Options. They’re among the most significant, though often unsung, benefits of a nursing career.

Nurses might feel constrained by any number of things in their profession — too little time spent at the bedside, perhaps, or frustratingly noncompliant patients — but a lack of professional career options isn’t one of them. Abundant employment choices make nursing careers the envy of other professions. Nurses can select (or work toward) rewarding clinical or nonclinical positions in a wide variety of settings, from hospitals to clinics and from patients’ homes to law firms and large corporations.

Nursing jobs are plentiful, too. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of registered nurses will grow by 15% within the next decade, a far faster rate than the average expansion of all other occupations. While the availability of nontraditional nursing roles has escalated, most nurses still opt for direct care careers in the acute care setting; and hospitals remain the largest employers of RNs, accounting for 61% of all nurse hires, according to BLS.

But ambulatory care is quickly catching up. In all of the healthcare industry, outpatient clinics and physicians’ offices logged the biggest jump in new jobs as of the fourth quarter of 2017. While the early part of 2018 saw some fluctuation in healthcare hiring, the upward trend in new hires in the ambulatory care sector continued to dominate the healthcare employment market as of May 2018.

Together, industry trends, technological advances, and patient preferences account for a good portion of the shift. The healthcare industry’s pursuit of efficiency and cost effectiveness has prompted the migration of surgeries and other treatments once provided solely in acute care facilities to the outpatient realm. Technological innovations in anesthesia and pain control methods have turned complex procedures into minimally invasive ones that can safely be performed beyond hospital walls, and patients have signaled rising expectations for the convenience and shorter visits associated with outpatient care.

Transferable Skills

Nurses’ direct patient care skills have followed this shift. For some time, nurses working in acute care could readily transition their skills to outpatient settings, but nurses employed in ambulatory care rarely gained the experience in complex procedures and tasks necessary to take on jobs in hospitals. That gap is narrowing. As the skills of ambulatory care nurses have advanced, so too have their opportunities to use those skills in hospital positions.

Nurses who work in outpatient care can now find rewarding opportunities in hospitals and vice versa. Increasingly, nurses’ choice of hospital or clinic employment rests as much on their personal preferences as their clinical proficiency.

Still, there are distinct differences between clinic and hospital environments. If you’re considering career options in either ambulatory or acute care, take into account such factors as your lifestyle preferences, personality, financial needs, and career goals before making a move. Here are a few pointers on what you can expect in each employment setting:


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Clinic Careers

  • Size: Clinics come in all sizes, from compact three or four physician practices to sprawling specialty centers. No matter their square footage, clinics typically offer small, closely knit practitioner communities in which nurses and other clinicians form long-lasting professional bonds.
  • Scope: Generally speaking, clinics are specialty-oriented. On the one hand, this lessens the variety of healthcare issues nurses see in these settings. On the other hand, narrow clinical concentration allows nurses to hone their expertise in a specialty area.
  • Patient interaction: Nurses who opt for jobs in clinics tend to see fewer patients in a work day than do their hospital counterparts. They also see individual patients far more frequently, allowing them more opportunities to form effective, long-term nurse-patient and nurse-family relationships.
  • Atmosphere: Clinics experience their share of hustle and bustle; but for the most part they offer relaxed, predictable work environments that focus on patient wellness (as opposed to immediate care) and appeal to those who prefer routine.


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Acute Care Careers

  • Size: Medical centers, particularly academic medical centers like Eisenhower Health, are large, complex organizations. Their structure of interdependent departments — emergency, intensive care, surgical services, pediatrics, medical-surgical, and the like — promotes clinical specialization; but nurses in these settings must follow necessarily strict organizational rules, procedures, and policies.
  • Scope: Variety — in patients and procedures — is the norm in acute care facilities, which are equipped to handle any pressing medical issue. Unpredictability also describes this environment, where the condition of the sickest of patients may change from moment to moment. Nurses who succeed in hospital settings thrive on change.
  • Patient interaction: Nurses shoulder the burden of care for hospitalized patients; and in many departments, their interaction with patients is continuous. While acute care nurses plan and execute much of direct care activities, they often have little time to form relationships with patients, who, after discharge, they may never again see.
  • Atmosphere: Medical centers can be dramatic places in which to work. Fast-paced and high-energy, they also produce sorrowful, uncomfortable, or ethically challenging situations for nurses, particularly those involving patient mortality. Boredom has no place in hospital nursing careers. Adrenaline junkies are more likely to find job satisfaction in the acute care setting.
  • Hours and pay: Nurses in acute care tend to work longer hours with inconsistent schedules that frequently include third-shift, weekend, and holiday hours.

Eisenhower Health, a leading healthcare organization in the Coachella Valley, offers unparalleled opportunities for nurses in both our award-winning medical center and more than 30 state-of-the-art clinics located throughout the Palm Springs area. See what a rewarding nursing career with our health system offers on our Careers page, and bookmark our Clinic Careers pages to learn more about our outstanding clinic opportunities.

Originally posted on 14/6/2018

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