Nursing Career Paths: 8 Least Stressful Nursing Jobs to Explore

It's no secret that nursing can be stressful. But what are the lower-stress roles for nurses? Our list includes 8 of the lowest-stress nursing jobs.

portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Published August 10, 2022

Reviewed by Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC

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Nursing Career Paths: 8 Least Stressful Nursing Jobs to Explore
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Nurses face high-stress situations regularly. With a shortage of nurses and high-stakes work environments, it's no surprise that many nurses report burnout.

But some nursing careers are less stressful than others. While there's no such thing as an easy nursing job or a stress-free role in healthcare, some specialties are less stressful than others. The work setting, job responsibilities, and even the hours can all mean less stress for nurses in the following fields.

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Ready to start your journey?

Our list introduces the least stressful nursing jobs to help prospective and current nurses find sustainable career paths.

Is the Nursing Industry Stressful?

Nursing is a stressful career. A recent survey found that 90% of nurses are considering leaving the profession. Because of burnout and stress, 44% of nurses report looking for new, less-stressful nursing roles, according to a 2021 Incredible Health survey of 2,500 nurses.

What makes nursing stressful? Staffing shortages, an ongoing pandemic, and the physical requirements of the job contribute to burnout. So do the hours and the health risks nurses face.

ICU nurses, ER nurses, oncology nurses, and psychiatric nurses work in some of the highest-stress environments for these professionals. These roles come with heavy workloads, high stakes, and stressful settings.

Common Causes of Nursing Stress

8 Less Stressful Nursing Jobs

School Nurse

Average Annual Salary (June 2022): $47,6500
Job Outlook (2020-2030):
9%

School nurses assess student health issues and educate families on wellness. They treat minor injuries and administer medications at school. School nurses also advise the school community on health issues, including mental health.

School nursing qualifies as one of the least stressful nursing jobs because of the schedule and typical tasks. Instead of working on a hospital schedule, school nurses work on an academic calendar. School nurses usually hold a bachelor's degree and a registered nursing license. In some states, school nurses also need a state-issued license to work in public schools.

Nurse Educator

Average Annual Salary (June 2022): $79,860
Job Outlook (2020-2030):
9%

Nurse educators train nurses and healthcare staff in common procedures. They create continuing education materials and evaluate staff to assess their knowledge. Nurse educators may also create patient care policies and train staff.

Most nurse educators are registered nurses with several years of clinical experience. Some hold a master's degree. They frequently coordinate with administrative staff to keep the organization running smoothly. Taking on educational responsibilities and working with other nurses makes the role less stressful.

Primary Care Nurse

Average Annual Salary (June 2022): $68,910
Job Outlook (2020-2030):
9%

Primary care nurses provide wellness and routine care for patients of all ages. They often work in doctor's offices or outpatient clinics rather than hospital settings, which means more predictable hours and schedules.

The job duties of a primary care nurse include discussing health concerns with patients, taking vitals, and interacting with physicians. They also coordinate care between healthcare organizations. Compared with other clinical roles, primary care ranks among the least stressful nursing jobs.

Informatics Nurse

Average Annual Salary (June 2022): $79,270
Job Outlook (2020-2030):
32%

Informatics nurses manage electronic medical records to improve patient care. They implement new data tracking methods and train staff in using medical software. Informatics nurses may also customize software, analyze data, and report standards to review organizations.

Most informatics nurses hold at least a bachelor's degree with clinical experience. Some pursue master's degrees with specializations in health informatics to move into administrative roles. For nurses with tech skills, informatics nursing can be a less stressful and more fulfilling nursing job.

Clinical Research Nurse

Average Annual Salary (June 2022): $72,840
Job Outlook (2020-2030):
9%

Clinical research nurses monitor participants in clinical trials. For example, clinical research nurses might assist patients during a vaccine trial or a clinical trial for a new medical treatment. These professionals usually possess a background in clinical care plus an understanding of clinical trials.

While working on clinical trials can be stressful, nurses can also find it rewarding. Clinical research nurses interact with trial participants, other nurses, and physicians. They typically work normal business hours rather than hospital hours.

