Working During Nursing School: The Best Jobs for Nursing Students

Working During Nursing School: The Best Jobs for Nursing Students

Juggling work and university is nothing new – according to a report by Georgetown University, nearly 80% of college students in the U.S. hold at least one part-time job. However, working during nursing school provides extra challenges: juggling classes, exams, and clinicals means that you won’t be the ideal recruit for most classic student jobs.
At the same time, if you have enough breathing room to choose, the right job will help you apply what you are learning or even get some extra experience that will put you ahead of the class.
Best jobs for nursing students
Ximena Lama-Rondon

  ·  

May 11, 2022

Table of Contents

What Makes a Job Good for Nursing Students?

The perfect job for a nursing student would pay a lot for relatively few hours, without exerting you physically, and where you can pick and choose the hours you work daily. Plus, they should give you health insurance, free breakfast, and provide you with a free laundry service.

But let’s be real here: if such a job exists, it’s unlikely that they will allow you to begin tomorrow. When compiling this list, I steered clear from what’s “perfect” and instead sought to meet as many critical perks as possible:

  • Provides access to the healthcare world: No matter how much classroom training you get, the best way to avoid looking like a headless chicken on your first day of clinicals is to understand how hospitals work. 
  • Physically undemanding: Nursing school is already demanding. If you can, avoid adding any more hours of standing at work so you can feel fresher during clinicals.
  • Flexible schedules: University schedules come with crunch periods. In Nursing school, this is compounded by irregular clinical rotations and the occasional intensive seminar. Shift work and self-employment tend to be more accomodating in this regard.
  • No unrelated degrees needed: The whole point of nursing school is to get your degree, right? While none of the options on this list requires a Bachelor’s or Associates, we have included some that need a short-term certificate in healthcare-related fields.
  • Good value: Time is a precious commodity for nursing students. When in doubt between two similar positions, try to get as many dollars per hour as you can.

No job will meet all of these at once, or to the same degree. Based on your particular situation, one of these factors may be less important or should be moved to the top of your list. Most good jobs for nursing students will meet at least two of these criteria.

Planning to Work Part-Time? Here are the Top 6 Options

Part-time jobs for nursing students are easier on your schedule and your sanity. Some of the best options are:

1. Hospital clerk

Although not very lucrative, hospital clerks are needed 24/7 to help handle the immense amount of paperwork that a hospital routinely processes. This job may include chasing down test results, liaising with insurance companies, locating past records for patients who show up for Emergency care, and providing general administrative support at outpatient offices.

Why is it great for nursing students?

Hospital clerks get to see an angle of hospital life that most students never get to see – all while remaining at a desk. Depending on the hospital, you may rotate between units and therefore encounter the jargon used by different specialities. You will also get a chance to talk to nurses and brush up on your patient communication skills.

Requirements: Technically, just a high school diploma. Any past admin or office experience will help strengthen your application.

The downside: You won’t get many opportunities for hands-on patient care.

2. Medical scribe or transcriptionist

The migration to electronic health records means that most doctors now expect to input a medical history number and receive an in-depth summary of information. Yet, someone still needs to record the main findings of each examination, upload results, and log each patient interaction in the hospital’s central database.

Doctors rarely have the time to do this. Instead, they will send recordings with their main summaries to a medical transcriptionist who will do the actual transcribing.

Why is it great for nursing students?

You will get access to a lot of healthcare information. If you take the time to research the key terms you come across, you can have a valuable leg up when it’s time to study Pathophysiology or Health Assessment. Plus, many positions allow you to work from home.

Requirements: Fast typing and familiarity with computers. Some hospitals specifically like to recruit nursing and medical students for these positions.

The downside: It doesn’t pay much more than a regular on-campus job. A work from home position may save you time, and it may be more comfortable, but you will miss the opportunity to connect with healthcare professionals.

3. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Certified nursing assistants help nurses with many of the basic tasks required to care for patients. This includes checking their vital signs, grooming, feeding, and even helping bathe or move those who are bed-bound. 

Why is it great for nursing students?

This is not just one of the best jobs for nursing students, but it’s practically a requirement at some schools. Many RNs and even medical students try to get a CNA license before applying for admission: it strengthens your application, shows commitment and experience with  healthcare, and it will help you gain more independence during clinicals.

Almost every hospital employs a small army of CNAs. Most hospice and long-term-care facilities also employ CNAs. You will likely have your pick of job locations and shifts.

Requirements: You will need a CNA license (that’s why it says certified). The requirements will vary by state, but they usually include completing a CNA training course, some clinical practice hours and passing an exam. That being said, a CNA license can be obtained in as little as 2 months.

The downside: You will need the license first, which is an additional expense. Plus, CNAs don’t earn as much as they deserve. Working as a CNA can be pretty intense, and nurses often fail to respect them as they should.

