The nurse practitioner field is becoming highly desirable for graduate nursing students with their Master of Science in Nursing as new opportunities arise and the role becomes a larger part of health care delivery. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioner employment, including family nurse practitioners, is projected to grow 31 percent through 2024. This increase is due in part to the fact that experts predict a shortage of primary care practitioners by 2020. Nurse practitioners are expected to fill this void and become fully integrated into health care delivery.
Health care workers entering the nurse practitioner field and seasoned nurse practitioners looking to make a change have begun turning to opportunities outside the hospital setting. Here are three popular, unique nurse practitioner jobs:
1. Urgent care clinics
Nurse practitioners who work in urgent care clinics treat families and patients of all ages and deal with a wide range of acuity levels. Unlike emergency care settings, urgent care environments provide medical assistance for immediate care but not for treatments of life-threatening injuries. This option is important, as it saves space, resources and money in emergency care settings, which usually need all the space and resources they have.
Urgent care settings are known for providing one of the most convenient and affordable choices for patients. For example, they’re very upfront about the pricing structure for patients with no insurance, providing clear information prior to treatment. There’s also a lot of collaboration with emergency departments, primary care physicians and other health care specialties to ensure the best possible patient care.
When it comes to the qualifications nurse practitioners need to work in urgent care settings, a master’s or doctorate degree is required and, according to the American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine, most nurse practitioners get experience working in an emergency department before taking on a role in an urgent care setting. Nurse practitioners working in this field are also paid a competitive salary, as Payscale shows that experience in urgent care settings increases family nurse practitioners’ earning potential by 13 percent. In fact, some of the highest paid family nurse practitioners work in urgent care.
2. Retail clinics
Retail clinics, which are typically staffed by nurse practitioners, offer a unique and rewarding work environment. Nurses in these roles work in clinics within major retail chains and drug stores to treat minor injuries and illnesses. These retail environments include MinuteClinics, which are quickly gaining popularity and are now affiliated with 32 health care providers such as Inova and the Cleveland Clinic.
In 2014, there were 1,600 retail clinics in the U.S. However, they’re expanding quickly due to the convenience and affordability they offer patients. In fact, Forbes reported that there were more than 10 million annual patient visits to retail health clinics in 2015 alone. By 2017, retail health clinics are forecasted to exceed 2,800, which is an increase of about 47 percent since 2014.
In addition to the convenience of these clinics, another reason for their growth may be the support received from physicians. A recent Accenture survey showed that more than two in five of 1,000 U.S. physicians said they were comfortable with patients using a retail clinic for preventative care. As a result, nurse practitioners are turning to these clinics for jobs, where they cater to the needs of patients with minor illnesses who require medical assistance but not immediate or urgent help. This alternative frees up space at primary care facilities as aging baby boomers increase the demand for health care.
3. Occupational health clinics
Occupational health clinics are quickly becoming a popular work environment for nurse practitioners. Nurses in occupational health roles ensure the safety and well-being of employees in a wide range of work settings, particularly those where workers are exposed to toxins or use heavy equipment or machinery. Nurse practitioners collaborate with employers to ensure the health of their workers but also act as advocates for the rights of employees by making sure they have access to preventative safety and health measures.
While some occupational health nurse practitioners do work in hospitals, many also are employed in workers’ compensation clinics and in manufacturing and production facilities. Some of their everyday responsibilities include treating injuries and illnesses for employees, developing workplace health programs and assessing workplace conditions to ensure they’re safe. Many occupational health nurses also counsel employees on their mental and physical health problems, as well as provide access to community resources or employee assistance programs.
Like most other nurse practitioner professions, a Master of Science in Nursing degree is required. Most nurses have an MSN in occupational health nursing or community health nursing, or a master’s of public health. Nurses in this field earn an average of $99,000 per year, which is on the higher side of the average nurse practitioner pay scale.