26 Excellent Jobs for Nurses Who Don't Want to Be Nurses
| Last Updated May 26, 2023
Jobs for nurses who don't want to be nurses exist in more industries than you might realize. As a nurse, jobs in a wide range of sectors and settings could be open to you. So whether you're looking to care for patients outside of a traditional hospital or you hope to get out of clinical work altogether, you have plenty of options to choose from.
And you're certainly not alone in wanting to make a change. One study found that twenty-two percent of new RNs leave their positions within the first year. The majority move into other nursing roles rather than leave the profession. However, research from RNnetwork has revealed that close to 50 percent of working nurses have seriously considered leaving the field entirely.
This article outlines career options for LPNs/LVNs or RNs who want something completely different, along with good jobs for ex nurses who want to take on roles that don't involve direct patient care. You'll also find several job options for registered nurses who would like to continue providing hands-on nursing care, but outside of a hospital.
You absolutely can create a more satisfying future for yourself. Read on to discover the incredible range of new possibilities!
- Jobs for nurses who want to get out of nursing entirely
- Non-clinical nursing jobs
- Non-hospital nursing jobs
- Why do nurses change careers?
Salary information is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) unless otherwise indicated.*
8 Jobs for Nurses Who Want to Get Out of Nursing Entirely
There's no shortage when it comes to alternative careers for registered nurses. Many LPNs/LVNs and RNs eventually decide to strike out in a new direction. Making the leap to a new field may require some additional training. The good news is that some of your past credits may transfer into another program and shorten the time it takes you to get qualified for a new career. (Plus, you made it through nursing school, so you've already proven that you can meet rigorous academic and clinical requirements!)
So, what can you do with a nursing degree if you don't want to be a nurse? You may need to ask yourself a couple of important questions: Will my education and experience transfer especially well to another profession that I find appealing? Could short training at a trade school near me bolster my existing skills so I could work in a field I'm more passionate about? The answer to both is almost definitely yes.
So, what are some jobs for nurses who don't want to be nurses anymore? Here are eight good options:
1. Addictions counselor
The compassion, empathy, and drive to help people that prompted you to take up nursing can be put to good use in the addictions counseling field. In this role, you provide the support and guidance to help people overcome their challenges and get their lives back on track. You can get the required substance use disorder training in about two years; you may also need to be certified or licensed by your state.
- Median pay: $48,520
- Provide essential medical care when treating physiological withdrawal or other complications related to substance abuse
- Be someone's safe place when their life may feel like it's falling apart
- Use a combination of compassion and clear boundaries to help clients trust you and progress in their treatment
2. Dental hygienist
You're probably used to soothing anxious patients and helping them understand how to get or stay healthy. So dental hygienist is high on the list of good jobs for ex nurses. In some states, in addition to cleaning and polishing teeth, hygienists can independently diagnose certain types of health problems. To get started, all you need is an associate degree in dental hygiene (that can be completed in two years or less) along with state licensing.
- Median pay: $77,810
- Help patients improve their health and hygiene in a predictable, calm environment
- Use your bedside manner to make a big difference to your patients
- Work directly with people without the emotional attachment that may come along with some nursing roles
3. Diagnostic medical sonographer
Did you know that the employment growth rate for diagnostic medical sonographers is expected to outpace the rate for RNs from 2021 to 2031 according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH)?* Therefore, there should be abundant opportunities for skilled professionals who perform this type of diagnostic imaging. A short certificate or associate degree program in diagnostic medical sonography (ultrasound) can help you gain the required qualifications.
- Median pay: $77,740
- Work closely with people, providing essential diagnostic care in a quiet, calm, controlled environment
- Perform clear and accurate imaging essential to a patient's medical care
4. Health services manager
Health services management involves directing the overall operations of a medical facility. For example, you could hire staff, prepare budgets, track spending, oversee patient billing, and ensure all policies and procedures comply with relevant regulations. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can get your foot in the door, but you may find more opportunities by getting training specifically in healthcare management.
- Median pay: $101,340
- Optimize how your facility runs through multiple avenues
- Affect patient outcomes greatly without performing bedside duties
5. Healthcare recruiter
Whether they work for recruiting agencies or directly for medical facilities, healthcare recruiters are tasked with finding qualified clinicians to fill available job openings. They identify potential candidates, perform screening interviews, conduct background checks, contact references, and advise hiring managers on their recommendations. Clinical experience is an asset in this field, as is training in human resources.
