Attrition rates are high among nurses – yet, there are many who view nursing as a lifelong profession – constantly looking for avenues that best fit their skills, traits and aspirations. Here are the 4 best nursing options for those who are passionate about enabling lives.

1. Emergency Room (ER) nurse

This is a place of high tension and tantrums, where nothing is scripted and patients can be as random as the range of illnesses. Competence and compassion are skills most needed by ER nurses in order to restore calm amid chaos and light in darkness. The ER nurse must respond fast and be capable of rapid assessment and treatment during the initial phase of acute illness or trauma – especially when time is the essence. With the intense hustle and bustle in the hospital, the nurse still has to maintain utmost professionalism, efficiency and care.

Erika Harrison, an American ER nurse wrote, “There is no typical day for a nurse in the ER. In fact, the only sure bet in ER nursing is that no two days will ever be the same. It’s definitely chaos, but it’s what we are drawn to, and what we were born to.”

It may be taxing emotionally, mentally and physically, especially when one has to deal with distraught family members and make connections with social workers, or even arrange for funeral services. Sensitivity to cultural and religious norms is crucial and self-care should be a priority. The average annual salary that an ER nurse gets is USD92,500.

2. Nurse educator

There may be a point in your career when you feel that you have so much to share. Teaching fellow nurses may be a wise option, as you will be involved in planning and leadership, and inspiring future nurses. What is important is to stay connected with technological and clinical advances, so that the knowledge imparted will stay relevant. The average annual salary is USD110,200.

“Nursing education is the leader of the nursing profession as a whole because it all has to start with education,” says Nicole Thomas, an adjunct instructor at Virginia College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “If nurses and other health care professionals are not properly educated, then our industry will not thrive.”

3. Operating Room (OR) nurse

This job fetches a high annual salary of USD95,000 – but it is highly stressful, and you are often exposed to unpleasant sights. As the backbone of a surgical team – being there from the very beginning of the surgery to the very end – you assist with all sorts of tasks before, during and after surgical procedures. Most OR nurses get to specialise in one area such as obstetrics, paediatric or cardiac surgery.

Being alert and attentive is of paramount importance as one slip can be suicidal. The ability to communicate information quickly, concisely and accurately is crucial. This is a job that requires a high level of multi-tasking as nurses must also be able to handle several things at once. For instance, you may need to listen to the surgeon, monitor the patient and assist with the procedure concurrently. The long and tedious hours, and high concentration can be draining. In order to avoid burnout, nurses should look into their self-care.

Every nurse in the OR has his or her own role. The scrub nurse prepares the operating room, i.e. the layout and organising the details for the procedure. The registered nurse first assistant assists the surgeon and generally control bleeding, suture incisions and intervenes during complications. They also provide pre-operative instructions or answer questions posed by patients. After the procedure, these first assistants may assess patients to see how they are recovering and advise on the discharge process.

Marlene Craden, a perioperative nurse at Kaleida Health in Buffalo, New York, says, "I find it challenging and very rewarding to have a detailed understanding of what is happening to the patient. This enhances my ability to provide comprehensive care and education to the patient and family."

4. ICU nurse

Nurses in ICU are the most stressed as theirs is a complex environment with extensive patient handling and high pressure conditions, especially where lives hang on a thread. They need huge doses of empathy and compassion to care for the critically ill and also to support patients’ families. Critical care nurses must be able to make sophisticated judgements quickly as ICU patients are often unstable, and can experience rapid physiological decline. From assisting physicians during procedures, checking patients’ vital signs, taking blood samples, managing ventilation and life support equipment to ordering diagnostic tests – most ICU nurses need targeted transition education to enable them to anticipate patients’ transitional experiences so that they can provide appropriate transitional care.

Even with a high annual income of USD100,500, the turnover rates among ICU nurses are high – as many suffer burnout from the long hours, and emotional demands made by patients as well as families.

Erin Sullivan from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago switched her specialty from the emergency nursing to intensive care. “Being in the ICU, I really enjoy being able to watch a patient progress from being critically ill to becoming well enough to leave the unit. Unlike the ED, many times you have a patient three or four shifts in a row. Therefore, you can get to know the patients in a way I never got to, in the ED,” she shared. MIMS

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