Emerging Opportunities for Nurses in Non-Traditional Roles – Success Beyond the Bedside

12 Emerging Careers

Written By: Meg Sanah

40% of nurses are not satisfied with their career. Another 30% or 1/3 of the folks are still determining how they feel about their job—another interesting stat. And as many as 30% of nurses leave bedside nursing roles within their first two years of practice, with burnout and lack of work-life balance cited as the top reasons. Many nurses dream of utilizing their skills and training in new ways outside the typical hospital setting.

While bedside nursing is often seen as a nurse’s only career path, many exciting and fulfilling roles for nurses exist outside of traditional hospital settings. From entrepreneurship to consulting, nurses have more diverse options than ever to have a meaningful impact beyond the bedside.

The Evolving Landscape of Nursing Careers

The healthcare landscape has changed dramatically recently, leading to new opportunities for nurses to use their knowledge and skills innovatively. Technological advances, patient-centered care models, and an aging population have expanded non-traditional nursing roles. Nurses now have more freedom than ever before to chart their career paths and find success beyond traditional bedside nursing.

The Changing Role of Nurses in Today’s Healthcare System

The role of nurses in healthcare continues to evolve and expand. While bedside nursing remains critical, nurses are taking on more responsibilities and utilizing their expertise in new ways. Some of the key drivers of this change include:

From Bedside Care to Diverse Specializations

  • Nurses are moving into specialized roles in care coordination, case management, diabetes education, genetics counseling, and more. Their comprehensive understanding of patient care helps them excel in these new specialties.

The Impact of Technology on Nursing Practice

  • Digital health tools, tele-health, wearables, and AI enable nurses to provide care in virtual and innovative ways. Nurses are leading technology implementations and using new tech to improve care.

The Rise of Patient-Centric Care Models

  • Models like the patient-centered medical home emphasize whole person care and care coordination. Nurses play a vital role in this collaborative, team-based approach.

Why Nurses are Seeking Non-Traditional Roles

Many nurses are stepping away from traditional bedside nursing into new roles. Some of the top reasons include:

Burnout and compassion fatigue in bedside nursing

The emotional toll of bedside nursing leads to high rates of burnout. Seeking different roles allows nurses to find renewed purpose.

A desire for work-life balance

Compared to bedside nursing, non-traditional roles can provide more flexibility, remote options, and greater work-life balance.

Make More Money: Using nursing skills and expertise in new ways

Nurses can often earn higher salaries by applying their skills in roles like consulting and informatics. Their expertise commands top dollar.

Emerging Opportunities That Will Leapfrog Your Professional Career and Money:

Our TOP Pick: Entrepreneurship and Innovation:

1. Starting a Home Health Agency: Experienced nurses can start their home health agencies, providing specialized care to patients in the comfort of their homes.
2. Launching Online Nursing Resources: With the rise of e-learning and online platforms, nurses can create educational resources, courses, or support communities for their peers and aspiring nurses.
3. Building an Ecommerce Brand and Product: Nurses with innovative product ideas can venture into ecommerce, creating and marketing healthcare products that meet specific needs in the market.
4. Founding Staffing and Recruiting Agencies: Nurses with a knack for talent acquisition can establish staffing and recruiting agencies that connect healthcare facilities with skilled professionals.

Non-Clinical Opportunities:

5. Healthcare Consulting and Analysis: Nurses with experience in diverse clinical settings are highly sought-after consultants. They can provide valuable insights to healthcare organizations, government agencies, and insurance companies, shaping policies and improving patient outcomes.
6. Nursing Informatics Roles: Nursing informatics utilizes technology to optimize healthcare data management and decision-making processes. Nurses in this field bridge the gap between healthcare and IT, contributing to the design and implementation of advanced systems.
7. Telehealth Nursing: Telehealth is revolutionizing healthcare delivery, and nurses are at the forefront of this transformation. Telehealth nurses provide remote patient care, leveraging technology to reach patients in rural or underserved areas.
8. Nurse Educator and Academic Roles: Nurses passionate about teaching can explore careers as educators in nursing schools or academic institutions. They play a crucial role in shaping the profession’s future by imparting their knowledge and expertise to aspiring nurses.
9. Legal Nurse Consulting: Nurses with a background in legal matters can venture into legal nurse consulting, offering expert opinions and support in medical-related legal cases.

Thinking Outside the Hospital:

10. Schools and Educational Institutions: Nurses can be vital in promoting health and wellness in educational settings and environments. They can design and implement wellness programs, conduct health screenings, and offer preventive care.
11. Corporate Nursing: Large companies often have on-site healthcare facilities to cater to their employees’ medical needs. Corporate nurses provide immediate care and facilitate preventive health measures.
12. Holistic Nursing Centers: Holistic nursing centers focus on the mind-body-spirit connection in healthcare. Nurses in this setting emphasize alternative therapies, stress

Spotlights on Nursing Pioneers

Real-world stories of nurses succeeding in non-traditional roles can inspire others to think big. Here are two brief examples:

Sarah Davis, RN, founded NurseDeck, a digital platform delivering on-demand video resources for nurses’ continual learning. After feeling stifled in bedside nursing roles, Sarah combined her clinical expertise and entrepreneurial spirit to launch the fast-growing nurse education company.

Mark Sawyer, BSN, landed a role as a legal nurse consultant after over 20 years as an ICU nurse. He was ready for a new challenge and now provides medical insights and analysis on lawsuits and insurance claims on behalf of legal teams. Mark loves using his nursing background in a whole new way.


  • Nursing skills are valuable across diverse industries – don’t limit yourself to just hospitals.
  • More career options exist for nurses than many initially realize. Keep an open mind.
  • Moving into a non-traditional role can enable you to keep making an impact while avoiding burnout.
  • Get creative, and don’t be afraid to chart your career path based on your passions.

Call to Action

If you’re feeling stuck at the bedside, know that many exciting opportunities exist to use your nursing knowledge and expertise in new ways. Here are a few tips to get started exploring non-traditional career paths:

  • Tap into your professional network and social media for informational interviews. Connect with nurses thriving in entrepreneurship, consulting, informatics, and more.
  • Be proactive in seeking job shadowing, mentorships, certifications, and volunteer work to build your skills for a new role.
  • Have confidence in the value of your nursing degree and experience. Tune out the naysayers.
  • Take things one step at a time. Gain clarity on your interests and then make a plan.

Don’t settle – find a nursing career outside the hospital that excites and energizes you! The possibilities are truly endless.