All jobs in nursing aren’t the same. In fact, nurses come in a variety of careers and specialties that more than blow the lid off of outdated nursing stereotypes.
Nurses have a number of career paths to choose from, specializing in all sorts of areas such as primary care, management, information and even forensics.
To illustrate, here is a look at five unique careers in nursing — one or more of which might be in your future:
Forensic nurses provide specialized care for patients who are victims or perpetrators of crimes. While caring for patients comes first and foremost, these nurses are responsible for collecting evidence, providing medical testimony in court and consulting with legal authorities. Forensic nurses have specialized legal knowledge and skills to identify injuries, conduct evaluations of patients and provide necessary legal documentation.
Nurse navigators follow patients through transitional care, enhancing communication by serving as the single point of contact between patients, physicians and caregivers. These nurses help patients navigate clinical and supportive care services within a health system and in the community. Also referred to as patient navigators, these nurses coordinate patient appointments and work to eliminate barriers to timely and effective care. Nurse navigators also provide health education to patients before and after they receive care.
Informatics nurses manage electronic medical records required at healthcare facilities. These nurses work to improve information management and communication in nursing to increase efficiency, reduce costs and enhance the quality of patient care. Nursing informatics is a specialty that combines nursing science, computer science and information science. Nurses in informatics support patients, nurses and other providers in their decision-making throughout the care process.
eICU nurses are experienced in intensive care and facilitate electronic monitoring of ICU patients from a distant site. eICU nurses work with cutting edge technology that allows them to effectively monitor critical care patients. These nurses provide support to critical care physicians and nurses on the ground at the ICU, helping them to improve response times and intervene before a patient’s condition deteriorates.
In addition to offering undergrad and graduate degrees in nursing, Nebraska Methodist College also offers professional development courses for healthcare providers. With year-round courses including CPR, cardiac and pediatric life support and other seasonal courses, we’re committed to the development of the healthcare profession. In the rapidly changing field of nursing, choosing your degree is just the beginning.
Nurse practitioners in Nebraska may soon be able to practice independently, thanks to a bill recently advanced in the Nebraska State Legislature. According to an article in Tuesday’s Omaha World-Herald, Legislative Bill 916 would eliminate a requirement in Nebraska’s current law that nurse practitioners have practice agreements with physicians.
The bill was introduced by State Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue, who said Nebraska’s current law is adding to a shortage of primary care in the state’s rural areas. According to Crawford, 70 percent of nurse practitioners trained in Nebraska leave for other states. Iowa, Colorado and 16 other states allow nurse practitioners to practice independently without physicians agreements.
The issue at the heart of the bill is that Nebraska’s physician numbers in rural areas are dwindling at the same time that demand is increasing from aging populations and those newly insured under the Affordable Care Act. However, nurse practitioners are trained to fill those primary care roles, and research has shown that they are able to do so effectively. Two state review panels overseen by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services have endorsed LB 916.
To learn more about the need for nurse practitioners in Nebraska to have greater independence, read “Midlands Voices: Nurse practitioners critically important,” an opinion article by Dr. Dennis Joslin, President and CEO of Nebraska Methodist College, published in the Omaha World-Herald in December 2013.
Research conducted by a group of Nebraska Methodist College students was recently featured in American Nursing Today, the official journal of the American Nurses Association.
The March issue of American Nursing Today published the article “How Magnet® designation affects nurse retention: An evidence-based research project.” The article was the result of a critical literature review conducted by Nebraska Methodist College Master of Science in Nursing students Mellisa Renter, Anna Allen and Anne Thallas. Dr. Linda Foley, director of Nebraska Methodist College’s Nursing Graduate Program, mentored the group throughout the project.
During the spring and fall semesters of 2013, the group conducted critical analysis of literature researching the levels of nurse satisfaction and retention among hospitals that achieved Magnet Recognition®. The Magnet Recognition Program® recognizes healthcare organizations for high levels of patient care and nursing excellence.
According to American Nursing Today, the group’s analysis “confirmed that Magnet designation correlates to positive work environments and nurse satisfaction, both of which may influence nurse retention.”
The evidence-based research project was a capstone project for Renter, Allen and Thallas. Nebraska Methodist College graduate students are challenged to conduct capstone projects that address needs, gaps or issues in nursing and healthcare that ultimately help improve patient outcomes.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has continued to be a hot-button issue as its changes are rolled out. Political debate over the ACA has created confusion about what the future holds for varying healthcare career fields. Whether you are already working in healthcare or are considering a career in the healthcare industry, that uncertainty can be concerning, especially as you try to make decisions that are best for your own future.
Experts, however, tend to agree that research indicates careers in the healthcare industry will continue to be on solid footing. In fact, many experts believe the ACA, in addition to other factors, will increase demand for careers in healthcare over the next decade.
