One in three nurses is considering leaving the profession, and the departure is growing.
McKinsey & Company found that 32% of nurses were considering a career change in November 2021, up from 22% less than a year earlier. Despite decent pay and high demand, nursing and hospital work have grown more challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic due to staffing shortages and other hindering factors.
Nursing is stable. It pays well, you tell yourself. So why do you dream of leaving?
I Want To Leave Nursing. What Else Can I Do?
If you’re reading this article, it’s likely because you’re one of that 32%. More and more nurses experience burnout— 43.4% of former nurses cited burnout as a reason for their decision to leave.
Poor leadership and the emotional toll of working with sick and dying patients may be draining you. You may want a change because your family situation has changed and shift work no longer works with your lifestyle. Perhaps you want to develop and use skills outside of your current job responsibilities.
The most common career changes for nurses often include jobs in healthcare, but 69% of nurses wanting a job change want to leave patient care completely. So, what jobs are out there for nurses who don’t want to be nurses anymore?
From Nursing to Tech
Emily Rose Gama earned her nursing degree in 2017 knowing she wouldn’t spend her whole career working as a bedside nurse. After working on adult oncology and surgical floors in a hospital and as a pediatric home healthcare nurse, she began exploring her options. She started a PhD program to follow her Master’s degree, but found that it wasn’t the right fit. However, she discovered a love for data and analytics.
“I discovered that I loved the coding, the statistics, and those kinds of analytical skills,” she explained. “I knew that I wanted to pursue them but just needed to figure out how I was going to do that.”
Gama enrolled in the three-month immersive Data Science program at General Assembly through Adobe Digital Academy in 2022.
“The best thing for me was the immersive part—the fast-paced, everyday deep dive that created a sense of curiosity in me about the skills that I really, really wanted to explore,” she said. “I also really enjoyed the broad variation of projects that we got to do. The instructors made sure that each project we did was marketable and could be used in interviews.”
A month after graduating, Gama moved across the country with her husband to start her new career as a Nurse Informatician at HEALTH[at]SCALE Technologies. In her role, she’s helping apply AI and machine learning to technology that recommends providers and optimizes care delivery for patients.
“Now I’m in a job that actually combines healthcare and analytical and tech skills,” she shared. “My coworkers are very excited about my blend of skills and what it will bring.”
Like Gama, Karina Gashchenko wasn’t only interested in nursing as a career. She liked graphic design in college, but because of the recession in 2008, she chose nursing instead. Burned out by the staffing issues, supply issues, and influx of sick people with COVID-19, she started considering alternatives in 2021.
At the suggestion of a friend, she found a match in UX/UI Design, with a flexible program that allowed her to learn while still working at her nursing job.
Fast-Growing Jobs in Healthcare Technology
Nurses say that they value a safe environment, work-life balance, caring teammates, meaningful work, and flexibility in a new career.
There are a lot of jobs out there that could meet these requirements. But today, we’re going to focus on one area that checks all of these boxes: jobs in tech.
The tech sector is growing with no end in sight. Tech jobs offer competitive salaries, flexibility (hello remote work!), and give the ability for workers to contribute to solutions rather than working within a broken system.
Within tech, healthcare technology is growing rapidly: Grandview Research projected that the healthcare IT market will grow by 29% by 2030. Trends like telehealth, EHR (electronic health records), and clinical information systems will need professionals with direct healthcare experience (that’s nurses) to lead the healthcare tech revolution.
6 Alternative Careers for Nurses in Tech
What can you do next? Here are six good tech jobs for nurses to pursue along with what you need to get there.
Health Informatician/Nurse Informatician
What they do: Nurse informaticians are key in the emerging field of nursing informatics. They translate information between clinical and technical teams and systems. They analyze data and develop strategies for health IT procurement, implementation, and optimization.
What you already have: A bachelor’s degree in nursing, experience in a clinical setting.
What you need: Strong skills in data analytics and project management. Some employers require advanced degrees or certifications. A certificate in Data Analytics or Data Science will give you a competitive edge alongside your nursing experience.
What they do: Product designers create, test, and improve apps and websites. Within healthcare tech, they design apps, websites, or software for either patients or clinicians for healthcare delivery. As a nurse, your expertise is beneficial for both.
What you already have: A patient and clinical perspective to help you advocate for the end user.
What you need: A degree is required for some UX jobs. You’ll need to build skills and a portfolio in web and mobile design along with UX methodology, which you can get through a UX/UI Design certificate course.
What they do: Web developers build code to create websites, mobile apps, and other digital applications. Front-end developers create interfaces that people interact with while back-end developers build the data and systems needed for websites to function.
What you already have: Teamwork, attention to detail, problem-solving.
