Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care and educate patients and the public about various health conditions.
What they do
Registered nurses (RNs) provide advice and emotional support to patients and their families.
Registered nurses typically do the following:
- Assess patients’ conditions
- Record patients’ medical histories and symptoms
- Observe patients and record the observations
- Administer patients’ medicines and treatments
- Set up plans for patients’ care or contribute information to existing plans
- Consult and collaborate with doctors and other healthcare professionals
- Operate and monitor medical equipment
- Help perform diagnostic tests and analyze the results
- Teach patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries
- Explain what to do at home after treatment
Ambulatory healthcare services include industries such as physicians’ offices, home healthcare, and outpatient care centers. Nurses who work in home health travel to patients’ homes; public health nurses may travel to community centers, schools, and other sites.
Some nurses travel frequently in the United States and throughout the world to help care for patients in places where there are not enough healthcare workers.
How to become a Registered Nurse
Registered nurses usually take one of three education paths: a bachelor’s degree in nursing, an associate degree in nursing, or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Registered nurses must be licensed.
Nursing education programs usually include courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology psychology, and other social and behavioral sciences, as well as in liberal arts. Bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree programs typically take 4 years to complete; associate degree in nursing (ADN), associate of science in nursing (ASN) degree, and diploma programs usually take 2 to 3 years to complete. Diploma programs are typically offered by hospitals or medical centers, and there are far fewer diploma programs than there are BSN, ADN, and ASN programs. All programs include supervised clinical experience.
Bachelor’s degree programs usually include additional education in physical and social sciences, communication, leadership, and critical thinking. A bachelor’s or higher degree is often necessary for administrative positions, research, consulting, and teaching.
Generally, licensed graduates of any of the three types of education programs (bachelor’s, associate’s, or diploma) qualify for entry-level positions as a staff nurse. However, employers—particularly those in hospitals—may require a bachelor’s degree.
Registered nurses with an ADN, ASN, or diploma may go back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree through an RN-to-BSN program. There are also master’s degree programs in nursing, combined bachelor’s and master’s programs, and accelerated programs for those who wish to enter the field of nursing and already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement.
Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) must earn a master’s degree in nursing and typically already have 1 year or more of work experience as an RN or in a related field. CNSs who conduct research typically need a doctoral degree.
Registered nurses must have a nursing license issued by the state in which they work. To become licensed, nurses must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
The median annual wage for registered nurses was $73,300 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $52,080, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $111,220.
Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will occur for a number of reasons.
Demand for healthcare services will increase because of the aging population, given that older people typically have more medical problems than younger people. Nurses also will be needed to educate and care for patients with chronic conditions, such as arthritis, dementia, diabetes, and obesity.
Similar Job Titles
Charge Nurse, Addiction Nurse, Director of Nursing (DON), Emergency Department RN (Emergency Department Registered Nurse), Oncology RN (Oncology Registered Nurse), Operating Room Registered Nurse (OR RN), Public Health Nurse (PHN), Registered Nurse (RN), School Nurse, Staff Nurse, Staff RN (Staff Registered Nurse), Critical Care Nurse, Coronary Care Unit Nurse
Respiratory Therapist, Acute Care Nurse, Critical Care Nurse, Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- AFT Nurses and Health Professionals
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing
- American Nurses Association
- Association of periOperative Registered Nurses
- Association of Rehabilitation Nurses
- Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses
- Emergency Nurses Association
- National Association of Neonatal Nurses
- National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses
- National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
Magazines and Publications
- RN Journal
- National Nursing Magazine
- allnurses Magazine
- American Journal of Nursing
- Scrubs Magazine
- com Magazine
- John Hopkins Nursing Magazine
Registered nurses, or RNs, are the largest healthcare occupation for good reason; they give patients medical care, educate them about their health issues, and offer emotional support. These medical professionals observe and record their patients’ condition. They help perform diagnostic tests to make effective plans for patient care. Before patients head home from a treatment or procedure, RNs explain how to manage the illness or injury. A core part of medical teams, they consult with doctors and other health care professionals and may oversee the work of other nurses and assistants. Registered nurses work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, home health care services, and nursing homes. Some work in correctional facilities or schools, or serve in the military. Nurses may also have the opportunity to travel, as they are needed across the U.S. and around the world. Risks—such as back injuries from lifting patients or exposure to infectious diseases and chemicals—are part of the job. They may work nights, weekends, and holidays, and be on call in off-hours. There are three paths to become an RN: a bachelor’s degree in nursing, an associate degree, or a diploma from an approved nursing program. They must also be licensed. Some nurses earn a master’s or doctoral-level degree and work in management, research, or academic settings. Combining competence with compassion, nursing is a career that improves —and even saves— many lives.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org