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Unconventional Jobs for Nurses

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Tired of 12-hour days in the hospital? One of the best things about nursing is that there are so many opportunities to work in the field without spending your whole life in one place. Of course, you may have some pretty good reasons to stick around, like a pension or a passion for the things you do, but if you have found your mind wandering, there are plenty of opportunities.

Employee Health

Many big companies employ a full-time employee health nurse. In fact, even hospital systems need a nurse to keep their own nurses in line with vaccinations and health concerns. You may not even need to leave your hospital to explore this opportunity. Occupational health nurses do more than help with employee injuries. In many industries, nurses are responsible for vision and hearing tests, drug and alcohol screenings, or even crisis support. There is a fair bit of paperwork involved, so if tracking data and keeping good records isn’t your strong suit, this job might not be a good fit for you. On the other hand, if you get super excited about disaster preparedness or disease prevention, this may just be the niche nursing you are looking for!

Hospitality or Cruise Ship Nurse

You may not have thought about what happens if you get sick on a cruise or a vacation, but you can bet a nurse is waiting in the wings to offer support. The cruise industry isn’t faring so well during COVID, but the pandemic made it clear how vital these nurses are on vacation. The hours in these situations may be long and irregular, and you will have limited support during an emergency. Still, if you don’t mind living full time at a destination or cruise ship, you can make upwards of 100k a year with the benefit of seeing some amazing places. Most employers make limited contracts, so you can still find time to stay home during off-seasons or change your ship or location. If you have a love of adventure and a few years of experience behind you (and you don’t get seasick), this may be the perfect job for you.

School Nursing

School nurses aren’t just there to check for lice and ensure up-to-date vaccinations. They are also the go-to in a health emergency and a huge support role for people who need their services. This isn’t just nose bleeds and stomach bugs. Kids have real problems, including abuse, sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy, and even depression or suicidal thoughts. As the nurse, you are their lifeline and their source of scientific information. School nursing is an excellent opportunity if you love kids and enjoy working as a therapist as much as a nurse (and don’t mind letting kiddos take a nap every now and then). Just be prepared to be significantly outnumbered, even if you do get to enjoy a school schedule and summer vacation. Be warned: there is a fair amount of paperwork!

Cosmetic Nursing

These nurses are often employed at a dermatology or medspa location. Think regular hours and pretty good compensation. You can even earn a certified aesthetic nurse specialist credential or attend a botox and filler course. Cosmetics is big business, so it’s unlikely the need for nurses is going away, but that also means you might have some pretty stiff competition to get in the door. If you are up on all the beauty trends and think laser hair removal or dermabrasion is the perfect way to use your degree, start by learning about the educational requirements. You can work side by side with a surgeon or pick up some new skills along the way.

Standalone or Outpatient Surgery Centers

This is more like regular nursing but with better hours and generally pretty healthy patients. Outpatient procedures are usually less risky and are often performed on younger or healthier people. The pay is generally on par with hospital nursing, but the scheduling benefits may make the switch worthwhile. Just like employee health, your hospital system may even run a same-day surgical center, meaning you can keep your benefits even if you change your role. If you have a PACU or Med/Surg background, this option may be an excellent choice for you. The surgeries may get a little repetitive, and just like in the hospital, there are risks to all procedures with less available help if something goes wrong. If you are confident in your skills and love the idea of a 9-5, give it some thought!

Being tired of your day job doesn’t mean you have to change your career; just change the direction you are heading. There are lots of unconventional nursing opportunities out there. If you aren’t sure what you may like, write a list of your top skills or qualifications and compare it with the list of things you are looking for. This could include how many hours you want to work, the type of atmosphere you are in, how much responsibility you want to have, and what kind of opportunities are near you.

Once you figure out what might work for you, ask local companies to see if you can shadow a nurse in that role for a day or week. Many companies have relatively open shadowing processes, but hardly anyone asks for an opportunity. Before you drop it all, give it some thought and try to see it firsthand. Then, if you love what you see, make the switch and enjoy something new!



Amanda Ernst, DNP, RN, CEN

Amanda Ernst, DNP, RN, CEN


Amanda is an ER nurse with 10 years of healthcare experience. She currently works as a nurse educator and as an adjunct professor for several schools. She also works as a freelance healthcare writer in her spare time. Amanda thinks the greatest thing about nursing is the endless possibilities and opportunities to learn. What have you learned today?


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