- Median pay: $62,290
- Help with critical issues in healthcare like understaffing
- Enable patients to get the best care possible by ensuring the quality of the people you recommend for hiring
6. Medical laboratory technologist
How would you like to move into a healthcare position that lets you work behind the scenes rather than at the bedside? With a bit of specialized medical lab tech training, you can begin conducting complex tests on tissue, urine, and blood samples to uncover evidence of abnormalities. You may still interact with patients to a certain extent, but you'll spend most of your time in the lab.
- Median pay: $57,800
- Work within a calm environment that lets you optimize your focus
- Provide a meaningful service to patients and healthcare providers without the direct care component
7. Pharmaceutical sales representative
Pharmaceutical companies that hire nurses for sales positions know that clinical experience is valuable for promoting drug treatments. You also need excellent people skills to answer physicians' questions and convince them that the medications you are selling will benefit their patients. Certification is available through the National Association of Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives.
- Median pay: $61,600
- Use your relevant experience in a completely different type of work
- Help introduce important treatments and medications to those who may benefit from them
8. Respiratory therapist
Many former nurses find the narrower focus of respiratory therapy appealing. While nurses are responsible for many aspects of patient care, respiratory therapists focus solely on cardiopulmonary issues. They also don't typically have to supervise other staff the way nurses do. The educational requirements for both professions are relatively similar, so your nursing credits may help shorten your training time. Most respiratory therapy programs are for associate or bachelor's degrees, but some schools may offer diploma or certificate programs.
- Median pay: $61,830
- Use your calm, reassuring demeanor to help people when they are in significant or life-threatening distress
- Combine your nursing experience with a specific focus on respiratory health to provide well-rounded care
13 Non-Clinical Nursing Jobs
You can do a lot with an RN degree besides nursing in a clinical role. Some of the top areas for non-bedside nursing jobs are business administration, management, education, research, public health, and consulting. It's also worth noting that some of the least stressful nursing jobs are those that involve little to no direct patient care.
- Median pay for RNs: $77,600
- Lowest 10%: $61,250 or less**
- Highest 10%: $129,400 or more**
Median pay for RNs in the top five industries that employ them:
- Government: $85,970
- Hospitals: $78,070
- Ambulatory healthcare services: $76,700
- Nursing and residential care facilities: $72,420
- Education services: $61,780
Note that salary details specific to each of these careers are not available. However, the industries these nurses work in provide valuable insight into how much you might expect to make as an RN in a more specialized role.
Check out these non-nursing jobs for nurses grouped by major area of focus:
Patient Education and Health Planning
1. Case management nurse
Case management nurses coordinate all aspects of individual patients' medical care. This entails working with patients, doctors, and insurance companies to ensure clients receive the care and services they need both within healthcare facilities and in the larger community. You could work in hospices, rehab centers, long-term care facilities, or other settings.
- Work with a variety of professionals in different settings, so it never gets boring
- Empower patients to take control of their health issues and path to healing
- Play an essential role in preventative care, often for those who need it most
2. Diabetes educator
Diabetes educators train patients to use blood glucose meters and insulin pens, help patients understand the importance of proper nutrition, and provide guidance about healthy self-care behaviors. They might work with individual patients or lead group classes. Becoming a Certified Diabetes Educator can boost your employment prospects.
- Work directly with people, helping them care of their health and prevent future disease
- Specialize in an area with high demand
3. Life care planner
Life care planning is case management on a larger scale. These professionals design plans for patients who require ongoing care for the remainder of their lives due to injury, illness, or disability. Life care planners evaluate patients' medical histories and consult with their doctors to figure out what type of treatments will be needed over the long term, how much that care will cost, and how it will be paid. They adjust plans to ensure that patients receive the care they need.
- Use your nursing skills to connect with clients on a deeper level to support and guide them when they are most vulnerable
- Provide relief to patients' families as you help navigate complex issues that arise
4. Nurse navigator
Patients with complex illnesses or conditions often rely on nurse navigators to help them find their way through the healthcare system. Navigators provide information and resources, answer patients' questions, and coordinate care with various medical team members. They also address barriers to treatment, such as financing or transportation challenges.
