Optional Settings for Nurses

February 10, 2015

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Cradling newborn directly after the birth, TanzaniaWhether you are still in nursing school or have just graduated, it is exciting to get your first job in the field. If you are like many nurses, you may apply to work in an acute care hospital. Acute care hospitals provide a great learning opportunity and the possibility of working in different units.

But hospitals are not the only setting in which nurses’ work. There are plenty of other opportunities outside an acute care hospital, which offer interesting and alternative jobs for nurses.

 Before deciding on what type of setting you want to work in, consider your career goals and salary requirements. In addition, some settings nurses work in are better suited for those with a few years of experience, as opposed to new graduates.  

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes provide both short and long-term care for people who do not require acute care hospitalization, but still need some medical services. In many cases, patients in nursing homes are elderly or have disabilities.

Nurses who work in a skilled nursing facility may perform some of the same duties as those who work in an acute care hospital. For instance, nurses perform patient assessments, administer medication, treat wounds and respond to emergencies. But nurses may not see the variety of patients they would in a hospital setting. There is also fewer opportunities to move into another department since there is no emergency room or surgical area.

On the plus side, nursing home residents may live in the facility for a long time, which provides nurses the chance to get to know their patients and build up a rapport. Registered nurses also may move into supervisory roles quickly in a nursing home.    

GapMedics students on their hospital work experience placement in TanzaniaHome Care

Another option for nurses is to work in home care. As the name implies, nurses who work in home care provide treatment, monitoring and education in the patient’s home.

In some cases, a patient’s condition will improve enough to allow them to be discharged from the hospital, but they still require some medical treatment. Nurses who work in home care perform assessments, monitor a patient’s progress, treat wounds and administer intravenous medications. There is also an opportunity to perform a wide variety of duties, which many nurses may find exciting.

Home care nurses should enjoy working independently and have excellent time management skills. A few years of experience working in a hospital setting is usually required before working in home care.

Sub-Acute Facilities

Sub-acute facilities are a cross between an acute care hospital and a skilled nursing facility. Patients who require continued care after a hospital stay may be discharged to a sub-acute facility.

Usually, patients who are in a sub-acute facility are stable enough to not need critical care, such as that provided in an intensive care unit. But they may need more advanced care than offered at a nursing home. For example, patients recovering from traumatic brain injuries may still require a breathing machine or a feeding tube, which can be provided at a sub-acute care.

Nurses who work in this setting have the opportunity to become proficient caring for patients with certain types of conditions or injuries. On the opposite side, nurses do not usually get experience dealing with patients with acute conditions, such as a heart attack or pneumonia. New graduates may want to gain experience in another setting before working in sub-acute care.        

Rehabilitation Centers

Rehab centers are hospitals where patients go to optimize their level of functioning. For some patient’s that may mean learning to walk or talk again. For others, it may involve improving their cognitive ability or memory.

Nurses work in rehabilitation centers providing care to patients while they are going through therapy. Patients who require rehabilitation usually have had an injury or illness, which left them with a deficit. For example, a patient who has had a stroke may have lost their ability to speak.

Many times patients still require nursing care, but to a lesser extent than they did while they were in the hospital. Nurses who work in a rehabilitation facility provide education for managing a disease or condition, administer medication and monitor vital signs.

Nurses who like working with patients throughout their recovery process may enjoy working in a rehab facility. There is also a lot of opportunities to educate patients and help them achieve the best quality of life possible. But there may not be as many opportunities to perform certain procedures, which are only done in an acute hospital setting.

A pre-nursing student observing a routine procedure at Iringa Regional Hospital in Tanzania. Community Clinics

Nurses are often hired to work in a variety of community clinics including urgent care centers, birthing centers and mobile clinics. Clinics are intended for patients who do not have a life-threatening condition.

Nurses who work in community clinics have a wide variety of responsibilities, such as performing health screenings, immunizations, physical exams and assessments. In some instances, they also provide patient education.

If you like a lot of patient interaction and treating a variety of patients, working in a clinic may be a good option. For nurses looking for more excitement, clinic work usually does not provide a lot of opportunities to treat patients with critical conditions. New graduates, as well as experienced nurses are hired by clinics.

Doctor’s Offices

Some physicians may hire nurses to work in their office and assist with patient care. Patients seen in the doctor’s office may have a new illness or are being seen for preventive care. Nurses will perform various duties depending on the type of doctor they are working for. For example, nurses working in a lung specialist’s office may perform pulmonary function tests or provide asthma action plans.

Medical assistants often work in doctor’s offices, so opportunities for nurses may be a bit limited. In addition, wages tend to be lower than in other healthcare settings, such as hospitals or nursing homes. If you are interested in working in an environment that is a bit slower paced than an acute care hospital, a doctor’s office may fit the bill.