Career Paths & Opportunities in Nursing

Nursing is a challenging and fulfilling vocation, and the landscape for progression offers a wide variety of opportunities. Studying for a nursing qualification usually entails specialising as an adult nurse, a children’s nurse, a learning-disability nurse or a mental-health nurse.

Once qualified, there are dozens of specialisms in clinical, managerial and educational capacities to choose from. Most nursing positions exist within hospitals or in the community.

As a hospital nurse, you may work on wards, in operating theatres, in A&E or in outpatient care – in other words, you will be based on-site most of the time.

Community nurses, however, could find themselves working almost anywhere. While some may be working primarily in community hospitals, GP practices, walk-ins, nursing homes and clinics, many others are field-based – working in schools, visiting patients’ homes, and even specialising in forensics with the police.

Whether you choose community or hospital nursing, your options for progression are extremely varied. Depending on the aspects of your work that you enjoy and/or excel at, you may choose to follow one of these four main career paths:

  • Clinical specialism
  • Management
  • Education
  • Research

You will probably begin as a staff nurse in a hospital environment. While this means that most nurses start out on the clinical pathway, stepping sideways to evolve your career in another area may be the best way to utilise your skills and passions.

Clinical nursing pathways

Clinical nursing roles entail working closely with patients, assessing vital signs and administering treatments. As you progress, you may decide to specialise in a specific branch of medicine or care, but you will usually maintain a hands-on, patient-centric approach.

A key part of furthering your role will include the step up from staff nurse to senior staff nurse, after which you will undertake further education, which could include a Masters degree in your chosen specialism. The structure of clinical progression is likely to include these roles:

  • Clinical specialist
  • Advanced practice nurse
  • Assistant department director
  • Department director
  • Director of nursing

As you progress in a clinical role, you may become responsible for designing, implementing and evaluating patient care. You will be expected to utilise the latest research and innovations to assess patients and ensure they receive the best care.

Your roles could include management of healthcare teams, but will remain predominantly clinical rather than administrative, as in other leadership roles within the nursing profession.

Management nursing pathways

As in other professions, management in nursing involves planning, organising and delegation. As you progress in nursing management, you may find that your role becomes increasingly administrative and less patient-focused.

As with clinical nursing, you are likely to work as a senior staff nurse before progressing to a management role. Progression through nursing management, as with other fields of nursing, will incorporate further study, which could include gaining a Masters qualification in a nursing specialism.

Roles in nursing management include the following:

  • Nurse manager
  • Senior nurse manager
  • Nurse case manager
  • Director of nursing

As well as usual delegation, planning and organisation, you will be expected to demonstrate leadership and teaching skills in order to educate your team to a high level.

Educational nursing roles

Education plays a huge part in the progression of yourself and your peers, even more so in medical professions than in many others. Given that your key skills are developed on the job, it is paramount that seniors are competent – both in their own skills and in nurturing those of their students.

For nurses who are passionate about working with students and educating them to high standards, becoming a nurse educator could be a rewarding career move. Further education is required in order to progress in nursing education, as with other nursing career pathways. Roles in this satisfying and highly acclaimed field of nursing include the following:

  • Nurse educator
  • Senior nurse educator
  • Director of nursing

Research-based nursing roles

Like educational roles, research roles are crucial to ensuring the progress of the medical profession as a whole. Progression in research nursing involves developing research projects to further the treatments and care-plans currently available.

A key part of a research nurse’s role is designing and running clinical trials. This is a complex process that includes…

  • Developing study protocol and compliance measures
  • Writing consent forms
  • Seeking study approval from regulatory bodies
  • Recruiting trial participants
  • Collecting and reporting on data
  • Tissue/sample collection and processing

Research nursing requires a great deal of drive and initiative, and can be extremely rewarding if you like the idea of being at the forefront of new technology and techniques. Nurses looking to progress in research are likely to require a Masters in Research Methods, and may be encourage to pursue further education at PhD level.

Find the perfect nursing role for you

Nursing is a rewarding career that requires hard work, compassion and commitment, and there are roles that depend on a huge variety of personal and professional skills.

At CRG we are dedicated to helping you find your perfect role. Search our jobs board for our latest roles in your area, or request a call from one of our advisors, who can help match you to your dream job.

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