a blend of online courses, hands-on labs, and clinical rotations throughout a comprehensive curriculum spanning three semesters. With a nursing education from an experienced and knowledgeable faculty, you will graduate ready to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). After gaining bedside experience as a registered nurse, you can pursue further education or certifications as required by different specialties or practice areas, or consider alternate nursing paths. If you are interested in becoming a nurse, here are some alternative nursing career paths to consider for your career journey.

nursing student sitting at desk using laptop

Learn more about how the ABSN track works and how it can help you achieve your nursing goals sooner.

1. Informatics Nursing

Nursing informatics is the study of using information technology to improve nursing practice. This fast-growing field combines nursing with computer science. The duties of informatics nurses include ensuring that electronic health records are accurate and accessible, developing new ways for healthcare providers to share information, and automating clinical tasks like medication management. This is a great option for passionate nurses who want a career option outside of a traditional clinical context.

2. Military Nursing

Military nursing is a rewarding career for those interested in helping others while serving their country. Nurses can work in military areas such as medical care or research. You will travel to various locations worldwide and experience diverse cultures and lifestyles. As a military nurse, you must be able to work under pressure and meet strict deadlines. You may also need to care for patients with physical injuries or illnesses requiring surgery or other medical treatments.

3. Oncology Nursing

Oncology nurses specialize in caring for patients who have been diagnosed with cancer. They work with patients and their families to help them understand the disease and treatment options and offer support during their recovery process. Oncology nurses can be found in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, private homes, and more.

Oncology nurses interact with patients daily to assess their needs and determine how best to meet them. They also provide supportive counseling throughout treatment, so patients and their support networks know they are not alone in this challenging time.

4. Nurse Educator

Nurse educators teach students about the latest research, technology, and techniques in the field, as well as the essential skills they will use daily in a clinical setting. They teach nursing students in an online classroom or at a college or university, in a mock clinical setting, or an actual clinical environment during clinical rotations.

nurse teaching to classroom of students

Some nurse educators specialize in specific areas of nursing — such as pediatrics, intensive care, or mental health — while others teach general courses on leadership development or health promotion.

5. Research Nursing

Research nurses are involved in collecting and analyzing data to help improve patient care. They may work on research projects that look at the effectiveness of certain treatments or therapies, or they may help conduct clinical trials. This career path can offer you opportunities to publish your findings, leading to recognition as an expert in your field.

Research nurses often work for hospitals, private practices, pharmaceutical companies, or universities. This role allows you to help patients outside of a day-to-day clinical setting.

6. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have earned a master's degree in psychiatric nursing. They are experts in treating mental health disorders, providing psychotherapy, prescribing medications, and other forms of psychiatric care. Psychiatric nurse practitioners work in hospitals, community health centers, private practices, and nursing homes.

7. Home Healthcare Nursing

Home healthcare nurses work with patients in their homes. They provide nursing services to people who are physically impaired, ill, or recovering from surgery. Home healthcare nurses are trained to deal with chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiac issues. This type of nurse will work closely with the patient’s primary care provider, coordinating all medical procedures and ensuring the patient receives the correct care. Most home healthcare providers also offer counseling and emotional support services. Some may even prepare meals or help clients clean their homes while they recover from an illness or injury.

Home healthcare nurses can often speak a language other than English, which helps them communicate with clients with limited English language proficiency. They must communicate clearly, so their patients understand instructions to aid their recovery.

8. Telehealth Nursing

At the most basic level, telehealth nurses are nurses who work remotely. The term "telehealth" describes any healthcare delivered through technology, such as virtual visits via a video chat app or virtual nursing home visits with remote monitoring equipment.

Telehealth nurses can work from home or a healthcare facility, depending on their employer’s needs and personal preferences. They may be employed by hospitals, nursing facilities, or other medical centers that need to care for patients in their homes. In this role, telehealth nurses will use telecommunication devices to interact with patients to monitor their health status and administer medication if necessary. Telehealth nurses must also be able to assess whether symptoms indicate an emergency; if so, they call 911 immediately for emergency services.

telehealth nurse talking to patient virtually on tablet

9. Case Management Nursing

Case management nurses help coordinate care for patients and their families. As part of a team of healthcare providers, case management nurses offer education, resources, and guidance to patients throughout their treatment plans. Case management nurses may work independently or as part of a larger organization, such as a hospital or health system.

Case managers advocate for their patients by educating them about the disease process and available treatment options. They also coordinate care with other providers, research new technologies, and advocate on behalf of underserved individuals or groups. Furthermore, case managers assist with crisis situations; facilitate access to resources such as housing assistance; make referrals between providers within the system; and facilitate communication between patients, families, and caregivers.

10. Forensic Nursing

Forensic nursing is a specialized area of practice that involves assessing, treating, and rehabilitating victims of abuse, neglect, and violence. Forensic nurses may work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, forensic units, and inpatient psychiatric facilities. They also may give expert testimony at trial or work as part of a multidisciplinary team that includes law enforcement officers, social services personnel, mental health professionals, and victim advocates. Some forensic nurses choose to specialize in this practice area by developing expertise in caring for patients who have been the target of specific crimes.

11. School Nursing

School nurses are responsible for the health and safety of students and staff. They work with students, teachers, parents, and other staff to ensure that students are healthy and safe. In addition to services such as physicals, immunizations, health education, and counseling, they can also expand their responsibilities to things like monitoring water quality at school drinking fountains.

School nurses may also advocate for policies that promote child wellness by educating parents about nutrition and exercise habits. They offer education to teachers on recognizing signs of illness in students. Additionally, school nurses may promote legislation that addresses children's needs, help schools set up programs to meet their unique needs, work with community groups such as YMCAs or Boys & Girls Clubs of America who offer after-school programs for children, and work with national organizations like American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on issues related to children’s healthcare access.

12. Legal Nurse Consultant

As a legal nurse consultant, you will dispense legal guidance to patients, families, and healthcare providers. Legal nurse consultants help with medical, legal issues such as estate planning and end-of-life decisions. For example, they may review advance directives or living wills to ensure that the patient's wishes are clearly stated.

They may also advise on areas of the law that affect healthcare providers, such as liability, malpractice claims, or contracts needed for billing services rendered.

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How to Accelerate Your Nursing Career

If you’re ready to become a nurse and pursue alternate nursing career paths, earning an Accelerated BSN through Mercer University could put you on the path for success. Contact us today to connect with an admissions counselor and discuss your eligibility and enrollment options.