INDUSTRY
July 19, 2021

This is How I Went From Nursing Student To Medical Device Sales Rep

This is How I Went From Nursing Student To Medical Device Sales Rep

The beauty of choosing a nursing degree is that having your credentials as an RN opens up an entire world of career paths for you. You can choose to work at the bedside, you can explore travel nursing or you can opt for a non-clinical role–no matter which path you choose, your education as a nurse prepares you in invaluable ways. 

And one career path that some nurses may be interested in exploring is medical device sales. A career in medical device sales offers many benefits, such as the opportunity to focus on a condition you’re passionate about, high-income potential, and a fast-paced and dynamic environment. 

Nurse.org chatted with Meaghan Saelens, RN, a recent nursing school graduate and new medical device sales rep with Zimmer Biomet,to learn more about how she has combined her nursing degree with a medical device sales career. 

What is Medical Device Sales?

First things first, what exactly is medical device sales? A career in medical device sales means that you will be acting as a product expert to both deliver product information, sales and in many companies, pre and post-sale support as well. That means that your job will involve,

  • Establishing relationships with other healthcare professionals who can benefit from the company’s products
  • Serving as an expert on how the product can support them and their patients 
  • Providing guidance on how to actually use the product

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What Does a Day Look Like in Medical Sales? 

As a medical device sales rep for spinal products, Meaghan explains that no two days ever look quite the same. (Hey, sounds a lot like nursing, right?) She splits her time between,

  • Professional education
  • Establishing relationships with surgeons
  • Attending surgeries in the OR and providing product support

She notes that this is definitely not a 9-5 career pathway–some days she’s logging long hours in the OR, while others may have more flexibility. 

“One of the benefits to being a medical device sales rep is that every day can be a little bit different,” she says. “That’s a pro to me, but I know it could be a con for others. One day, you could be doing sales calls or setting up for your next surgery and the next day you may have a full surgery day. It really just depends on the day. “ 

How Much Do Medical Device Sales Reps Make?

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t keep exact salary data on medical device sales representatives, according to Glassdoor, the average salary for a medical device sales rep is around $56K. That is lower than the BLS average of $75K for RNs, but you do have to keep in mind that sales rep salaries are highly variable and Glassdoor notes that some reps make near $100K. 

And as Meaghan tells Nurse.org, the income potential you have as a medical device sales rep can be extremely high. “The great thing about medical device sales is that you can make as much and as little as you want,” she says. “If you put in the time and work then you have the potential to make great money. It all comes down to your work ethic and how much time you are willing to put in to build your business.”

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Why Nurses Make Ideal Medical Device Sales Reps

Although you technically don’t need a background in healthcare to become a medical or pharmaceutical sales rep (typically, all that’s required is a Bachelor’s degree), nurses are definitely ideal candidates for the career for several reasons including:  

  • Possessing critical thinking skills
  • Excellent communication abilities
  • The ability to think on their feet and thrive in a fast-paced environment
  • Nurses have specialized knowledge about healthcare, disease processes and patient populations that translate well into the medical device field. 

For instance, Meaghan has found that her preparation as a nurse has been especially helpful in taking on her new role working with surgeons and specialized spinal surgical products. “Being an RN is definitely helpful because I have an understanding of human anatomy and pathophysiology, can use appropriate medical terminology when speaking to surgeons and feel comfortable in an OR environment,” she notes. 

In fact, Meaghan actually first became interested in medical device sales specifically because of her surgical rotation during nursing school. “I first became interested in medical device sales because there was a sales rep in one of the surgeries I was watching and I thought it seemed like a very interesting job,” she explains. “I liked the idea of being able to be involved in the surgeries and I really loved being in the operating room.”  

In addition to the technical aspects of the job that nursing has helped prepare her for, Meaghan also has found that her experience of going through nursing school helped her see the bigger picture of healthcare–and provided her with the valuable perspective of how vital teamwork is, no matter what aspect of patient care you are involved in. 

“Being a nurse has helped me a lot seeing what healthcare workers go through on a day to day basis,” she points out. “It really makes you appreciate that everyone in the hospital plays a role in helping every patient that comes through the door.”

How to Start a Career in Medical Device Sales

If you’re a nursing student potentially interested in a career in medical device sales, you can definitely start researching future opportunities while you’re still in school. In fact, Meaghan was able to score her first interview with a medical device sales company while she was still in her last semester of nursing school. 

She encourages current nursing students to reach out to a current rep in the field to try to learn from them and get guidance on their career pathway as well. “There are a lot of different medical device fields to choose from, so figure out what might interest you the most,” she suggests. And she points out that a career in device sales isn’t just about money; there are a lot of factors to consider such as the time that goes into the job, what kind of travel may be involved and what role you will play in the company. 

“I think a lot of people get into this field because there is a potential to make a good amount of money but this job is not as easy as it may seem,” she says. “Gather as much information about the field as you can and weigh out the pros and cons before making a decision.”

In the end, Meaghan hopes that other nurses and nursing students considering a career in medical device sales stay curious and committed to the path of learning they first embarked on during their education. 

“Medical device sales definitely requires stepping out of your comfort zone,” she says. “You need to be willing to put in more time studying even when you are fresh out of school and thought you would be done studying. You’ll learn something new every day in this field.” 

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