The work that nurses do cannot be stressed enough. Their work props up the entire healthcare industry, and with that support, all of society. A healthy, happy community is paramount for success, and it’s nurses who are key to unlocking it. When there’s a shortage, difficult work environments, and even a pandemic to contend with, however, burnout can all too easily occur. 

Burnout rates in nurses are at an all-time high. Rates of burnout have increased up to 62% due to the risk and strain put on nurses throughout the pandemic, and for them, it’s very much not over. Add in the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of open nursing positions in the United States alone, and you come up with one nasty picture. 

Overworked in a dangerous working environment, without enough support to take off your load. It’s no wonder that many nurses are struggling, and even considering leaving nursing entirely. 

Before you cut all ties, however, it’s important to exhaust your options within the nursing field, first. Nursing is far more varied and fluid than you might realize. You can work in so many different locations and in various capacities. Quite simply, you can work wherever there are people, and where there’s a budget. 

It’s important to remember, of course, that these non-healthcare nursing positions are few and far between. Unlike finding a job within healthcare, finding a job outside of it can be highly competitive. You’ll need to invest in further training, in networking, and may even feel like you’re taking a step or two backwards instead of forwards when you first start. 

Your options will also be limited based on your qualifications, license, and even the state in which you work. No matter who you are or where you live, however, you have options. With this guide, you’ll better understand your options, and how to make them a reality. 

Start By Understanding Your State’s Opportunities

Nursing is a highly regulated field, and because of this, your options are going to be severely limited based on what you can or cannot do in your state. That’s why, before you even begin considering or dreaming about what you want to do with your career next, you need to look through the rules and regulations for nurses in your state. If your state is part of the eNLC or the Nurse Licensure Compact, then you’ll be able to easily transition to a new state with minimal fuss and start taking advantage of those better privileges.  

The Nurse Licensure Compact 

Most states in the country are a part of the Nurse Licensure Compact. There are, of course, a few notable standouts that aren’t in the eNLC, like California. States within the eNLC are not always paid less than those outside of the eNLC. Rather, wages are often tied to the average cost of living. California or Alaska, for example, pay some of the highest wages to nurses on average. They also have high costs of living, either due to popularity or due to the remoteness of the region. 

Always weigh the pros and cons and see what quality of life nurses at your level have on average before you make a move.

When You Should Move 

You should move when your quality of life or your career options improve. If you have a dream to open your own clinic, for example, then, the best thing that you can do to see that dream through is to make sure you live in a state that gives APRNs full autonomy and prescription privileges. If you must work and get everything you do needs to be signed off by a physician, then you won’t be able to run your own clinic effectively. 

Changing states may not be straightforward, either, but even in instances where you plan on moving from the eNLC to a non-eNLC state (or vice versa), it is possible. It just takes time and a lot of paperwork. 

That being said, there are a lot of opportunities out there. Even within the same state, you may find a great opportunity at a clinic or a smaller hospital that helps pay you appropriately and lets you work at a more sedate pace. 

Investigate Alternative Nursing Careers 

Regardless of whether you move or not, you’ll want to start digging into alternative nursing careers. This could mean working in a unique or new healthcare environment, like telehealth, or it could mean working in an entirely new industry. As a nurse, you can work on the health and safety team for any project. Movie and television sets always need nurses on hand, especially when performing any stunts. 

If there’s a health issue, even one as minor as a twisted muscle or headache, the set nurse will be there to help. In the same vein, you can also work as a nurse on a research expedition, as a private nurse, or even as an event nurse.

Another ideal option to enhance your wellness is working as a travel nurse. Finding ways to break up the monotony of the same job at the same place day after day is a challenge, but travel nursing offers priceless opportunities – whether you want to explore new places or further your professional development, this choice may work for you. You can try going into short term travel nursing jobs that enable nurses to move around and experience different environments while gaining valuable skills, building their CV, and discovering different cultures in exchange for top pay rates. On top of being versatile and lucrative, it also opens up health benefits that are sometimes unattainable when working fixed positions. With options ranging from rural areas with beautiful views and beaches for those who love nature, to major metropolitan cities full of energy and history, there is something for everyone. If a change of pace interests you, short term travel nursing could be worth exploring.

Your work in these alternative areas is just as important as working in a hospital, though your pool of patients will decrease substantially. 

Understand How You Can Advance Your Nursing Career 

In some cases, the right fit for you won’t be to change career tracks and take your nursing experience to the private sector. Instead, your dream job and the secret to beating your burnout is to move up, not across. Advancing your position means reaching higher wage brackets and opening your options, both inside healthcare and outside of it. 

