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Nursing – New Innovations

Nurses have more career options than perhaps ever before. Here are the top Jobs on the Rise

Article written by Path to Recovery, a newsletter that delivers weekly conversations on how the health care profession will recover from one of the most significant crises of our time. 

This week, I’m covering some of the data from our annual Jobs on the Rise report. Check out our full coverage here.

Sharonda Davis never expected to leave nursing. But when the pandemic hit, her job working in intensive care and progressive care units in a South Florida hospital became untenable.

“I had never dealt with that much death in my career,” she said. “I didn’t realize I was becoming severely depressed. I lost interest in my husband; I lost interest in my children. And one day, I just quit.”

Davis, however, didn’t go far from the hospital. Today, she uses many of the same skills she developed as a nurse in her work as a chest pain coordinator, a job that involves working with doctors and paramedics to develop protocols for managing chest pain patients. The role makes good use of her patient care skills as well as her background in communication and data science.

“It was a role that I didn’t even know existed, but I really love,” she said.

Davis is among the 18% of U.S. health care workers who are estimated to have quit during the pandemic, according to Morning Consult, a research and data firm. In specialties that work directly with covid patients, the numbers might be even higher; the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses found that as many as two-thirds of nurses have considered leaving. The situation is similar in Canada, where last summer the health care industry saw year-over-year increases in job vacancies that outpaced other sectors.

Nurses are in high demand, and there are opportunities to move not only across specialties but away from the bedside altogether. A nursing degree offers an advantage, nurses say, because it’s often easier to supplement health care training with communication or technical skills, rather than vice versa.

“A lot of nurses have awakened to the power of the position,” said Alice Benjamin, who is both an advanced-practice nurse as well as a podcast host and media contributor. And while those roles might sound very different, Benjamin points out that they all involve patient education.

“What are you passionate about?” she said, when asked about the advice she’d give nurses looking for a change. “Find what else you’re good at and marry that with your nursing license.”

When LinkedIn crunched the data on the fastest-growing job titles, it wasn’t surprising to see health care functions on the list. Two roles that made it to the top could be related to the pandemic: vaccine specialist and molecular biologist. But we’re also seeing rapid growth in nursing fields, particularly for surgical intensive care and postpartum nurses. And these two opportunities allow nurses to move beyond the pandemic crunch.

To calculate the fastest-growing jobs, we examined the increase in the number of professionals who added those job titles from Jan. 1, 2017 through July 31, 2021.

Health care jobs also featured prominently in the data we gathered for Canada, where our Jobs on the Rise include vaccine specialist, public health nurse, public health specialist and clinical data manager. The global public health space was gaining momentum even before the pandemic due to growing awareness of how societal and socioeconomic factors affect our health and contribute to rising rates of chronic diseases.

Jobs in public health also provide better hours than typical nursing jobs, said Toronto-based Sara Fung, CEO and founder of the RN Resume, who added that nurses are trying to transition into not only public health, but teaching or doctor’s offices.

“I’ve seen a big surge in nurses wanting to leave the bedside,” she said. “Most people, to be honest, are looking beyond hospitals.”

Burnout hasn’t been the only factor prompting nurses to make a change. Surgical specialties like perioperative care “took a body blow,” said Phyllis Quinlan, an executive coach for nurses, as hospitals canceled elective procedures during covid surges. Some nurses were redeployed to critical care; others were furloughed and still others retired.

At the same time, many countries are facing a critical nursing shortage, and nurses are realizing that they have more clout than perhaps ever before. There’s also hiring interest coming from outside of the health care industry, as non-traditional players like tech companies seek to enter the space.

“The new challenge for leadership is to understand that things are never going to be the same,” Quinlan said. “It’s not going to take a lot [for nurses] to say, ‘That’s enough, we’re done.’”

To keep up with changes in the industry, Rita Wise, director of the masters in nursing education and nursing administration program at the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences, encourages nurses to seek out opportunities that build leadership skills, like serving on committees or training nursing students.

“You absolutely, as a nurse, have to keep evolving,” she said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean going back to school, but it definitely means increasing your skill set all the time.”

Like others, Wise suggests that nurses think first and foremost about their interests and passions before deciding on a career move — rather than jumping on the latest bandwagon. She also predicts continued demand for nurse educators as the field continues to add new specialties and technologies. And getting back into a classroom, Wise adds, could also help counteract burnout.

Toronto-based Marida Etherington is among the nurses who have made a career shift due to the pandemic. Etherington has a background in acute-care mental health, and she made a transition away from working in a hospital by first volunteering to provide online therapy to frontline workers. From there, she began offering psychotherapy to adult and pediatric clients as well as coaching services for nurses who want to make a career change.

While she misses her former colleagues and the camaraderie that comes from working night shifts together, it was clear to her that working in a hospital was too risky, especially with an immunocompromised husband and three children at home. Overall, she says she’s happy with the move.

“It really fuels me and I feel like I am giving back to the community,” she said.  “I’m doing exactly what I want to do, so you can’t put a price tag on that.”

Looking for a change?

Sara Fung and Amie Archibald-Varley, co-directors of The Gritty Nurse podcast, offer these tips to nurses:

  • Put yourself out there: don’t be afraid to apply for jobs even when you don’t meet 100% of the requirements
  • Don’t overload your resume with irrelevant experience, but call out areas where you can show hard numbers that speak to the impact you’ve had
  • Focus on translatable skills like information technology, certifications, critical thinking and communication
  • Seek out opportunities to join workgroups, particularly around quality or process improvement
  • Don’t forget about networking, especially in the small world of nursing

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