You’ve been a floor nurse for ten years. Day after day, week after week, month after month you put up with the same bull. You make your rounds, patients curse at you, doctors give you orders as if you have nothing to do already, and the families want to know why you aren’t in their loved one’s room 24/7. The routine of it all, the monotony of everything- it’s just depressing. Welcome to nurse burnout!
The lack of qualified nurses and an ever growing load of patients doesn’t help anything. Did you know that a hospital with a 8:1 patient to nurse ratio, compared to one with a 4:1 ratio, leads to nurses being more than two times as likely to be emotionally exhausted and dissatisfied with their job? In other words, hospitals have an ever growing number of patients, but there just aren’t enough nurses to take care of them. The result? Complete burnout!
The net effect of a nurse burnout is that the patient likely suffers from inadequate care, and the nurse suffers from misery. Both issues are problem ones that we all want to avoid.
If you are a nurse that feels like you are stuck in a rut, with no end in sight, what can you do about it? One solution is to just quit. In fact, a lot of nurses do just that (see “Why Nurses Hate Their Jobs“). As our aging population grows, and the available workforce to deal with them shrinks, a mass exodus from the nursing profession is just not what the country needs right now. Then again, maybe it is the answer for you.
Another solution could be to just cut down on the number of hours you work. If you are working four 12 hour shifts a week, maybe it would be a good idea to drop down to just two or three shifts a week. Maybe the drop in hours will help to get you back on track, or maybe it won’t.
The best way to deal with being burned out, in my opinion, is to figure out something that you really want to be doing and just go for it! I’m not talking about switching from floor nursing to being a taco truck owner. I’m talking about finding a specialty that you can fall in love with!
If you have been a nurse for many years, odds are that you have seen some type of specialty that you wish you were doing. Maybe you know other nurses working in a certain career field that they are passionate about. Maybe you have always wished that you were specializing in some type of health care field, but you just haven’t done anything about it. Maybe it’s time to do something about it!
The following is my list of the top ten nursing specialties to consider. This list was made by considering a number of factors to determine the hottest, most interesting nursing specialties that may help you fall in love with nursing again. The factors considered includes: a growing demand, pay rate, job satisfaction, education requirements and even conversations with nurses currently working in the fields.
1. Wound Care Nursing– Are population is getting older in the United States. The baby boom generation is now needing a giant staff of healthcare providers. A wound care nurse deals with this older population on a daily basis, along with some younger people too. Your role is to help those with wounds caused by medical treatments, illnesses or injuries. Working alongside the doctor, you analyze wounds, assess the patients, manage the wounds, and monitor the healing process. With an average pay of $65,000 a year or better, it gets the bills paid. To show that you know your stuff, you can be certified by the WOCNCB. You even have your own society (Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society) with over 4,000 members in it.
2. Hospice Nurse– We are all going to die some day. The role of a hospice nurse is to assist the patient and their family in the process. Some hospice nurses work in hospice centers, while others travel to the patient’s home. Dealing with terminally ill patients can be extremely tough, and it’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s also your chance to be an angel is someone’s life. It’s hard to come up with anything more important or rewarding than that. Again, with our rapidly aging responsibility, hospice nurses are highly in demand. Their average annual pay is around $60,000, but of course that can vary with experience and location. Not every employer requires it, but you can seek to be certified by the National Board For Certification Of Hospice And Palliative Nurses. You can also get more information on working in hospice from the HPNA association.
3. Travel Nursing– Are you tired of being stuck in the same old hospital or doctor’s office day after day? If so, travel nursing is your dream solution! Just imagine traveling all over the country (and even the world), getting opportunities to work in new places and meet new people. If you are just bored to death, and want to add some adventure in your life, becoming a travelling nurse may be your solution. You could work for agencies that will keep you employed all year long, from location to location, if that’s what you want to do. Virtually every medical facility is short on staffing. They need people to work for them on a contract basis. As a traveling nurse, you are willing to pack your bags and go work for them, regardless of how far you have to travel. They compensate you with a relatively inflated pay, travel allowance, hotel allowance, and a bunch of potential bonuses. You will need to be licensed to practice in the states that you travel to. There are several associations to look into, including ATHNA.
