1. Olmstead, John RN, CNOR, MBA, FACHE

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As a nursing advocate, I routinely recommend a career in nursing. One of the primary statements I often make is, "Nursing is a great career because of the many different career options, there are so many things you can do in nursing." Just recently, a high school senior respectfully countered my statement with the follow-up question, "Like what?"


Perhaps you've been asked this same question and are wondering about the nontraditional positions that are available for someone who's interested in a career in nursing. Or perhaps you're interested in veering off the traditional path yourself as you pursue your own nursing career.


So many choices, so little time

The following is a list of just some of the careers open to individuals who have a background in nursing:


[diamond operator] occupational and environmental health nursing. This field focuses on promotion and restoration of health and protection from illness and environmental hazards. These nurses implement occupational health programs, develop and implement safety policies, and improve environmental safety protection. They may also provide worker compensation case management, employee counseling/crisis intervention, and advise employers in legal and regulatory compliance.1


[diamond operator] travel health nursing. This is a growing branch of occupational health nursing that focuses on the health needs of the long-distance travelers. Due to the aging workforce, the global economy, and the sky-high costs of out-of-network healthcare interventions, the need for planned healthcare accommodations during travel has been identified.2 For more information about this lesser known but rapidly growing field, visit the American Travel Health Nurses Association at or the International Society of Travel Medicine at


[diamond operator] telenursing. Sometimes called teletriage, this blend of nursing knowledge and technology has grown to fill an important gap between healthcare delivery supply and patient demand. The ability to field a telephoned question and direct appropriate avenues for treatment can greatly facilitate the relief of patient suffering.3


[diamond operator] nursing informatics. Nurses have a unique opportunity to develop and use clinical information systems to better formulate care plans, perform interventions, and develop improvement in patient care using evidence-based data.3


[diamond operator] legal nursing. Legal nurse consultants review cases that involve injury and provide the attorney with hands-on insight into the medical and patient-care aspects of the case.4


[diamond operator] forensic nursing. These nurses are involved with the investigation of criminal acts and the treatment of victims. For more information, visit the International Association of Forensic Nurses at


[diamond operator] school nursing. Although this role isn't new to nursing, it has vastly outgrown its antiquated name. The role of the school nurse has expanded beyond sore throats to include health promotion, education, policy advocacy, and counseling.5


[diamond operator] cruise ship nursing. Even on the Love Boat, nurses are needed.



If the aforementioned career options aren't enticing enough, a background in nursing can also be used to obtain positions not otherwise open to nonnursing college graduates, such as specialized pharmaceutical, supply, and equipment sales and research positions.6


An ever-growing, ever-changing field

These careers are by far not the only ones open to individuals with a background in nursing. The list of nontraditional nursing careers is ever growing and ever changing. A candidate looking for a true growth industry that will continually provide challenges and opportunities would do well to strongly consider a career in nursing.




1. American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. [Context Link]


2. Rosselot G. Travel health nursing: expanding horizons for occupational health nurses. AAOHN J. 2004;52(1):28-41. [Context Link]


3. Simpson R. Mapping an IT career: the future of nursing. Nurs Adm Q. 2001;25(2):80-85. [Context Link]


4. Bemis PA. Career options in legal nursing. [Context Link]


5. Broussard L. School nursing: not just band-aids any more!! J Spec Pediatr Nurs. 2004;9(3):77-81. [Context Link]


6. Duffield C, Aitken L, O'Brien-Pallas L, Wise WJ. Nursing: a stepping stone to future careers. J Nurs Adm. 2004;34(5):238-245. [Context Link]