4. Patient Care Technician (PCT) or Phlebotomist

Depending on your state, PCTs and phlebotomists can act as a “CNA+.” This means they can do all the same tasks as CNAs in addition to more specialized procedures. 

Phlebotomists are also authorized to draw blood. PCTs can go a step further and operate medical devices such as EKG machines, remove stitches, or even start some types of catheters.

Why is it great for nursing students?

Many of the most intimidating procedures for first-year nursing students are the bread and butter of PCT work. Because they have more responsibilities, PCTs also tend to be paid more than CNAs. Plus, PCTs and phlebotomists can rotate their shifts with a fair degree of flexibility.

Requirements: PCT and Phlebotomy licenses usually build off an existing CNA license. In some states, you can get certified after completing an approved program, passing an exam, on-the-job training, or a combination of these.

The downside: Either of these licenses are harder and more expensive to get than a CNA license. Depending on the type of hospital or unit, you may also have to work graveyard shifts or follow a pretty intense pace.

5. At-home caregiver

At-home caregivers usually perform the same tasks as CNAs but at the patient’s home. This may include bathing them, helping them move around, or even escorting them to their doctor’s or therapy appointments. You will be working one-on-one with a homebound or disabled person or with a child with special needs.

Why is it great for nursing students?

At-home care will help you nurture many of the same skills you will use later as a nurse, but at a slower pace. Homes are generally less stressful than hospitals, and you will likely have a lot more downtime in which to study or relax.

Requirements: Some caregiver agencies only require a high school degree and provide on-the-job training. Others require you to have a CNA license.

The downside: You will have a lot less supervision than at a hospital, which can be scary. Working with just one patient can be both a blessing or a curse, especially if you get an unpleasant patient or if you just don’t get along with their family.

6. Medical interpreter or translator

Medical interpreters help doctors and nurses communicate with patients who don’t speak English or prefer to broach delicate topics in their native language. Meanwhile, medical translators most often translate medical records for tourists or travellers who need to claim a refund for the care they received abroad. Occasionally, they also translate pharmaceutical materials or informational leaflets.

Interpreters usually work on-site or via video call. Translators typically work from home.

Why is it great for nursing students?

You can learn a lot from just going through a patient’s history or from listening in to their consults. You will get to see many day-to-day interactions and help people without the pressure of “proving yourself” as a future nurse. Both positions are pretty flexible (mainly translating: you can do it at 3 AM after you finish studying for your finals) and the positions are generally well-paid.

I found medical translations fascinating, but it was medical interpreting that eventually drove me into nursing. For people who are scared and in pain, accessing care in their native language can make a world of difference.

Requirements: In addition to fluency in a second language, you will usually need to take a certificate in medical terminology. Interpreters generally need to be board-certified. The certification process includes testing on interpreting techniques, cultural awareness, and confidentiality.

The downside: Unless you sign up with an agency, it can be hard to get steady work as a medical translator. Even as an on-site interpreter, you won’t get any hands-on patient care. It can be hard to be an impartial observer in situations where your instincts scream otherwise.

Nursing School and Working Full Time – Can it Be Done?

Nursing school and working part-time is already a challenging experience – so is it possible to work full time at all?

To be honest, it’s probably not impossible, but it is by no means easy. At the very least, you will need to take longer to complete your program’s requirements. If circumstances force you to work full time while at nursing school, you can try any of the following strategies:

  • Enroll in half the course load per semester
  • Talk to your academic advisor or clinical coordinator, and spread out your rotations over twice the time
  • Try to work as a CNA or hospital clerk in the same hospital system or university where you attend clinicals.

Conclusion

For most of us, working during nursing school is a necessity, not a choice. However, it can still provide you with valuable experience. Good jobs for nursing students should provide you with flexible scheduling and with access to the healthcare world. If you play your cards right, you may even get ahead of your class, at least for specific courses.

A portrait of ximena, she is smiling into the camera

Ximena Lama-Rondon

Ximena is a copywriter and medical interpreter turned Nursing student. She feels very strongly about patient education and about opening healthcare access among women from immigrant and rural communities. During her downtime, she enjoys jogging, RPG gaming, and reading about classical history.

Further Reading

Writing Notes for Studying in Nursing School

Note-taking is not one-size-fits all, so I’ve outlined some tips for taking notes in nursing school and considerations that can help you pinpoint the note-taking method that will work best for you.

Going to Nursing School at 30 – It’s Not Too Late!

Switching careers after the age of 30 is often seen as an unorthodox choice. Yet, it is a surprisingly common one in nursing. As someone who will not become an RN before 34, I can shed some light on the practicalities and emotions that come with joining nursing as an older adult.

A Day in the Life of a Nursing Student

As someone who has completed both a B.A. and a full-time nursing program, I won’t hesitate to say it: being a student nurse is significantly more demanding than pursuing a regular undergraduate degree.

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