What they do: Software engineers build applications like web developers, but they have a deeper technical background and manage software development projects from start to end.
What you already have: Project management, attention to detail, problem-solving.
What you need: A firm grasp of multiple coding languages, fluency in multiple frameworks and tech stacks, and knowledge of Agile development workflows. The best way to get up to speed? Enroll in a bootcamp or certificate program.
Clinical Application Specialist
What they do: Clinical application specialists are responsible for training and supporting healthcare facilities on how to use healthcare tech, from software to imaging systems.
What you already have: Communication skills, problem-solving, experience in a clinical setting.
What you need: A nursing degree and license (varies by state). Strong technical and customer service skills.
Digital Marketing Specialist
What they do: Digital marketing specialists manage the strategy and execution for marketing strategies including social media, online ads, and website content. If you love being creative and generating visual or written content, this could be the right job for you. There’s also an important strategy and analytics component to this career path. Your health knowledge could be a good asset for a healthcare or consumer wellness/fitness company.
What you already have: Teamwork, communication skills, a degree.
What you need: A grasp of the principles of digital marketing, including paid search, SEO, social media, marketing analytics, and client relations. You may need to reskill and will need a portfolio to show examples of your work.
5 Steps To Start Your Career Transition From Nursing
1. Decide to invest in yourself
The first step to taking a career change is deciding to do it. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to start fantasizing about yourself in a different career. It’s much harder to actually take steps toward making it happen. Verbalize your intentions to a friend, mentor, or significant other. Start a physical or virtual vision board and write down your top strengths and reasons for investing in yourself—whether it’s for better pay, a better lifestyle, or your family. When the journey gets hard, come back to your why to center you.
2. Explore career paths
Use this list and other research to explore different career paths and the typical responsibilities, environment, and challenges in those roles. For example, you can watch coding tutorials or videos on YouTube to see if they might interest you.
A common fear for career-changers before they switch careers is “what if I don’t like it?”. To get a sense of whether something will be a good fit, talk to people already in that job. Join industry groups, and reach out to people that you know personally or on LinkedIn to ask them about their work.
3. Assess your transferrable skills
We don’t have to tell you that nurses are practically superhumans. From empathy, adaptability, problem-solving, and crisis management, there’s not much you can’t do. Write down your top transferrable skills and think of examples of how you’ve put them into practice.
One of the top transferrable skills Gama brought from nursing was the analytical mindset of anticipating patient needs, staying organized, and being able to treat patients calmly and systematically in a crisis situation.
“Similarly, in data science, you have to take a lot of data and make a picture from it,” she said. “When emergencies are happening and the code breaks, you have to be able to understand all these different aspects and pull everything together into one streamlined workflow.”
For Gashchenko, the top skills she brought to UX/UI Design were people skills, empathizing with the end user, and collaborating across disciplines. As a nurse, she learned to let go of any bias to make nonjudgmental, critical decisions.
Once you have your top soft skills outlined, you can work on what technical skills you might need to sharpen to make your career move.
For most jobs outside of nursing, you’ll need some kind of reskilling to learn a new skill, earn a credential, or help you build a portfolio. Whether it’s a bootcamp, class, or certificate, do your research to find a program that has strong instructor and peer support, a top-notch curriculum, and employer connections.
To get the most out of your curriculum, consider doing some reading and prep work ahead of time. Subscribe to some industry podcasts or newsletters or teach yourself the basics of any software you’ll be using, like Figma for UX/UI Design.
Consider the time investment and cost of reskilling: If you can’t take a pay cut, you’ll need to commit to a course outside of your shifts. If you’re already burning out, this could be difficult. Reducing your working hours, switching to PRN, or quitting your day job are alternative options to get to your dream tech job quicker.
5. Launch your job search
While you’re reskilling, start to put together assets for your job search such as a resume and projects for an online portfolio. Ask a friend, career coach, or mentor to review your resume and do a practice interview with you. If you have access to career services as an alumnus, make sure to use it.
While applying blind to jobs online is inevitable, supplement your search by networking. This doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds. Reach out to recruiters and hiring managers on LinkedIn to ask them questions about open jobs or let them know you’re interested. Take advantage of online industry groups or in-person meetups to make connections and learn the industry lingo.
Getting Out of Nursing: Taking The First Step
If all you’ve known is nursing for your career, it can be hard to think about doing something else. It takes a risk to make a change, but staying put is even riskier if you dread going to work or don’t feel fulfilled.
It’s never too late to learn new skills and break out of the scripted career narrative. Whether you want to stay in a healthcare-adjacent field or find your dream tech job that has nothing to do with healthcare, take the chance and invest in yourself.
Want to learn more? Download the ebook, “Landing Work You Love” to figure out which tech career path is right for you.