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According to the RCN, the notion of alternative careers for nurses is a growing area for concern particularly following the pandemic. With the recent news of 3% pay rises, unsurprisingly 73% said higher pay would make them feel more valued.

Understandably, the report warns that the increase in those leaving the profession is a serious cause for alarm with approximately 40,000 nursing vacancies in NHS England.

Many nurses feel a sense of loyalty to their jobs and their patients and have a genuine love of caring for others but this is proving not to be enough for many. Increasingly, more and more healthcare professionals are looking to understand their options in exploring alternative careers for nurses and how they can market their existing and transferable skills to another profession.

Whilst it’s not an easy decision to leave medicine, here are just a few ideas that may tempt you to consider an alternative nursing career.

10 alternative careers for nurses

1. Nurse Manager
An obvious choice as an alternative career for nurses may include roles such as medical and health service managers. It might be that you still enjoy working with other members of the medical team but would prefer a leadership role that goes beyond patient care. Nurse managers can run an entire nursing department or clinical facility and oversee a team of nurses. Typically, nurse leaders require an advanced degree such as Masters in Nursing (MSN) degree to support the responsibilities that come with the job.

2. Forensic Nurse
If you’ve got the stomach for it, a forensic nursing career can be a highly rewarding position as an alternative career for nurses. Typically, forensic nurses work with the legal system, providing care for victims of violent crimes. In addition, they are expected to gather medical evidence for court. For this reason, the skills needed for this role would be public speaking as forensic nurses often testify in court alongside a compassionate approach towards those who have experienced trauma in their lives. You may find yourself working in a variety of places beyond hospitals such as prisons, police custody and other secure justice settings.

3. Telemedicine Nurse
The global pandemic has meant this type of alternative career for nurses has grown exponentially (telehealth appointments grew by 50% in March 2020) This role combines technology and nursing to bring care to patients whilst working remotely, thus offering a much more flexible working lifestyle than working a shift pattern. You should be a qualified registered nurse with a few years’ experience behind you.

4. Health/Nutrition/Lifestyle Coach
The health and wellness sector has continued to thrive over the years, and your nursing background provides credibility to support others to lead a healthy lifestyle. For this reason, it may be an ideal role for those who have a passion for nutrition and fitness. The sessions can be carried out individually or in a group session. Depending on what you are aiming for next in your career, you may be inclined to set up your own practise or work for private businesses. There is also a growing number of health coaching roles within the NHS.

5. School Nurse
If you’re pulled towards working with children, this can be a great alternative career for nurses seeking autonomy. Although you will work in partnership with schools, you would often be required to work in local health centres or carry out home visits. Often, you would lead a team including community staff nurses and nursery nurses to ensure services are well-delivered.

If considering this role, you would need to be confident in your clinical judgement and would enjoy the mix of different working environments. Additionally, you should possess public health expertise to identify health needs early, risk and protective factors, and to provide early intervention to prevent issues escalating. The nature of the job requires that you would also have involvement with health visitors, GPs, children’s social care professionals and other allied healthcare professionals.

6. Medical Journalist
If you have a flair for writing, medical journalism can be a great option for an alternative or portfolio career which could be combined with another part-time role. You could be an author for medical publications, keeping readers up-to-date on the latest medical news and research. The role offers a lot of flexibility and you could find yourself working for medical journals or universities or as a freelance medical content writer.

7. Expedition Nurse
This pathway can offer a wonderful way to travel and allow you to explore incredible, off-the-beaten-track parts of the world. There are generally more opportunities in this field for doctors; however, some organisations will openly advertise for nursing positions too. For example, and you can also register your interest with the Royal Geographical Society. If this is a career your determined to pursue, you could contact other organisations requesting doctors or paramedics and ask for your CV to be considered. They may find your determination and resolve is a suitable quality for the job!

8. Pharmaceutical Sales
Pharmaceutical sales representatives are in communication with doctors and other healthcare specialists who prescribe medications to introduce new pharmaceutical products to the market. With a nursing background, you would understand the medical terminology for clinical settings and hospitals. In addition, it is helpful to have a working knowledge of pharmacology, common side effects and an understanding of the pharmaceutical products they sell. Furthermore, educational requirements for these roles can vary based on the employer and their products. Generally, this profession pays well and the salaries can be high, particularly if you are effective at meeting your sales targets. Of course, it also offers a much more regular 9-5 work pattern.

9. Clinical research nurse
Clinical research nurses play a vital role in delivering clinical research and improving patient care. Particularly recently, the pandemic has raised the awareness of clinical research and the impact it has on identifying effective treatments to deal with the virus. If you work in the NHS, most trusts have R&D departments who can put you in touch with the lead clinical research nurse. There may be opportunities to carry out a short-term placement or to shadow a clinical nurse. Additionally, nurse researchers with advanced degrees often write books, teach and speak at conferences and other events.
The following resource can provide you with up-to-date opportunities – National directory of NHS research offices

10. Aesthetic Nursing
Aesthetic/cosmetic nursing is a very fast-growing field and potentially highly lucrative for qualified nurses. Recently, there has been much media awareness about the unprofessionalism of short training courses, particularly for those without a medical background. Therefore, having a nursing qualification can instill confidence in members of the public and would make you a more appealing practitioner. A useful resource is The Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) which was established to be a register of practitioners and approved education and training providers. The aim of which is to ensure patient safety within the non-surgical sector. Another useful resource is the British Association of Cosmetic Nurses (BACN).


…. Of course, there is always the possibility to follow a completely different career path that has nothing to do with nursing! For example, you may want to open up your own tea shop, become a property developer or take up an office-based role.

If you wish to explore further about alternative careers for nurses and would like help with marketing your transferable skills, get in touch to see how I could support you or book on to one of my career coaching packages.