For nurses who are seeking new opportunities, wanting to make more of a contribution to society, or following a passion that they have had for some time, making a career change can be very rewarding. If a nurse does decide to pursue a new vocation, they will be in good company, as many people change jobs multiple times during their working life.

The draw to nursing

People can be drawn to nursing for many different reasons. For some, it is the opportunity to help people in need, for others it is more about fulfilling a lifelong ambition, and some new nurses are simply looking forward to the job security that comes with a role in healthcare. However, for nurses planning a second career, it is likely that they are already employed and maybe have a family to consider. To help people navigate their commitments and their nurse training, many academic institutions, such as the University of Indianapolis have created online courses that have less impact on a student’s home life. 

Their Advanced Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) is a fast pace nursing program that offers remote learning, local clinical placements with small classes, and expert tuition from experienced instructors. Future nurses with a degree in another subject can enroll for one of the three annual start dates and expect to graduate within 15 months at the University of Indianapolis. 

People enter this profession at all ages; it is never too late to become a nurse. Entering the profession as a second career can even enhance professionals’ practice, as they have more experience of work and have likely developed good communication skills. Moreover, depending on their past roles, they may have grown comfortable working as part of a team and become adept at problem-solving. 

Here are some of the key reasons people choose to become a nurse as their second career.

The medical profession offers enviable levels of security

A continuing shortage of medical professionals in the US and around the world means that nurses are in high demand. Every year, older nurses are retiring from the profession and at present there are not enough new nurses rising up to take their places. According to research carried out by the Health Resources & Services Administration, by 2025 there will be a shortfall of 78,610 full-time nurses. This means the healthcare system is under strain, but people who are willing to train and fill these crucial positions can play an important role in getting staffing levels back on track. Once individuals qualify, they can expect to find a post and enjoy a lifetime of job security. New graduates needn’t worry about the availability of nursing roles in their state and whether training represents a good investment. The need for new nurses is real and that’s unlikely to change any time soon.

Flexible vacations and shifts

In hospitals and clinics, the medical team works in shifts, so there are always trained professionals on hand to care for patients. These shifts are worked out well in advance, so each nurse will have time off in between scheduled working hours to spend with loved ones, pursue hobbies, and simply relax. In most hospitals, the average day lasts 12 hours, and a full-time nurse can expect to have three of these shifts every week.

Although the shifts are very long and nurses will be advised to find the most comfortable shoes to cope with all the walking, most facilities will provide staff with at least four days off in between. That means they have over half the week to re-establish a work-life balance and recharge their batteries.

In a physician’s office, nurses have a more conventional working pattern; usually five or six days a week, from 8am until 5pm, or whatever the opening hours are of the clinic. This can be a better option for nurses who want to be at home more regularly, either because they have young children, or they prefer not to work unsocial hours.

If a nurse prefers to avoid a full-time schedule, they can also choose to work on a part-time basis or at the weekends. Alternatively, they could even become a travel nurse and choose the days, as well as the hours, they wish work entirely.

Growing remuneration

The average Registered Nurse (RN) in the US made roughly $77,000 in 2021 and as time goes on, that figure will continue to rise. For individual nurses, the chance to be one of the higher earners in their profession is all about putting in more hours and attaining more certifications. When a nurse chooses to gain experience, continue education, and apply for better-paying roles in the industry, their potential earnings will increase. Furthermore, even if they prefer to remain in the same post and only take on the core professional development tasks, their earnings can still rise. This is because there is almost always plenty of overtime available and it comes at a higher hourly rate than standard contracted work.

Nursing is a gratifying occupation

As well as a good salary and excellent career prospects, nurses have a very rewarding role. They get close to patients, form bonds of trust, and act as advocates when people are worried or unsure about their treatment. Along with medical care, they show kindness to the people they care for and their families. Nurses can often leave more of an impression on a patient than physicians, simply because they are around more. The appreciation shown by patients can be fulfilling personally, but professionally nurses can also gain a great deal of satisfaction.  

With medical advances launching regularly and the emergence of new, more effective treatments, this is an intellectually fascinating role. Nurses are often at the forefront of rolling out new technologies in medicine, and they genuinely help to save lives and are appreciated both by their senior colleagues and their patients.