This applies even to current APRNs. While there’s no next tier of nursing that you could earn with a second MSN or a doctorate, these programs can help you either pivot or make you better prepared for more senior leadership positions. 

Like working outside of healthcare, moving up into a leadership position is equally as difficult. If that’s your goal, you need to think outside of the box. You may want to earn an MBA with healthcare management as the focus, for example. Where most of your hard work will pay off, however, is with networking. 

Working hard and productively in your current role says nothing about your ability to lead. It’s also a good way to keep you where you are since you’re so good at your current role. If you want to make yourself a prime candidate for a leadership position, you need to be good, network constantly, and lead. Rather than do your work well, you need to prove to those that matter that you’re a leader even at your current level. 

If you can be the person who other nurses turn to for advice or guidance, you’re already well on your way. 

Tips For Making The Change 

If you’re planning a big career change, then you need to be prepared, have a clear outline of the steps you need to take, and throughout the entire process, you must care for your health and well-being. These tips will help you stay committed to your goals without burnout out in a whole new way. 

Get Yourself into a Better Position 

Moving anywhere in healthcare takes time, and in that time, your stress and burnout symptoms can just get increasingly worse. That’s why the first step you should take is to find a new job that helps you manage your stress and work/life balance better. Making this change may even solve all your problems entirely and help you rediscover the love or passion you once had for your role. 

Regardless of the outcome, it’s important to make this change ASAP. To make any successful change, it’s important to identify what was your primary stressor or stressors. If it was the pace and the sheer influx of patients, then moving to a quieter position or even a quieter location can help. If you’re burned out because of boredom, then you should feel better once you invest in your next degree or program. 

There are so many different healthcare-related careers, and with the rise of telehealth, those opportunities are only growing. Keep your needs in mind when you job hunt and make finding a role that supports your mental and physical health a priority. If your goal is to then take on a degree to further your career goals, keep in mind it can even be a good idea to take a pay cut. Since you’d be working while you study, having the space to complete your degree promptly is a must. You’ll be able to then start applying for even higher-paying roles after you earn your license. 

When It Comes to Your Education, Cut Corners 

There are many ways to cut corners when it comes to your education. This doesn’t mean that you are in any way getting a substandard experience. You won’t skip information you need to know. Instead, you use your existing credentials to fast-track through your options. 

There are two prime examples of how you can cut corners without hurting your education. The first is for those looking to get into nursing or to advance from a holistic nursing role, like CNAs or LNPs. If you already have a degree, particularly one in a STEM subject, then you can skip all those foundation credits and earn your degree faster with an accelerated degree. 

The other example is with your MSN. If you already have an MSN and want to pivot your career, don’t earn a second one. Instead, you’ll want to earn a post-master’s certificate. These take less time and let you boost your credentials. 

Why would you want two MSN credentials? Easy. Not only can earning that second MSN credential helps open your career opportunities, but it in no way also means that your previous experience has gone to waste. 

If you worked in acute care or gerontology, for example, and want to make your next career goal to be opening your own clinic, then applying to this Rockhurst University online post-master’s FNP program is the way to go. Family Nurse Practitioners are one of the largest groups to operate their own clinic, and if you can also offer older adults specialized treatment, you’ll have a robust business model on your hands. 

Ensure You Have Support Before You Begin 

One of the most important factors that dictate a person’s mental health and ability to cope with stress is their support network. A good support network should be made up of various groups. You have your family and friends, yes, but you also have your peers, your student support services, your co-workers, and even your community at large. 

The point of having a large support system is so that you can help share the burden rather than bundle it all onto yourself. By spreading it out, you also won’t run the risk of using your loved ones as free therapists. 

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about how you’re feeling, but you need a balance. Talking about nothing and letting yourself forget about your troubles and stresses by having fun is so important for your mental health. 

If your needs aren’t met by simple, friendly interaction, you may have a more serious mental health condition or illness. In this case, seeking out professional help can help you understand your thoughts and behaviors and what you would need to do to stop them from hurting you.

Don’t forget that support works both ways. Take the time to check in with your colleagues to see how they are getting on too.

Make Time for Yourself 

It’s going to be hard to make big changes, and while the result should feel amazing, the process can be brutal. That’s why it’s important to take time for yourself. From establishing a no-work or study rule for a few hours before bed to treating yourself to wellness-boosting activities like long baths or a hike, there are many ways that you can care for yourself. 

Breaks, where you take the time to reset and refresh, are critical, regardless of whether these breaks are taken during work, studying, or even on your relaxation time.