According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), healthcare spending is projected to increase over the next decade at significant rates. That projected increase will result from new demand from millions of newly insured Americans under the ACA, increased demand from aging baby boomer populations and improved economic conditions throughout the country. Economists say that more spending means more healthcare jobs as hospitals and other healthcare facilities will need additional staff to meet these growing needs.
Here are a few healthcare career fields that can expect increased demand as a result of the ACA:
- The ACA’s emphasis on primary care will increase demand for nurses in primary care settings. In particular, nurse practitioners with Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees will be needed to fill primary care roles in rural areas that suffer from physician shortages.
- Demand for sonographers will likely increase because diagnostic and preventive screenings are now covered by the ACA.
- Physical therapy assistants will be needed to support patients in their rehabilitation, which is considered an essential benefit by the ACA to be covered by insurance.
- More medical assistants will be needed to support physicians and nurses in primary care settings.
By Dennis Joslin, PhD
President and CEO of Nebraska Methodist College
Who’s tired of talking about the Affordable Care Act (less affectionately known as Obamacare)? Not me. That’s because for healthcare educators, the discussion should be just beginning. Now that the debates have finished on Capitol Hill and the bugs are getting worked out of Healthcare.gov, the conversation should now focus on moving forward.
And that’s where healthcare educators come into play.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is changing healthcare on a fundamental level, affecting how insurance companies provide coverage, how care providers like hospitals and clinics operate, and how everyday consumers navigate the system. But what can’t be ignored is the role healthcare educators have in meeting the needs of tomorrow’s industry. As healthcare educators, we need to proactively work to identify and address industry demands resulting from the new law, and we need to be ready to prepare students for the new realities in healthcare.
One of the most important aspects of the new law is access to healthcare — access by those with pre-existing conditions and those who previously could not afford coverage. Now, millions of Americans have health insurance who didn’t before, giving them access for the first time to healthcare services. As many healthcare experts will tell you, that presents a major challenge because the healthcare industry is already dealing with shortages of doctors, nurses and health professionals in other disciplines. At the same time, the baby boomer population is aging, which is forecasted to increase demand for healthcare services in the next decade.
This is where we as health professions colleges and universities have a responsibility to respond to the demands of the healthcare industry. Colleges and universities can’t sit back and be content with their current healthcare offerings. Even though the ACA has opened the door to accessible healthcare, we haven’t solved the issue if enough healthcare providers aren’t available. Instead, we need to continue researching the needs of the industry and working to add and expand programs to meet those demands.
At our institution, Nebraska Methodist College, one example of this is our recently-added Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. We added the program because we saw a void in primary care providers in Nebraska and the region, especially in rural areas. Primary care providers are crucial in detecting illnesses and diseases in patients at early stages when care is both more effective and less costly. We found rural areas of the state are having a difficult time recruiting physicians; however, those roles can be filled by DNP-prepared family nurses practitioners. We felt that this type of education and skill set was really needed most in our state and aligned best with the ACA’s focus on preventative care.
Preparing more healthcare professionals is only half of the challenge. Health professions institutions need to work to place individuals in jobs and locations where they are needed most and can be successful. This means utilizing the networks of your health system, faculty and alumni to connect students to those careers. For instance, at Nebraska Methodist College, we have a rural health advisory committee that we work with in planning our curriculum. Many of those advisory members are willing to have students precept in their communities as part of their clinical experience. Those opportunities prepare students for what they will actually experience in that rural environment and can often lead to jobs.
In addition, healthcare educators need to accept the challenge from the ACA to improve care. Graduates should be prepared to provide care using the best evidence-based practices for each respective discipline. They also should be prepared with skills to engage patients in the care they are receiving and educate communities about prevalent health issues.
Lastly, graduates should recognize their role in helping their patients understand the ACA. For the average patient, the law can be very confusing, and health professionals should encourage patients to be informed healthcare consumers. While each one of us may not have all the answers, we can direct patients to the right resources where they can find the information they need.
Raising awareness about heart conditions has always been part of Jaime Waddingham’s life. As a paramedic, Waddingham was a first responder who to treated many patients dealing with heart problems. As an American Heart Association instructor, she taught others how to provide lifesaving aid to victims experiencing a variety of issues, including heart conditions. However, when Waddingham’s daughter, Landry, was born, heart conditions became a much more personal subject.
When Landry was born, she was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect called ventricular septal defect, a hole in the wall between the ventricles of her heart. At just 9 months old, she had her first open heart surgery. Two months later, she had another surgery for a rare abdominal defect called situs inversus.
“I have always been passionate about the awareness of all types of heart issues,” Waddingham said. “However, with her defect, I have become even more passionate about awareness, especially for congenital heart defects.”