- Be the bridge between people who are struggling and the resources that can improve their health and quality of life
- Play a respected role in keeping the healthcare system running as efficiently as possible
5. Public health nurse
While most nurses provide one-on-one care to individual patients, public health nurses are responsible for looking after the entire community. They identify and track disease outbreaks, organize immunization drives, and provide health services for underserved populations. You can become a public health nurse by simply being licensed as an RN. Further specialized training is not usually required.
- Promote health and help prevent disease on a much larger scale
- Focus on the "big picture" while also considering individuals' needs
- Provide easy-to-access services that assist people who may not otherwise seek help (for example, birth control and family planning resources)
Business Management and Administration
6. Nurse auditor
Nurse auditors are responsible for reviewing clinical documentation to ensure the information is accurate and complies with all regulatory requirements. They check to see that patients' treatments and procedures are coded correctly, and that billing records adhere to legal standards. Experience with medical coding or case management can help you move into this position.
- Use your sharp eye to spot inconsistencies that can lead to huge errors in medical records
- Help patients and healthcare providers immensely without providing direct patient care
- Work methodically with data, without the potential emotional investment of bedside nursing jobs
7. Nurse manager
Your experience with the day-to-day realities of nursing work can prepare you to be an effective nurse manager. In this role, you recruit and supervise staff, manage budgets, and look for ways to improve patient care while keeping costs down. You might be responsible for a single department or an entire facility. Many employers look for candidates with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.
- Be the leader who makes a positive difference in the nursing team
- Take care of diverse tasks, keeping your mind engaged as you work
- Play a mentorship role for staff with less experience
8. Nursing informatics specialist
Drawing on both technical and nursing knowledge, nursing informatics specialists use information processes and technology to manage health data and support the work of nurses. The goal is to use data to streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve patient outcomes. It's important to have strong skills in information technology; you may also want to look for a nursing school that offers a specific master's program in nursing informatics.
- Help manage a team meaningfully from behind the scenes
- Use your nursing background in a unique way with technology
- Provide data-backed information that can have a large impact
9. Risk management nurse
Identifying procedures that present a risk to patient safety or could prompt legal action against the facility is a task that is well suited to registered nurses. Jobs in risk management involve finding ways to minimize the risk of accidents, analyzing the root cause of critical errors, and making recommendations to ensure such incidents do not happen again.
- Do critical work preventing accidents, both minor and those that can result in serious injury or death
- Use analytical skills to determine the best way to prevent an incident from reoccurring
- Provide confidence to employees that they are being protected in the workplace
Research, Consulting, and Teaching
10. Legal nurse consultant
Experienced RNs seeking non-bedside nursing jobs may find legal nurse consulting a good fit. This role lets you apply your nursing knowledge to court cases. Typical tasks include analyzing medical records, translating complex jargon for legal professionals, and testifying in court. You could be involved in cases related to insurance fraud, medical malpractice, personal injuries, and other areas.
- Help ensure justice by resolving and investigating medical issues
- Play a respected and important role in maintaining the integrity of the medical system
11. Nurse educator
Providing aspiring or working nurses with the up-to-date expertise and skills required to deliver effective patient care is the responsibility of nurse educators. These professionals coordinate educational programs, create training manuals, and lead presentations and seminars. Some focus on preparing students for their first jobs in nursing; others concentrate on helping licensed RNs develop advanced practice skills. This role can be a natural choice for those who still want to be in the field but are seeking alternative careers for registered nurses.
- Help empower nurses to provide the best care possible to patients
- Pass on your experience
12. Nursing researcher
This is one of the best jobs for nurses who want to find new ways to improve patient outcomes. Researchers design studies, apply for grants, recruit study participants, collect data, and assess their findings. They might prepare written reports or present their results at industry conferences. You become a nursing researcher by completing an advanced nursing degree (commonly an MSN, though some positions require a Ph.D.).
- Play a meaningful role on the front lines of patient care
- Make a significant difference in treatment plans and patient outcomes without performing direct patient care
13. Quality management nurse consultant
Among the highest-paying unconventional nursing jobs, quality management consulting involves reviewing healthcare processes and making recommendations to improve the patient experience. These nurses train staff on regulatory requirements and ensure that their facilities follow accepted standards of practice.
