5 ideal side gigs for nurses

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Whether you want to earn extra money, practice different skills, or just enjoy a change of scenery and new tasks outside of your full-time nursing role, side gigs offer many benefits for nurses. Sometimes referred to as moonlighting, working a part-time job on the side may help provide some additional variety from your full-time role, utilizing different skillsets and meeting goals and needs that your full-time role does not. If you are a nurse who is seeking a permanent or full-time career change out of clinical nursing, working a second job on the side is a great way to try out different types of careers on a part-time basis to see if they’d fit for you on a long-term, full-time basis.

What are some ideal moonlighting opportunities for nurses? Here are some recommendations from nurses who have specific side gig experience.

1.) Patient advocate – Patient advocates help patients navigate the complex bureaucracy of the health care system to obtain the highest quality of appropriate medical care at a fair cost. As a patient advocate, nurses can help meet an important, often unfilled, patient need to help them avoid drowning in huge medical bills, according to Gail Trauco, RN, BSN-OCN. “Huge medical bills create stress even for financially secure families, who suddenly watch their dreams crumble to dust after a life-threatening accident or illness.” She adds that the uptick in surprise medical bills and COVID-19 have increased the demand for patient advocacy.

Why is patient advocacy a great side gig? “Nurses are experts and reading medical records and extracting data. Medical bill negotiation and reconciliation requires hours of detailed review of medical records and medical bills,” Trauco explains.

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How can nurses get started as a patient advocate? Contract positions are available with established patient advocacy medical negotiation groups. You can research and join a network and “bid” on medical bill cases. Entrepreneurial professionals may want to establish their own business entity and market themselves to obtain clients. One can feasibly launch a patient advocacy practice for about $750-1,000 which includes business cards, a self-designed website, web hosting, logo design, legal forms from Legal Zoom, etc.

How much may nurses earn as a patient advocate? A fee of 20-30% is collected based on the amount a patient saves on the total medical bill. You will need a credit card payment system for billing and legal agreements for client signature that details your payment structure requirements. Payment is based upon YOUR success in negotiating the medical bills. Trauco states that her business has grown to more than $1.5 million in annual revenue, employing seven part-time advocates. Although she started solely with medical billing issues, her business has grown to include “life advocacy management,” including medical, estate, business, and financial crisis resolution.

2.) Writing: Health care writers are always in high demand, and many nurses have strong writing and editing skills. You can help write articles, marketing copy, or blog posts related to health care issues either for patients and consumers or in a corporate/business setting.

Why is this a great side gig? The hours are flexible, you can do it remotely from home, and it is COVID-safe as it requires minimal interaction if any. Also, there are no additional certifications or degrees required – just great writing skills and your healthcare knowledge.

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How can nurses find health care writing jobs, or get started as a health care writer? Nurses may search gigs and apply on freelance websites such as Upwork and Elance, and also LinkedIn is a great resource for finding jobs, identifying potential content needs, and networking. It’s helpful if you can position yourself as a subject matter expert (SME) within your medical specialty, perhaps, or within a segment of health care where you have particular expertise or interest. You can do this by posting content on LinkedIn and connecting with decision-makers at companies that need health care content.

How much can nurses earn as a health care writer? This varies depending upon your experience and skill level, the type of health care writing (highly technical writing may earn higher rates), and the employer. This also depends on how well and how quickly you write. Writers may charge by the hour, by the word, or by the project, and rates vary widely. “Medical writing hourly rates can be as low as $30 and as high as $180, depending on the type of client, the type of work, and the duration of the project,” according to FreelanceWriting.com.

3.) Teaching – With the growth of online nursing programs, as well as community education and CNE opportunities, there are several options for nurses to work as instructors, professors, and educators on the side.

Why is teaching a great side gig? “As nurses, we usually educate patients and family members on a one-on-one basis, so the transition to teaching students is natural,” states Ann Kriebel-Gasparro, DrNP, FNP-BC, and faculty member for Walden University’s Master of Science in Nursing program. “Over the years, I have heard from many nurses who were interested in teaching as a side gig, because they love to educate others and they would also love to earn a little extra money.”

What credentials are required? According to Kriebel-Gasparro, BSN nurses may teach ADN or BSN students in a clinical setting if they have a day or two per week available to mentor students in a hospital setting. Most programs will require an MSN to teach didactic classes to BSN or MSN students. This can often be done while working full time, during one or two evenings per week. “For nurses interested in teaching NP students, a CRNP/MSN is required, as well as a license in the state where the school is located. This type of teaching can be part-time and currently, due to the pandemic, it can also be done mostly online,” explains Kriebel-Gasparro. Those interested in teaching DNP students will need a doctorate, she adds.

