Most people relate nurses to hospitals but not all nurses are hospital bound. In fact, nearly 40 percent of nurses work outside hospital grounds in an array of settings, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. “Getting to choose from several options, whether it’s in a doctor’s office or a school or an emergency room, that’s what I loved about being a nurse,” said Pam Brightsman, a retired nurse who spent 21 years of a 36-year career at Cook County Hospital in Chicago before moving to a family-practice physician. “You’re doing a lot of the same things but your hours and your surroundings, they can change. You have more control.”
Brightsman says her 15 years with an Advocate Medical Center in suburban Naperville gave her various perks she didn’t get from her old job. “Sure, if you call a regular lunch a perk,” she laughed. “I had a parking space and a pretty consistent schedule every day but I missed the madness of that Cook County ER. I missed the controlled chaos.”
Either way, Brightsman said she was glad to have chosen a career that provided her with some options, even if she chose fairly traditional settings.
For those entering the nursing profession, a few options include:
Ambulatory care services take place in clinics and other treatments environments outside the hospital. Just as the categories of nursing vary, the facilities in which nurses may work in vary just as widely. Clinics are smaller versions of hospitals and generally are dedicated to just a few specialties. These may range from medical imaging to cancer treatment to diabetes treatment.
Nurses in ambulatory-care facilities promote health, prevent disease and help patients cope with illness. They work as patient advocates and provide health education for individuals, families and communities. They collaborate with all allied health professions, physicians and advanced practice nurses, and manage client care through nursing care plans.
These facilities include nursing homes, assisted living communities and rehabilitation centers and are generally occupied by the elderly or disabled. Job duties within these organizations include, caring for the daily needs of patients, administering medications, taking vital signs, and tracking a patient’s progress.
Home health care/hospice
The most important attribute of a nurse is arguably empathy. This is especially true for those who work in home health care and hospice settings as patients are typically nearing the end of their lives. Job duties for home health nurses include, administering prescribed medications; change dressings; and maintain records of the patients care and progress.
Similarly, hospice workers take care of a patient’s day-to-day needs. However, their goal is to make the patient’s final days as comfortable as possible. These patients are typically in the last six months of their life and two-thirds of the population is over the age of 65, according to the American Hospice Foundation.
Being able to delicately and diplomatically handle worries and fears associated with the illness is also a major part of this job. Other responsibilities may include, working with the patient and his or her family to develop a personalized care plan; respecting patients’ wishes and relaying this information to loved ones; offering bereavement services after the patient dies.
Public health offices and teaching
Many nurses choose to take a more educational role in their profession. Teaching is a great way to give back to your community by passing on your knowledge to those with similar career interests. Though additional teaching certifications are needed, high schools and universities are always in need of qualified nursing instructors to educate the caregivers of tomorrow.
Others choose to take a broader approach to education. Working in a public health setting allows nurses to look after the health and safety of entire communities by promoting healthy lifestyles and educating the public on public health issues.