NEXT UP ON this.

Surprising careers in nursing

A hospital isn’t the only viable place for a nurse to work these days. Call the Midwife has a lot to answer for, or maybe it’s just that nursing stereotypes are deep-rooted and persistent. Either way, nursing in the 21st century bears little resemblance to 1950s stereotypes.

In fact, a nursing degree provides some of the most versatile career options around – for both men and women – and some of them might surprise you.

Work in virtually any industry

‘Wherever there are people, you’ll find nurses,’ says Deakin University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery Senior Research Fellow, Dr Helen Rawson. ‘Of course, many nurses work in a hospital environment or a GP clinic, but there are countless other roles, settings and industries where you’ll find nurses working.’

A valued qualification, nursing can lead to careers in hospitals and beyond.

‘Almost every industry offers opportunities for qualified nurses,’ says Dr Rawson. ‘For nurses working in a hospital, there are many areas you can specialise in, for example the emergency department, medical and surgical units, intensive care units, paediatrics and theatres.’

If hospitals aren’t for you, a nursing degree can lead to work in many other areas:

  • tele-health nurse: provide nursing care via phone or video consults including to people in rural or remote areas
  • flight nurse: work as part of an integrated aeromedical crew within the aviation or transport industry
  • community nurse: providing care in people’s homes or community centres
  • nurse practitioner: be an expert in extended and advanced nursing practice.

‘There are also nurses working offshore on oil rigs, in forensics units, in the prison service and in the military service, for example. I’ve also known nurses who’ve gone on to a career as cabin crew on airlines.’

‘As well as healthcare, nurses are employed in education, the pharmaceutical industry, the legal profession, in government…the list goes on.’

'Of course, many nurses work in a hospital environment or a GP clinic, but there are countless other roles, settings and industries where you’ll find nurses working.'

Dr Helen Rawson,
School of Nursing and Midwifery, Deakin University

Location, location!

‘A nursing degree can be a passport to travel,’ says Dr Rawson. ‘Demand for nurses to work in regional and remote Australia is high, and working overseas is also a very real option because of strong demand for nurses in many countries.

‘The opportunities are vast, from a working holiday in somewhere like the UK, or working for an NGO in a developing country. Nurses are also employed by the world’s leading health organisations including the United Nations and World Health Organisation.’

If global roaming is on your agenda, consider these roles:

  • disaster response nurse: deliver first response care with an NGO such as the Red Cross or Save the Children
  • defence force nurse: provide healthcare for defence force personnel and help communities in Australia or overseas
  • cruise ship nurse: sail the seas and see the world while providing high quality care for passengers and crew
  • resort nurse: work in a beautiful resort location and provide nursing care to guests and staff.

Opportunities for leadership

A nursing career can also open the door to countless leadership opportunities in a wide range of settings, says Dr Rawson.

‘Obviously nurses take on key management roles within their clinical area of choice, but many nurses also take on senior leadership roles within hospitals, in policy development, higher education, government and administration.’

Some of the many opportunities for leadership in nursing include:

  • academic educator: prepare the next generation of nurses as they study at university
  • clinical educator: support professional learning in a clinical setting
  • nurse researcher: create new knowledge to inform the future of nursing practice, policy and education
  • policy advisor: advise government and ministerial groups on key areas of nursing policy, service delivery and workforce
  • Executive or Director of Nursing: lead nursing staff and provide operational direction in complex organisations such as hospitals.

More than just patient care

While delivering the best possible care and advocating for your patient are central tenants of nursing practice, Dr Rawson says you can also forge a successful and fulfilling career in nursing away from the bedside.

In addition to working in multi-disciplinary teams with other professionals in the health sector, nursing skills can be combined with other disciplines, such as:

  • midwifery: work in specialist roles with mothers and babies
  • health services research: use your research skills to ensure healthcare delivery is based on the latest knowledge and evidence.
  • public health and health promotion: promote good health, healthier lifestyles and positive health outcomes for individuals and populations.
  • finance: evaluate the benefits, costs and return on investment of health programs and care models.
  • IT: work in nurse informatics, applying information and communications technologies to nursing practice and healthcare delivery.
  • law: combine nursing and law to become a legal nurse advisor and provide nursing counsel on legal matters.

‘A nursing degree is a passport to an incredible career with a wide range of paths,’ says Dr Rawson. She should know – she’s an example of the professional variety on offer in nursing, and has worked in clinical settings in the UK and Australia, for NGOs in Kenya and Ghana. She is now a member of Deakin’s highly respected team of academics and teachers in the School of Nursing and Midwifery and the Centre for Quality and Patient Safety research.

‘I’ve loved my career in nursing and everywhere it has taken me,’ says Dr Rawson. ‘You’ll never be bored as a nurse because the opportunities to move and to reinvigorate your career are endless.’

Deakin University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery celebrated its 30th birthday in 2017. It’s one of the largest in Australia and ranked among the best in the world. Find out more about qualifying as a nurse at Deakin.

this. featured experts
Dr Helen Rawson
Dr Helen Rawson

Senior Research Fellow, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Faculty of Health, Deakin University

Read profile

explore more