4. Psychiatric Nurse– The demand for nurses, and medical personnel in general, at psychiatric facilities has never been greater. Your job as a psychiatric nurse is to assess patients, monitor them, and pass out medications (per the doctor’s orders). A little secret that most people don’t know is that working the night shift at a psychiatric facility can be a dream job! Unless you get new admits during the middle of the night, by 10:00 at night your work is really over. Once your patients have been given their meds and go to sleep, you can pretty much relax the rest of the shift. You can become certified by the ANCC Psychiatric–Mental Health Nursing board test. The average pay is around $28 per hour, but of course that can vary based on the hours you work, your experience, and your location. If you are looking for more information, you may want to reach out to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.
5. Fight Nurse- A flight nurse is a RN that works on patients doing critical care, emergency and pre-hospital treatment. Best of all, they do all of it in the air! If you enjoy flying on helicopters and airplanes, and you are looking for a thrilling occupation that will literally have you flying around in an environment that is always changing, this is the specialty of you dreams! You may often be working alongside flight medics, doctors and respiratory therapists to save lives. You could also be involved with transporting patients (infants and adults) across the country from one medical facility to another. The average pay for a flight nurse in the U.S. is around $70,000 per year, but that can vary greatly. If this interests you, look into becoming a Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN).
6. NICU- A NICU nurse is a staff RN that works at a neonatal intensive care unit. They are a sub-specialty of pediatric nursing.In other words, they work with sick or prematurely born babies in the hospital. Daily tasks include administering medications, assessing patients, assisting in medical procedures, and relaying information to the baby’s families. This job is definitely not for everyone. As with all nursing professions, there is always the chance of losing your patient, and nothing can be harder than losing an infant patient. But, if you have always wanted to help patients that literally can not help themselves, this may be something to consider. The average pay is around $30 per hour, but that can vary a lot depending on shifts, location and experience. A great resource on this career field is the National Association of Neonatal Nursing.
7. Dialysis- Dialysis is a field of nursing that is constantly growing. There are currently over 400,000 people on dialysis, and around 10% of the population has chronic kidney disease. That number is growing every year. The need for dialysis specialists has never been greater, and you could play a significant rule in so many lives. Knowing a dialysis specialist very well, I can tell you that the job is extremely rewarding. You will get to know your patients on an intimate level while you help them stay alive through treatments. The average pay for a dialysis nurse is around $65,000 a year, and you will have no problem getting a job in any reasonably sized city. The work is important, profitable, rewarding, and usually very stress free.
8. Labor & Delivery Nurses- If you are the type of person that loves it when a baby is born, why not work in the industry where you get to be a part of that process every day? You will get to care for the mother and the newborn during the process, and monitor them afterwards. While it can be stressful at times, there is so much joy in the process. You may even get to help teach the mother about breast feeding too. The pay rate can vary widely, but for an example, you would earn around $88,000 per year as a labor and delivery nurse in Atlanta, GA. The same position in New Orleans, Louisiana earns an average of $62,000. Then again, those that practice in this specialty are in it for the passion of the job more than the pay. There is an abundance of related information on being midwives at the American Pregnancy Association.
9. Plastic Surgical Nurses- Working hand in hand with a board certified plastic surgeon, a plastic surgery nurse can be a very rewarding and stress free career to many. The field van vary widely. Many will work in the operating room with the surgeons, while some will focus more on marketing and post-operative assistance. If you are interested in transitioning into a career that is very laid back compared to floor nursing, this one is something to look into. The pay scale varies tremendously in this field, depending on what you actually do, and where you are located. A great resource for more information on the subject can be found with the American Society of Plastic Surgical Nurses. Some states will even allow a Registered Nurse to be a nurse injector, while others will require more education.
10. Holistic Nursing- The American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) has a wealth of information on becoming a holistic nurse. In short, what is a holistic nurse? Imagine being a nurse with a more hands on approach. Think massage + nursing. Think treating physical symptoms with traditional approaches + treating spiritual and psychological symptoms with alternative approaches. It’s basically “East meets West”, if that makes sense. A holistic nurse is concerned with her patient’s total well being. It’s more of a philosophy and attitude about the treatment process. Are you confused yet? If you’re interested in a slightly different approach, this could be your calling to avoid being another burnout nurse.
If you are suffering from emotional stress/boredom/hating your job, maybe you should at least look into some of these specialties. At the end of the day, it’s about choosing a line of work that you are really passionate about. It’s also about not being used and abused by a management team that gives you more patients than you can reasonably handle. If you can combine those two (something you like to do with responsible administrators), you have a really good shot of getting out of the nursing blues!
What do you think about this top ten list? Do you have any other specialties that you would recommend? If you are experience burnout, and would like to hear from others that have been in your shoes, feel free to leave a comment below. We could all learn a thing or two from each other.
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