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How can nurses find teaching gigs? Volunteering and networking are great ways to find side gigs, in addition to applying online. “I practiced as a CRNP for over 20 years, and during that time I volunteered to be a teaching assistant at a university. This was my first time teaching in a classroom setting, and it was a great learning experience,” states Kriebel-Gasparro. “Realizing I wanted to teach more, I updated my resume to highlight my relevant experience, which included educational classes I had given to patients on hypertension, as well as my teaching assistant experience. I sent my resume to all the colleges and universities in my area and was contacted by a large university where I began teaching a clinical course one day per week in the hospital, and one day per week in the classroom. I learned so much from my peer instructors there, and one of the most valuable experiences I had was helping with simulation in the lab.”

How many hours a week does this side gig typically entail? This really depends upon your individual schedule – you may be able to teach as many or as few hours or classes as you are able to. Kriebel-Gasparro states that her teaching gigs have typically averaged about 10 hours per week, which has worked for her and her schedule. Additionally, “there are regulations for the number of clinical students one faculty member can take on at a time, with the limit being eight. This is especially important if you are supervising students in a hospital setting and supervising their medication dispensing,” she adds.

How much can nurses earn teaching? Nursing educators may earn about $35-75 per hour, according to AllNursingSchools.com. An additional perk for those teaching at universities and colleges may include free tuition, which Kriebel-Gasparro has enjoyed during her tenure as a teacher. She believes strongly that nurses should always continue to further their education. “As nurses, whether at the MSN, NP or Ph.D. level, we do not automatically have the experience or knowledge required to teach. Seek out opportunities to teach that will help advance your experience and knowledge in this area, whether by volunteering or working part-time, and bolster your resume with these experiences. Many universities offer classes on online teaching or a certificate in education, which are also invaluable to add to your resume when seeking a teaching position,” she advises.

4.) NCLEX Exam Review Specialist – “As a National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) review specialist, I would get assigned to a group from a specific university or college and would then conduct the review course for students who had graduated and were waiting to take the NCLEX,” states Tracy Jones-Darnell, EdD, RN, CNE, a faculty member for Walden University’s RN-to-BSN program. “I was primarily assigned to the Southern region but would occasionally receive assignments for schools as far as Texas. Each review course consisted of three, six-hour days.”

How can nurses find side gigs as an exam review specialist? Once again, networking reigns as a key way to get a foot in the door with a new side gig, which is how Jones-Darnell found her opportunity as an exam review specialist. “I was at a nursing conference and met some representatives from the company who suggested that I apply to work with them,” she says. “I highly recommend attending state or national nursing conferences whenever possible. They provide valuable opportunities to network with like-minded nurses who may work in other areas, but all share a passion for nursing and may be able to help introduce you to interesting side gig prospects.”

Time investment: Jones-Darnell says the role allows for flexibility to work around your schedule. “I had the flexibility to schedule my review courses around my days or weeks away from my full-time position. On average, I would do one review course per month and two courses during the high-volume months after most university graduations. At most, I worked six, six-hour days per month, but usually, I just worked three, six-hour days per month,” she explains. While the flexibility is a plus, there were some challenges to the role, she adds.

One challenge is the travel, when applicable. “It was difficult to be away from my family for the week. You don’t have flexibility to change the dates in case of personal extenuating circumstances,” Jones-Darnell states. “I still consider it a very rewarding position that challenged me both mentally and professionally.” She says she learned a lot and further strengthened and reinforced her clinical knowledge in preparation for the courses. “As nurses, we are expected to know everything about every condition. I felt that after I prepared for these courses, I knew significantly more than I had already learned from all of my years as a bedside nurse.” Jones-Darnell notes that the role is being transitioned into a remote/online role due to the pandemic but may resume as an onsite, in-person role when travel is more accessible.

5.) Home Health Aide/In-Home Caregiver: This highly flexible gig is in great demand and requires no additional qualifications. A typical caregiver job description may include meal preparation and cooking, conversation and companionship, transportation, running errands, helping with personal care and more.

What makes this a great side gig for nurses? The job offers great flexibility with schedules and takes place in the safety and comfort of someone’s home. Additionally, nurses can earn competitive wages, in addition to benefits, opportunities for advancement and training. Additionally, there are no other credentials or requirements needed to work in home health other than experience and education in nursing.

How to find gigs in home health: One company, Comfort Keepers is currently hiring throughout Georgia. “We are looking for compassionate, responsible nurses or other caregivers to provide seniors better quality of life in the comfort of their own homes – providing moments of joy, big or small, every day,” states Kristina Butler, RN, founder of Comfort Keepers. “We know our caregivers get a lot of intangible benefits from this work too – our Comfort Keepers are dedicated to providing the highest level of uplifting care and they find purpose and meaning through their work with seniors,” she adds.