Healthcare is a high growth field and nursing programs are a particularly popular choice for students.1 A primary reason why many nursing students feel drawn to the field is their desire to make a difference in people’s lives. Yet, while nursing jobs can be meaningful and fulfilling, they can also be stressful.
Nurses often work long hours in fast-paced environments and must be able to handle the stress of having a person’s life in their hands. This added pressure can be exhausting, which has nurses and aspiring nurses, alike, asking the question, “Do low-stress nursing jobs exist?” The answer, fortunately, is yes. There are plenty of jobs that offer the satisfaction of being a nurse while working in lower stress positions and environments.
The Least Stressful Nursing Jobs With a Focus on Education
Some of the least stressful nursing jobs focus on education. This category includes a variety of career paths, such as educating the next generation of nurses or educating patients within a healthcare setting.
For the foreseeable future, there will be more job openings for nurses than there are qualified nurses to fill them. This means that there is a critical need for nursing instructors to educate and train the next generation of nursing professionals.
Some nurse educators work in classroom settings delivering lectures, training students in skills labs, teaching critical thinking and clinical reasoning in simulated clinical settings, and grading assignments. Others deliver hands-on instruction in clinical settings, enabling students to acquire real-world experience working with patients. This latter type of nurse educator is sometimes referred to as a “clinical nurse instructor.”
Although it varies from state to state and from one educational institution to the next, nurse educators who work in the classroom at four-year universities are generally expected to hold a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing. Clinical nurse instructors are more likely to hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing.
If you decide that you would rather work with patients than with aspiring nurses, consider pursuing a career as a patient educator. It can be a distressing experience for a patient when they have been recently diagnosed with a disease or other medical condition. Patient educators work with such patients and their families to help them understand their diagnosis and recommended treatment options, enabling them to make informed decisions about their health.
Often, patient educators also consult with family members about their loved one’s condition and treatment and how best to care for their loved one at home. These professionals may also develop specialized nursing care plans for the management of a patient’s health condition. Patient educators typically work in hospitals, clinics or home health agencies.
Low-Stress Nursing Jobs That Do Not Involve Direct Patient Care
Not all nursing jobs involve providing care directly to patients, or training future nurses. If you are interested in a nursing career that will enable you to work toward breakthroughs in patient care, you might consider becoming a nurse researcher. This job allows you to work behind the scenes to improve patient outcomes, without direct patient care.
Nurse researchers design and carry out scientific studies that seek to improve understanding of diseases and other medical conditions. They may also study the effectiveness and safety of new medications and treatment options. Nurse researchers typically prepare their findings for publication in scientific journals or presentation at professional conferences.
Nurse researchers need an advanced degree. It is possible to find a job as a nurse researcher with a master’s degree, although many employers require a doctoral degree in nursing. To pave the way for career advancement, nurse researchers may opt to sit for the certification exam offered by the Society for Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA).
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Least Stressful Nursing Jobs Outside of the Hospital
Not all nurses work in hospitals; some are found in less conventional settings. The following nursing jobs tend to be less stressful because they offer a slower work pace and may involve fewer life-or-death situations.
Occupational Health Nurse
Many employers recognize that their employees are more productive and less likely to call in sick when they are healthy. For this reason, some employers invest in occupational health programs. An occupational health nurse is a registered nurse who educates employees about healthy lifestyles and injury prevention, treats on-the-job injuries and ensures that the workplace is as safe as possible for workers.
Home Healthcare Nurse
If the thought of working in a new setting every day appeals to you, you might consider pursuing a career as a home healthcare nurse. As a home healthcare nurse, you will visit patients in their homes, evaluating their condition and administering treatments. Home healthcare nurses often work with patients of all ages, and may also work with patients who are recovering from major surgery or have serious medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes or congestive heart failure.
Low-Stress Nursing Jobs That Focus on Preventive Wellness
Nurses work with a wide range of patients suffering from all sorts of injuries and ailments. It can be frustrating for nurses to see patients develop a severe medical condition or complication that could have been prevented, a problem that the following careers focus on.
Public Health Nurse
The subfield of public health emphasizes preventive healthcare policies and programs. The goal of a public health nurse is to understand trends in illnesses and injuries and to develop programs or advocate for policies that facilitate the prevention of these conditions. The duties of a public health nurse may include:
- Evaluating health trends and identifying risk factors that are widespread in a particular community
- Designing and implementing health education programs to reach objectives
- Distributing health literacy information to populations
- Advocating for underserved populations to have better access to healthcare services
Nurse Health Coach
If the preventive wellness aspect of public health nursing appeals to you but you would prefer to work more closely with patients, you might consider a career as a nurse health coach. Some patients may turn to a nurse health coach for personalized, hands-on assistance with improving their health.
A nurse health coach meeting with a new patient will first review the patient’s health history and concerns and discuss the patient’s goals for improved wellness. The patient and nurse health coach will then collaborate during strategy-planning sessions while considering solutions that can contribute to a healthier lifestyle.
Nurse health coaches may work in a variety of settings. Some are employed by insurance companies or other corporations in an occupational health setting. Others work in hospitals, home health agencies or their own private practices.
Which Nursing Degree Is Right for Your Career Goals?
If any of these nursing jobs appeals to you, it is time to begin thinking about the pathway toward your ideal career. If you do not yet have a nursing degree, you will need to get started on your postsecondary education by enrolling in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program that leads to licensure. Then, you will need to earn your nursing license by passing the NCLEX-RN exam.
If you are already a practicing nurse who lacks a BSN, you can enroll in an RN to BSN program. This is an accelerated program that builds on the clinical skills and knowledge you already possess.
Some of the above low-stress nursing jobs require a graduate degree. After earning your BSN and becoming a licensed nurse, it is a good idea to first gain practical experience in the field. Spend a few years working as a registered nurse in a hospital or clinic, then explore your graduate degree options.
Grand Canyon University aims to provide an exceptional academic experience for every student. If you would like more information about GCU’s nursing and healthcare programs, including the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, visit GCU’s College of Nursing and Health Care Professions or click on the Request More Information button at the top of this page.
1 Retrieved from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Healthcare Occupations in March 2022
2 Cannot be used in conjunction with other GCU scholarships or awards.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.