- Play a key role in ensuring the safety and comfort of all patients
- Strive for perfection in a positive way, finding issues and resolving them efficiently
5 Non-Hospital Nursing Jobs
Some nurses enjoy the actual practice of nursing but would like to perform it in a more unconventional setting. The good news is that nurses can work in a myriad of places other than hospitals. Indeed, some people would argue that the happiest nursing jobs take place outside of large institutions. With that in mind, have a look at these non-hospital RN jobs:
1. Certified nurse-midwife
Delivering babies and looking after women's gynecological and reproductive health does not always take place in a hospital. Many certified nurse-midwives work in birthing centers, public health clinics, or in their clients' homes. You'll need a master's degree as well as certification from the American Midwifery Certification Board.
- Median pay: $112,830
- Provide sound medical care from a more holistic perspective, ensuring the comfort, preferences, and safety of both mother and baby
- Utilize your baby whispering skills and teach new and expecting parents to do the same by recognizing and attending to the baby's cues, needs, and behavior
2. Esthetic nurse
Dermatology clinics and medical spas frequently recruit registered nurses to help improve the appearance of patients' skin. Esthetic nurses perform laser hair removal, administer injections such as Botox, and assist doctors during other skin care procedures. You could work with people who want treatment purely for cosmetic reasons or with patients who have undergone surgery.
- Median pay (RNs): $77,600 (plus added salary potential from certifications)
- Work helping people feel more confident in their skin
- Use interesting and often cutting-edge technology to provide quality care
3. Home health nurse
Home care can be an appealing option for RNs who want to escape 12-hour hospital shifts and connect with patients in a more personal setting. Home health nurses are responsible for assessing each patient's physical condition and collaborating with doctors to develop a plan of care. They visit patients' homes to carry out tasks like taking vital signs, dressing wounds, drawing blood, and administering medications. They might see several patients in a day or work with just one patient on a full-time basis.
- Median pay (RNs working in home health care services): $76,700
- Help vulnerable people with mobility issues feel secure knowing that they will still receive proper care from home
- Build meaningful relationships with people who are often vulnerable and in need of a friend
4. Occupational health nurse
You can put your nursing knowledge to good use in an industrial or corporate setting. Occupational health nurses focus on safety and wellness in the workplace. They identify potential hazards and recommend procedures to prevent accidents. They might also provide emergency care for workers who suffer injuries on the job. Many work as self-employed consultants.
- Median pay (RNs): $77,600
- Provide nursing care within a variety of different industries
- Be the workers' advocate by preventing emergencies in addition to potentially treating them
5. School nurse
Many elementary, middle, and high schools rely on school nurses to take care of the health needs of students. These nurses can conduct vision and hearing screenings, administer medication, provide first aid, and respond to health emergencies. They might also lead health education classes. Some states require school nurses to obtain special certification.
- Median pay: $61,780
- Be a safe space for children, adolescents, and teenagers who often need to confide in an adult they can trust who is not a parent or guardian
- Provide essential information to students to help protect them from injury and disease for the present and future
Why Do Nurses Change Careers?
Is nursing a good career? Generally, yes. It's in demand, pays well, and can offer countless benefits. But there's no denying that a nursing job can be stressful. Being on the front lines of patient care can take a toll on your mental and emotional resources. The most stressful nursing jobs are generally hospital-based positions with big workloads and high physical demands.
Many nurses cope with stress by seeking out mentors, getting regular exercise, or taking up relaxing hobbies. But such measures aren't always enough. The RNnetwork study found that 62 percent of nurses claim they regularly feel burned out. And over 40 percent say that burnout impacts how they perform their work.
Given those facts, it's not too surprising that almost half of the nursing workforce has thought seriously about leaving the profession. Stress and burnout are key factors in this phenomenon, but others include:
- Feeling disrespected by doctors, administrators, or other nurses
- Spending too much time on paperwork or data entry
- Spending too little time with patients
- Feeling frustrated by the pressure to send patients home quickly
- Wanting to get away from overnight and weekend shifts
- Developing work-related injuries such as back pain
- Being verbally or physically abused by patients
- Becoming emotionally drained
- Wanting better work-life balance
Find a New Direction
Clearly, there are all kinds of jobs for nurses who don't want to be nurses. You can apply your nursing knowledge in a multitude of ways. But perhaps you don't yet have the skills or credentials you need to create the future you really want. Career-focused programs offered by vocational colleges, trade schools, and technical institutes can help. Just type your zip code into the following search tool to start discovering convenient nearby training options!
* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/. Some careers listed may be part of a combined occupation profile (visited May 26, 2023).
** Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/oes/ (visited May 26, 2023).