Think back to your kindergarten days learning about career paths. You covered the basics: Lawyer, doctor, teacher and nurse.

But even after we grow up, it’s easy to forget that nurses don’t just administer IV drips in hospitals. Instead, from health care systems development to research to teaching, the following three women prove nursing opens many unique and non-traditional doors.

While completing her diploma, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing, Heather McConnell always enjoyed her clinical placements. However, after graduation, it was her love for sharing her knowledge and skills that landed her other positions managing nursing education and staff development.

She now uses her expertise on a systems level as the associate director of international affairs/best practice guideline program for the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.

“All of the work we’re doing ... is really to advance nurses in their profession, but also to impact the quality of patient care,” she says.

Many of the extensive guides McConnell oversees are more than 100 pages long, and give nurses important information about topics such as obesity, dental care and breastfeeding.

Cheryl Forchuk, a nurse scientist at the University of Western Ontario, knows that being a nurse is also about getting involved in the community. Her research on poverty and homelessness has helped change the way the medical community responds to those in need.

“I work with people who have had a lot of disadvantages, who have faced a lot of stigmas and discrimination,” says Forchuk.

Forchuk says her job requires not only patience, but also imagination.

“What I like best about mental health is what we don’t know,” she says. “There are so many areas of grey that it calls upon you to use a lot of creativity.”

Amy Hunter perhaps best embodies the world of possibilities nursing offers. She has spent 20 years as a registered nurse in everything from pediatric critical care to elementary school heath teaching to advocacy work.

Hunter is now a public health nurse for Halton Region and a part-time faculty member at McMaster University’s School of Nursing. She was also instrumental in urging her hometown of Milton to ban pesticides.

“Nursing is the idea of helping people. But there are so many options with nursing and so much to do that you can never get bored,” says Hunter. “Bottom line, there are tons of opportunities out there to make a difference.”

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