Registered nurses (RNs) are licensed nurses who have graduated from a nursing program and passed a national licensing exam qualifying them to care for patients in hospitals, physicians' offices, private homes, nursing homes, and many other health care facilities. Registered nurses make up the largest percentage of the U.S. health care workforce, with most working in private hospitals. RNs work closely with physicians and other health care professionals to treat the sick and injured in nearly every phase of care.
According to the numbers above, which come from the 2010 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in registered nurse are projected to grow faster than average by 2020. The specific duties performed by registered nurses depend on many factors, such as employer, location, and specialty. General duties might include the following:
- Administer medication and treatments to patients
- Consult with doctors and other medical personnel about treatment plans
- Observe patients' health and keep record of symptoms, medical histories, and test results
- Teach patients how to manage illnesses and injuries, as well as educate the general public on health issues
Registered nurses are physician's right-hand assistants in nearly all health care facilities. Their broad knowledge, diverse clinical skills, and attentive bedside manner make them an invaluable part of the medical community. This noble profession is expected to see continued job growth in the coming years because of medical advancements and a growing demand for healthcare services. Registered nurse careers will be impacted as more people turn to home health care services and long-term care facilities for treatment.
Job Growth for
- Annual Pay National Average
- Hourly Pay National Average
Becoming a Registered Nurse
There are a few different education routes you can take to become a registered nurse. The Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN) is the most traditional degree route for prospective RNs, which requires a high school diploma or some college credit to be considered for admission. Other routes to licensure include earning an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma from an approved nursing program. In addition to their general education classes and electives, nursing students will also take many nursing courses and a variety of physical, social, and behavioral science courses.
All nursing programs require supervised clinical practicums in different hospital departments, like pediatrics, maternity, surgery, and geriatrics. During these learning experiences, students can get a first-hand look at different health care specialties and put their knowledge and skills into practice. In general, BSN programs take four years to complete, while ADN and diploma programs last two or three years.
- Basic Skills of Nursing Practice
- Legal and Ethical Issues in Clinical Practice
- Care in Illness
- Psychosocial Nursing in Health and Illness
To practice in the United States, all registered nurses must have an active nursing license. After completing a nursing program, graduates will prepare to take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Test scores and other state-specific licensing requirements are evaluated by boards of nursing and used to determine a candidate's career readiness. Certification is another option for those seeking specialty credentials, such as ambulatory care or gerontology.