From the first day of nursing school, it’s made clear that working nights and weekends are part of the job. Wanting to become a nurse without a willingness to work off-hours and odd shifts might be considered by many to be a fool’s errand – but they might be wrong. The nursing profession now has many dimensions, and it is possible to be part of it without swing shifts and weekends. However, there are tradeoffs, and thinking through the choices will help you build a satisfying career.
Identify Your Ultimate Career Goal
The first consideration is one’s career trajectory. For example, if you want to become a nurse practitioner, critical care experience is essential– that means night and weekend shifts. However, short of that, there are many different non-bedside positions that can result in a satisfying career. In fact, Duquesne University says that 39% of nurses work in non-hospital settings.
One of the largest categories for non-acute nursing is the clinic and outpatient surgery setting. For the most part, they do not require nights and weekends. However, some organizations may require weekend rotations and others may require only Saturday shifts. These settings include, but are not limited to, the following specialties:
- Outpatient oncology and infusion centers
- Surgical and ambulatory care centers
- Kidney dialysis centers
- Endoscopy clinics
- Cath labs
- Outpatient cardiovascular centers
Depending upon the degree you hold, there are many interesting opportunities to work as a nurse in highly specialized areas of healthcare. Not all specialties require night and weekend shifts. Do your research before choosing a specialty if scheduling is of highest importance to you. Nurse specialties that are open to those with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) can include:
- Infection control
- Quality control
- Case management
- Healthcare informatics
- Clinical nurse educator
- Clinical development specialist/training and development specialist
- Nurse advocate (advocating for patients and their families)
- Telephone triage (telehealth) nurse
- Occupational health nurses in industry, manufacturing, corporations
- Adult day health care for seniors and memory centers
- Federal corrections facilities
Public Health or Travel Nursing
Nursing positions that connect you more closely with the community include jobs in physician offices, insurance companies, the government, community-based boards of health, elementary and high schools. You could also consider becoming a public health nurse or a travel nurse.
If you are looking for a job that is on the front lines of care, deals with challenging and tough cases, and doesn’t (usually) require nights and weekends, becoming a forensic nurse might be for you. Registerednursing.org describes forensic nurses as, “specializing in caring for patients who are the victims of trauma, violence, and abuse. They have a foundation in the criminal justice system as well as nursing. They are on the front lines when victims of crimes need help the most.” The job comes with a special warning. According to registerednursing.org, “Forensic nurses are exposed to emotionally draining and potentially disturbing cases, so having a stable work-life balance and support from family and friends is essential.”
Home Health Visiting Nursing
A burgeoning field is that of home health/visiting nurses. As the population ages and the baby boomer generation continues to age into their 65+ years and beyond, literally hundreds of thousands of home health nurses are going to be needed to provide their care. While not for everyone, these positions are in high demand. CNN reports that by 2025 there will be a shortage of 446,300 home health aides.
Working For Yourself
If you are interested in working for yourself, there are even more opportunities available to you. While you take on the risk of generating your own income, you gain ultimate flexibility in scheduling. Some of these positions can include:
- Concierge nurses paid privately by the patient to provide home care
- Legal nurse consultants who serve as expert witnesses in court cases and interpret medical records for lawyers and legal cases
- Nurses who assist those with terminal illnesses to develop care plans and manage end of life planning that can include insurance, legal, and medical issues
- Nurse health coaches who provide health and wellness planning and guidance to clients
- Nurse navigators who help clients wind their way through the leviathan healthcare system, resolving billing and insurance issues
There are numerous opportunities to be a nurse without working in a traditional clinical setting that requires night and weekend shifts. If one of your top priorities is having weekends off, examine the myriad opportunities closely, then choose a path that fits your lifestyle and will be sustainable over the long term.