Nurses of the past, present, and future; thank you. Thank you for your dedication to providing care and comfort to every single healthcare consumer that you’ve encountered. Thank you for your commitment to excellence, to education, and to kindness. Your efforts are not and will not be forgotten. Rewarding as it is, nursing is a demanding profession that takes a toll on both the body and mind. Anyone who has ever been in a nurse’s hospital-approved shoes is deserving of gratitude and appreciation. But…the true question is, nurses, who is caring for you beyond the thank-yous and the National Hashtag Holiday?

Statistics report that nurses become patients far more frequently than most hospital staff. According to surveys taken by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 35,000 back and other related injuries were reported in nursing employees every year. These injuries are so severe that nurses are often forced to miss work and other professional obligations. These numbers are nearly three times higher than similar injuries reported by construction laborers. The physical demands of the job wear down the body, from improper lifting technique being supported by hospital administration, to under-staffing problems.

Lifting patients is a given in a clinical occupation such as nursing, and the weight of a patient determines the number of bodies involved in the lift. So…what happens when there is only one nurse on the floor and a patient in pain? Nurses are forced to think quickly on their feet, often resulting in their own severe injuries. Many hospitals are refusing to take action, to alter lifting technique recommendation, or to accommodate nurses in a fashion that caters to their health of patients and staff.

The physical exertion of the job isn’t the only challenging aspect of nursing, and the phenomenon known as “burn-out” is also quite common for nurses. There is no shame in burn-out. When your physical health declines, your mental health is certain to follow suit. When your job applies the metric-tons of pressure that nursing does, burn-out seems like more of an inevitability than a distant prospective feeling. Burn-out can come as a result of high patient-to-nurse ratios, patient re-admissions, exhaustion, unfair shift scheduling, and even low facility budgets.

As a result of these working conditions, nurses have been retiring earlier, or taking breaks in their employment in order to get themselves into a better wellness situation. This is a brave, selfless, and correct choice…but where does it leave nurses? Nurses who are ready to take the next step in their careers are often experienced professionals with a unique skill set, and a passion for medicine. The job landscape may seem barren for those who are resistant to returning to school, and that’s okay. There are plenty of occupational opportunities for nurses that go beyond hospital doors. With limited schooling, nurses can utilize their full skill-sets to serve patients and the healthcare industry in a completely new way.

You can be a nurse, but you can also be a:

  • Consultant – working to improve patient care from a corporate perspective, implementing solutions as a member of hospital leadership and catalyzing positive change in the industry.
  • Certified Professional Coder– by taking a training course and passing the exam given by the AAPC, nurses can become Certified Professional Coders and medical auditors, examining claims data in order to identify fraud, waste, and abuse. Nurses can utilize their knowledge of human anatomy and medical procedures in order to efficiently and effectively investigate clinical documentation.
  • Healthcare Educator– nurses can nurture their passions for knowledge and teaching by serving as instructors for future nurses, and facilitate a communication channel between generations of healthcare providers.
  • Legal Nurse Consultant – serve on a legal team in order to deliver medically accurate testimony and advice for legal proceedings involving malpractice, wrongful death, and more.
  • Other non-clinical career opportunities