Today, Waddingham continues to teach about heart conditions and lifesaving as the ACLS/PALS instructor in Nebraska Methodist College’s Professional Development program. Together, she and Landry, now 7, team up to tell others about congenital heart defects and to inspire them not to be afraid of living life to the fullest despite a heart condition.
“Landry is such a strong, happy, sweet little girl. You would never guess anything is or has ever been wrong with her,” Waddingham said. “She embraces it and doesn’t let it slow her down.”
Together, they sell pins created by Landry as well as paper hearts to raise awareness for heart conditions and money for the American Heart Association. They also encourage people to participate in the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk, to be held May 10 at Miller’s Landing in Omaha.
Waddingham said seeing what Landry and so many other children have gone through makes her even more passionate about raising awareness of the need for more research about the conditions. While Landry lives a relatively normal day-to-day life, she sees a cardiologist each year for a checkup on her heart. At some point, Landry may have to undergo another heart surgery to finish patching the hole in her heart, and she may also need pacemaker. Waddingham hopes that future advancements will improve treatment for her daughter as well as other patients with heart defects.
“In light of American Heart Month, I just want people to be aware that there are a lot of people affected by both congenital heart defects and heart disease,” Waddingham said. “Heart problems really do not discriminate, and too many people are affected by them.”
Waddingham said evidence shows that research for congenital heart defects is underfunded.
According to the Children’s Heart Foundation, twice as many children die of congenital heart defects than all types of pediatric cancer combined; however, funding for pediatric cancer is five times greater than that for congenital heart defects.
Jaime and Landry have formed a team to walk at the American Heart Association Heart Walk on May 10. If you'd like to join their team, you can register below.
Nebraska Methodist College student Ashley Powers has a congenital heart defect, but you would probably never know it.
“I just don’t let it stop me from doing anything,” Powers said.
Powers was born with two holes in her heart, transposition of the great arteries and stenosis of the pulmonary valve. She had her first heart surgery when she was just five days old, and her second heart surgery at the age of 3.
But since then, Powers has lived a pretty normal life, including playing sports like volleyball, softball and track, and pursuing her dream of a career in nursing. That’s a message she likes to share with other children born with congenital heart defects as well as their parents. Powers’ message carries even more weight this month. February is American Heart Month, which is devoted to heart health awareness.
“Even though it’s been very hard and taken a lot of determination, we kids can do it,” Powers says. “We can still grow up and be whatever we want to be.”
Powers, who just celebrated her 22nd birthday Feb. 19, is currently proving that point. She is a student in Nebraska Methodist College’s traditional nursing program and currently works in the radiology department of Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.
“I constantly get to see all the heart patients, and I absolutely love it,” she said. “I always want to help and talk with them and give them the hope that they need.”
Powers said her own experience of growing up and receiving regular checkups for her heart at Children’s is what inspired her to pursue a career in nursing.
“I really fell in love with nursing because it’s really such a caring point,” she said. “You are with the patient through everything.”
Powers said her inspiration is Jenny Strawn, a nurse at Children’s. Strawn has been Powers’ nurse since she was a day old. Powers still continues to see Strawn to this day when she goes in for her regular checkups.
To Powers, American Heart Month is a chance for people to take time to understand all kinds of heart ailments. She said people should understand that heart conditions can affect everyone — young and old, male and female — and they aren’t just limited to heart disease and heart attacks. However, as Powers illustrates in her own life, heart conditions don’t have to get in the way of living a normal life. With proper care and regular checkups, those with heart conditions can still live active lives and pursue their goals.
Ashley has formed a team to walk at the American Heart Association Heart Walk on May 10. If you'd like to join her team, you can register below.
Amy Clark, Ph.D., is Nebraska Methodist College’s new Dean of Health Professions, overseeing 19 undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs. Clark has 16 years of experience working in healthcare and 12 years of experience in healthcare education. She took a moment this week to discuss her background in healthcare, advice for students and her life outside of Nebraska Methodist College.
What is your background as a health professional?
Prior to becoming a full-time instructor, I was a medical social worker and worked with pediatric and adult populations. My first job as a medical social worker was at Methodist Hospital in 1999, where I worked on the old Oncology floor. I transitioned to UNMC and became a member of the Bone Marrow Transplant team where I conducted psychosocial assessments for patients and filled in for the Liver Transplant Team. I truly was a member of a healthcare team, and by that I was fortunate to work with so many different disciplines and interact professionally with so many wonderful individuals within Allied Health.
What made you want to become a healthcare educator?
