Most students who become registered nurses imagine themselves in traditional nursing jobs -- assisting doctors and attending to patients' needs. As of 2010, more than 70 percent of RNs work in a traditional environment, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, including hospitals, physicians' offices, home health services and nursing homes. Some RNs, however, are drawn elsewhere over the course of their careers, to jobs you might not have heard about in nursing school.
Remember the school nurse at your elementary school? She had an endless supply of bandages, took kids' temperatures and sent them home when necessary. School nurse responsibilities go beyond these routine tasks, however. They are often the only certified medical personnel on site and may be responsible for hundreds of children. Not only do they attend to minor injuries and illnesses, but they can be in charge of major medical decisions when needs arise. They may be called on to treat seizures, allergic reactions and even heart attacks of adult staff. They also oversee students with special needs and illnesses; distribute medication; and maintain student vaccination records.
Plasma Center Nurse
RNs are typically the only advanced medical personnel on site at a plasma donation center. While phlebotomists are responsible for drawing blood and plasma, nurses are needed to conduct donor physical exams and drug screens, as well as respond to donors who suffer from adverse reactions -- some of which are medical emergencies.
Occupational health nurses are RNs who are employed by governments, businesses and other private organizations. Their primary responsibilities are to ensure that workers are healthy and safe. Typically, they need to be familiar with government policies and procedures, such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, laws; workers compensation regulations; and Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, policies. Occupational health nurses may treat sick and injured workers; counsel them about work-related injuries; oversee disease management and health education programs; and direct company health policies.
Pharmaceutical companies develop and test new drugs all the time. They hire RNs to administer new drugs to volunteers and respond in case anything goes wrong during clinical trials. Nurses employed in clinical research are often the primary contacts for research participants. They ensure that the tests are administered accurately and safely by tracking the correct dosage of a drug or placebo; monitoring test subjects; taking blood tests; and responding to adverse reactions.
2016 Salary Information for Registered Nurses
Registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $68,450 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, registered nurses earned a 25th percentile salary of $56,190, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $83,770, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 2,955,200 people were employed in the U.S. as registered nurses.
- U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook; Registered Nurses
- Health Careers Network: Top 3 Non-Traditional Nurse Jobs
- Nurse Together: Options for Non-Traditional Nursing Jobs
- Explore Health Careers.org: Occupational Health Nurse
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Registered Nurses
- Career Trend: Registered Nurses
Gina Poirier has a professional background in nonprofit administration and management, primarily with youth development organizations. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from the University of Washington and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Alaska Anchorage.