Occupational Health Nurse

Average Annual Salary (June 2022): $75,320
Job Outlook (2020-2030):
9%

Occupational health nurses promote health and wellness in business settings. Organizations hire nurses to care for minor injuries and prevent health and safety problems. They conduct wellness checks and promote the health of employees. Occupational health nurses also create educational programs to inform employees of job risks and general wellness.

These nurses typically hold a bachelor's degree and an RN license. Some pursue a master's degree. The work setting and job responsibilities make occupational health nursing one of the lower-stress nursing fields.

Lactation Consultant Nurse

Average Annual Salary (June 2022): $57,620
Job Outlook (2020-2030):
9%

Lactation consultant nurses help new parents with breastfeeding and lactation. They recommend methods to improve breastfeeding and advise parents on issues like latching, pain, and milk production.

Many lactation consultant nurses work in hospital settings where they meet with patients in postpartum recovery rooms. They may also offer lactation clinics or visit patients at home. Registered nurses can become lactation consultants with additional training. Lactation consultant nurses represent one of the low-stress nursing jobs because of the job duties and lower health risks.

Home Care Registered Nurse

Average Annual Salary (June 2022): $70,660
Job Outlook (2020-2030):
33%

Home care nurses care for patients in their homes. They often build a relationship with elderly or chronically ill patients, which may include palliative care. While home care nursing can cause emotional stress, the role also offers nurses the opportunity to work closely with a smaller number of patients in a non-clinical setting.

Many home care nurses hold RN licenses. With an aging population, home care nurses will likely see strong job growth over the next decade.

Frequently Asked Questions About Lower-Stress Nursing Jobs

What nursing jobs are the most stressful?

The most stressful nursing jobs include ICU nurse, ER nurse, and NICU nurse. In these roles, nurses work in an intense environment with high stakes. They manage emergency situations and care for critically ill patients.

Other stressful nursing jobs include OR nursing, oncology nursing, and psychiatric nursing. These roles may put nurses under physical strain while also putting their health at risk. Stressful nursing roles also come with long hours and high patient loads. Nurses in these roles report burnout, which they can combat by moving into less stressful roles.

What is the best nursing field to work in?

Many nurses in clinical roles report high burnout and low job satisfaction. But what are the best nursing fields? The roles with the highest job satisfaction include nurse educator, home health nurse, and nurse manager.

These roles provide a balance between caring for patients and working with other nurses. For example, nurse educators train nurses on clinical procedures, while nurse managers supervise teams of nurses. Nurses can find the right fit for their needs by considering their priorities. Working with a particular patient population or in a certain setting can reduce stress. Similarly, taking on meaningful responsibilities can increase job satisfaction.

What jobs can I do after nursing?

Many nurses are considering leaving their current roles. According to a recent survey, 90% of nurses say they're considering a career change. RNs can move into different specialties to draw on their healthcare training. For example, moving into an outpatient or educational role can relieve stress.

Nurses can also change industries. School nurses use their healthcare training in a school setting, while occupational health nurses promote wellness in corporate organizations. Nursing also prepares professionals for roles in business, social services, and tech.

Is becoming an RN worth it?

Registered nurses benefit from above-average salaries and many career advancement opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs reported a median annual salary of $77,600 in May 2021. The field is also growing, with a projected 194,500 new jobs each year from 2020-2030.

However, nurses also experience high levels of stress and burnout. When considering a career in nursing, research different specialties to find one that matches your needs. Nurses in outpatient roles typically find their jobs easier than those in high-stress clinical settings. A graduate degree can also help nurses move into lower-stress nursing jobs.

What type of nurse gets paid the most?

The highest-paid nurses include advanced practice RNs (APRNs) like nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists. According to BLS data, APRNs earned a median salary of $123,780 per year in May 2021.

Nurse anesthetists, the highest paid nurses, reported a median annual wage of $195,610. APRNs also benefit from strong projected job growth. The BLS ranks these nurses among the fastest-growing occupations, with 45% projected job growth from 2020-2030. At the BSN level, the highest-paid RNs include nurse informaticists, ICU nurses, and travel nurses.

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