I have been asked, as a social worker, why I teach at healthcare institutions. To me it is a very simple answer — I truly love working within the medical field and with healthcare students. The very first class that I taught was a Healthcare Ethics course. Not only did the students love my social work stories, but I enjoyed introducing them to the many complicated scenarios that exist when working with patients and their families. There is no other time in a patient’s life where they are exposed to people who will see them when they are in such a vulnerable state. The role of a healthcare professional at that moment is so vast that instinct alone is not good enough. You truly have to go back to your training, clinical, and practicums and put into practice what you have been taught. It is a powerful thing to know as an educator that your students are responsible for caring for someone in their most stressful and intimate moments.
What are the advantages of pursuing careers in Allied Health?
There are so many advantages to working within an Allied Health profession. Students are now savvier about the cost and applicability of their education. To be able to have a “career in a year” as some of our certificate and associate programs allow is very appealing. The expectation now for many is that education does not end after your senior year in high school. We have so many options that are perfect for students who feel that desire to “help people” by working in the health profession, but don’t want the debt associated with a four-year degree.
What advice do you have for students considering a career in Allied Health?
My advice for any student, specifically one considering a profession in Allied Health, is to do a little research in terms of the professions that are “growing” and hiring now. You will often find that many of the careers are within Allied Health, and the demand will only increase. For on-campus students interested in Nebraska Methodist College, touring our campus will speak for itself.
Nebraska Methodist College truly sets itself apart from other local colleges and universities by having an office devoted to Student Health, many individual study rooms and state-of-the-art simulation areas. The Josie Harper Campus is an amazing facility with such great people on staff to go along with it.
What do you like to do outside of your job at Nebraska Methodist College?
I have three very active children — Jack, Luke and Kate — who really keep my time wrapped up, and I love every minute of it. We live in a small town outside of Omaha, so they are involved in every sport that is offered up to them. My sons are wrapping up basketball season, and my daughter, at seven years old, is already talking about the volleyball camps she wants to be in this summer. They are currently my hobby, although I love to cook and am training for a half marathon in the fall.
Imagine walking into a hospital waiting room where you don’t speak the same language as anyone on staff. You would have extreme difficulty telling a nurse or a doctor about your symptoms or understanding your prescribed treatment. For many in the rapidly growing Latino populations across our state and nation, this is the reality of our healthcare system.
Recent studies project our nation’s population to be 29 percent Latino by 2050. Research also suggests that Nebraska’s Latino population is expected to triple by 2050, accounting for 24 percent of the state’s overall population. Health professionals need to be prepared to serve growing Latino populations with individuals who may speak little to no English.
With that in mind, Nebraska Methodist College has introduced its new Spanish for Healthcare Professionals minor. The minor prepares nursing and Allied Health students to better interact with and serve Spanish-speaking patients. Graduates with the minor will be able to do a number of important tasks in Spanish, including taking a patient history, doing a patient assessment, developing a care plan for the patient, and presenting patient and care plan information to other Spanish-speaking health professionals.
By obtaining a Healthcare Spanish minor, graduates will make themselves more marketable to prospective employers. The minor will position students favorably for jobs in hospitals, clinics and community settings that serve large Spanish-speaking populations.
The Spanish for Healthcare Professionals minor is a total of 18 credit hours. The minor requires students to take six 3-credit courses over two years. Two courses are online, while four others are on campus.
Nebraska Methodist College congratulates students who were recently named to the Dean’s List for the Fall 2013 semester. The Dean’s List recognizes students who are achieving at high levels academically. To qualify for Nebraska Methodist College’s Dean’s List, degree-seeking students need a 3.75 semester grade point average (GPA) or better and must be enrolled in 12 or more credit hours.
Here are a few tips about how to make the Dean’s List:
- Go to class. Unless you have a real reason to miss class, you should try to go to every single session. Missing just one class could mean losing out on important information that you will need for an upcoming assignment or exam.
- Get to know your professors. Ask them when you have questions about an assignment. Engage them in discussion about their expertise and background. You may have the same professors more than once throughout college, so building a relationship will help you clearly understand their expectations.
- Take good notes. Write down all the crucial information you can during class. Also, consider highlighting or marking important excerpts in your textbook so you can refer back to them. If your professor has PowerPoint slides, see if you can get them.
- Study. Set time apart from each day to review material and prepare for your next classes. Read your assigned text, organize your notes, make flashcards, quiz yourself and create study guides to prepare for exams.
- Turn in your assignments on time. In many instances, professors either won’t accept late work, or they will deduct a significant portion of your grade when you turn in an assignment after it is due. Start working on projects as soon as they are assigned.
- Utilize the college’s available services. Nebraska Methodist College’s Academic Resources include free tutoring, supplemental instruction and writing support, among other services.
As a student, your GPA is important. It’s something that graduate programs consider when admitting new candidates and employers look at when hiring new staff. So, making the Dean’s List each semester is a good goal for students to aim for in maintaining high GPAs and setting themselves for the career paths of their choosing.