A wide range of specializations

Being a nurse means different things to different practitioners, some start as RNs, and within a year they have chosen a specific path to follow. When a nurse is willing to continue learning to further their qualifications, they could consider working as a critical care nurse, becoming a midwife, or taking on a role in pediatric nursing. If they instead choose to remain in the same hospital, because it is close to home or they get on well with colleagues, there will still be opportunities for advancement. As a nurse gains experience, supervisory, managerial, and research roles, will become available and need filling. There are exciting career paths inside hospitals and in many other locations, so nurses will have plenty of choices when it comes to deciding where to work.

Which settings can nurses choose to work in?

When first entering the field of nursing, there are many work environments that nurses can consider. Frequently, the type of work they want to do will dictate where they work. The largest number of employment opportunities for nurses are in general hospitals. However, depending on their practice level and interests, there are a wide range of other settings that they could choose to work in. Here is a closer look at some of the most popular.


In surgical and general hospitals, nurses work in every ward, theatres, and office settings. It can be a very rewarding environment, as nurses help patients who are suffering from serious illnesses and injuries, and often see them make a full recovery. Moreover, daily they are supported by their colleagues, and they can always find someone more experienced or qualified when seeking advice. In a hospital, colleagues soon become friends, and this sense of closeness and support can be very reassuring.


School nurses work with elementary and secondary school children, helping them deal with injuries and illnesses that occur during the school day. They assess each pupil’s needs to see if they need urgent care and monitor those with chronic conditions such as asthma, to ensure they remain well. Part of their work also involves screening pupils for diseases, keeping immunizations up to date, and offering advice on health and wellness. Nurses who want to work with children and young people could find working in schools to be very fulfilling, and annually they get the same vacation times as teachers. Some school nurses can feel slightly isolated because they are the only medical professionals in the building, but the working day tends to be quieter than it would be in a hospital or clinic.  

Colleges, hospitals, and local learning centers

In academia, experienced nurses are employed to mentor and instruct the next generation of nurses. Known as nurse educators, they have taken additional qualifications to prepare for roles in teaching. Along with leading classes, they will supervise clinical work and prepare students who are taking general certifications or the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN). Additionally, they are involved in designing curriculums, advising program leaders, and developing the course to keep up with medical advances.

For nurses who are interested in staying at the cutting edge of medicine and keen to inspire new medical professionals, teaching is a good choice of career. Although there is no or very little patient-facing work and the average day is less hectic than in a hospital, academia is rarely boring, and students will remember a good teacher for the rest of their lives. 

Outpatient clinics

The shifts in an outpatient clinic run more along the lines of a nine-to-five job, as these facilities are not open overnight. This can be a benefit for nurses who prefer a predictable work schedule and want to come home every evening. However, patients come and go in a matter of hours, so there is less of a chance to bond with individuals over several days. The nature of an outpatient department, where people come for routine treatments, means that fewer physicians are involved in the day-to-day running of the clinic. As a result, nurses tend to work with more autonomy, which is useful for those who plan to take on a more responsible role in the future, such as becoming a Nurse Practitioner (NP).

Physicians’ offices

Providing both non-emergency and routine care for patients of all ages, a physician’s office can provide new nurses with a huge amount of variety. In these settings, no two days are ever the same, as there is a constant stream of patients and appointments are short. It is often the nurse who will greet patients as they walk through the door of a physician’s office, they will ask about the patient’s medical history, check their symptoms, and perhaps record their vital signs. In the consulting room, nurses often assist with basic procedures. They will also work independently to help patients deal with common conditions, adjusting medications or carrying out check-ups. Offices run on a nine-to-five schedule, which suits some nurses and patients often form strong bonds with the medical professionals at their local clinic.

Caring for patients in their homes

Roles in home healthcare involve nurses visiting their patients at home to provide care. Often these people are too ill because of a terminal or chronic disease to visit a hospital, while others are recovering from surgery or have disabilities that make it a challenge for them to leave home. As well as offering medical assistance, home health nurses can provide personal care, such as helping with washing and dressing. The work is slower paced than in a hospital or clinic, but home health nurses can build good relationships with their patients. This makes it a very rewarding choice for some, even though there can be a lot of driving involved and during their visits, nurses must work independently.