I left bedside nursing a couple of years ago for a couple of reasons. Well, maybe three reasons. Maybe more. First, Too many injuries to be able to carry on. I'd gotten to the point where I felt like every time I turned a patient in bed, I needed to fill out an accident report in case I'd re-injured my back and just didn't know it yet.
Second, the attitude of the hospital and my boss(es) about the injuries. I hurt my back and stayed home two days to try to recover. The day I came back, I got sciatic a$$ lock, foot drop as I was turning very quickly to leave a bedside, FELL on my FACE, breaking my right arm. I was dazed, but I'd filled out and signed an accident report and went to employee health, where the Workers comp NURSE (yeah, thanks, sister nurse!) changed the cause of that accident from sciatic a$$ lock to "tripped over phone cord." I'd already signed it!! So that was a big thing.
Third: Lack of staff on the job - made it more dangerous for me, and for my patients! One particularly heinous day, I'd asked charge nurse for help - I was drowning. Not a hand was turned to help out. The tech on my team had a wild-eyed, panic look on his face, and the only think I could tell him was not to panic. As long as WE didn't panic, it would turn out okay. The whole floor was in chaos and nobody could spend a minute to help, and *I* Couldn't spend a minute to help my co-workers. I think there were a lot of tears shed and more than a few glasses of wine drunk that night.
Fourth: The absolute, certain knowledge that the reason for the lack of staff available was because the NM was getting a lovely salary bonus for keeping HER floor under budget. Being pulled from that floor was like a day off - all the other floors had much better patient/nurse ratios.
Fifth - Money. $$$$. Cash dollars American. Everytime the NM said "in order to give you more than 3% (for role-model 'reviews') I'd have to go to the upper management. I'd just say, Okay, let me know when you're back.
Sixth. Schedule - you couldn't catch a decent schedule, and by the time I left, they weren't even *pretending* to be objective anymore.
Seventh - ahhh, I guess nothing. There is no seventh reason.
I'm working in clinical research as well. I don't love love love it like Beachnurse. My friend who kind of got me into this line is like you are, Beachnurse. I asked her how she liked her job, and she said that on a 1-10 schedule, she likes it 27! I love having the office hours, and the holidays off. I also often have a lot of freedom as far as hours, etc. I love my office and my big, mean computer.
I do miss bedside nursing. Who wouldn't??? I loved the fast pace and I loved being right in the thick of things (if it's thick, that's where I belong! heh heh) I miss being really good at something so very difficult. I miss being the 'pro from dover' on starting IV's on the really difficult sticks. I miss being able to figure out that somebody's afraid of pain medicine, and either help them accept some relief (if appropriate) or being so good in positioning and other techniques that they get relief anyway. I miss being so comfortable with other human beings that I feel free (and know I am welcome) to tweak their toes in bed as I leave the bedside. I miss the really high feeling when you've headed off a crisis. I miss having the urge to tell my fellow nurses "good show, kids" even when there was a code, and maybe it didn't go so well.
I am, at this point in my life very comfortable that I don't make life and death decisions umpty-dozen times a day --- OMG how long has that lab report printout been hanging on that door?? Yeah, I've lost my nerve. Especially now that nurses are being arrested and prosecuted (persecuted?) for errors. I don't miss working EVERY bloody holiday.....
I'll always be a nurse. I came upon a MA telling a very frail old lady "we've got you" when she and her hubby were trying to help her up to a scale in a doc's office. Even with my bad vision and even at a distance, it was obvious that the way this MA "Had" that lady would have broken her arm if she couldn't keep her feet under her. She couldn't. So there I am, in street clothes, RUNNING down somebody else's hall to get behind and under an elderly lady. You know, that was a big fat nothing, as far as my effort went, but the elderly hubby had tears in his eyes when he thanked me, effulsively. I've risked my life to help people before, with never a word of thanks. No big deal.
So, you might get (or just feel) looked-down upon a little bit by the bedside nurses, but your education and your background and experience and training will never leave you. Even when you think it has. Your instincts are tuned and probably polished, if you've been doing bedside care for any time at all. You'll see - they'll pop up whenever you need them. Plus, they will be a benefit to you, whereever your non-bedside care career takes you.