Registered Nurse

Registered nurses (RNs) make-up the largest portion of healthcare workers in the United States with around 2.6 million jobs, most of which are in hospitals. Registered nurses may also work in schools, offices, community centers or in home health – which allows them to offer patient care right from the patient’s home.

Become a Registered Nurse

To become a registered nurse you must complete both educational and licensure requirements set forth by the state’s Board of Nursing in which you would like to practice. To learn more about the requirements for licensure as a registered nurse, find your state here.

In general, however, there are three distinct pathways to becoming a registered nurse: a bachelor’s degree program (BSN), associate’s degree program (ADN) and a diploma from an approved nursing program. The options vary in length, depth and their location. For example, a 4 year BSN program will prepare you to become an advanced practice nurse by earning your Master’s in Nursing more thoroughly than a 2-3 year AND program at a community or junior college.

After completing one of the three programs mentioned above you must complete a national licensing examination, the NCLEX-RN, and any other requirements from your state before becoming a licensed registered nurse.

Continuing education is a large part of being a nurse. As a registered nurse you will be expected to be a lifelong learner – constantly keeping up to date on cutting edge healthcare practices and research. Some states require continuing education as a means for licensure renewal.

Registered Nursing Jobs

Registered nurses represent the largest portion of healthcare workers in America with about 2.6 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The career outlook appears to be excellent for registered nurses with the employment of registered nurses to increase by 22% from 2008 to 2018, about 580,000 jobs, which is much faster than for other occupations. The national average salary for a registered nurse is $64,241 – but will vary depending on both your location, experience and education. Learning more about registered nurse salaries and where to find your registered nursing job.

Roles and Responsibilities

In general, a registered nurse will be responsible for the treatment, education and advising of patients. Throughout this process a registered nurse will interpret and add to a patient’s medical history, perform and interpret diagnostic tests, work with medical machinery, administer both treatments and medications, develop nursing care plans, participate in follow-ups and rehabilitation and interact with the patient’s family to ensure that they are knowledgeable about the patients situation and able to offer assistance and support where necessary.  

Specific work responsibilities may vary widely from one RN to the next due to the large number of specializations available to RNs. RNs may specialize in a particular area of care such as an operating room or emergency room, a specific health condition such as diabetes management or substance abuse, a specific organ or body systems such as the kidneys or circulatory system, or RNs may specialize in a specific patient population such as adolescents (pediatrics) or the elderly (gerontology). There are even registered nurse specializations that require little to no direct patient care such forensics nurses, infection control nurses and nurse educators. 

Some specializations may require additional education and training beyond a license as a registered nurse. Specialty credentialing is available through the American Nursing Credentialing Center, the National League for Nursing as well as other organizations. 

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