Registered nurses or RNs are critical to the coordination of patient care in a hospital or other healthcare setting. They are also one of the most visible and influential persons when a patient is receiving care for any condition. RNs have a level of training that makes them experts in practically any health condition and this is why patients, assistants, and doctors all depend on them.
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At a Glance
Other Job Titles: RN
Salary Range*: $44,000-$95,000; Median $65,000
Education/Training Required: Associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, diploma from an approved nursing program
Desired Skills/Aptitude: Emotional stability, attention to detail, organizational ability, communications ability, compassion, critical thinkers
Certification/Licensing: Certification is voluntary to receive specialization credentials; Licensing is mandatory in all states
Locations with Best Opportunities: California, Florida, Oregon, Hawaii
Employment Outlook: 26% growth through 2020 (faster than average)
Opportunities for Advancement: With further education, nurses can become administrators, consultants, and take advantage of research opportunities
What an RN Does
RNs have many duties when it comes to providing and managing care of patients. These include:
- Administering medications
- Treating patients
- Monitoring patients
- Consulting with doctors
- Analyzing test results
- Operating sophisticated medical equipment
- Advising patients
An RN in many ways is a teacher of the public when it comes to healthcare awareness. You will find RNs leading programs that promote public awareness of the need for regular physical exams and updated immunizations. Or, they may be part of a team with other physicians involved in these outreach programs.
Many diseases are confusing to patients once they have been diagnosed with them. For example, once a patient is diagnosed with diabetes it is often confusing as to how to manage the condition. Nurses consult with patients and their families in these situations and teach them how to manage these ailments.
Some RNs, as they gain years of experience in the field, move into top-level administrative positions. For example, health insurance companies have utilization review departments that are headed and staffed by RNs. The RNs in this capacity will typically review patient cases for medical necessity or authorization to be seen by a specialist.
Traditionally, most RNs work in hospitals. They can also work in nursing care facilities, doctor’s offices, and be part of home health care teams. In fact, RNs work in many places. They have positions in educational institutions, correctional facilities, and summer camps. In some cases, they will travel to faraway destinations across the globe to give assistance in places that are in need of modern healthcare.
Their duties expose them to patients with infectious diseases so they must take the proper safety precautions to avoid falling victim to these hazards. Other hazards include needles that have not been disposed of properly and even radiation from x-ray devices.
When working in a hospital, RNs will oftentimes be scheduled to do shift work because these facilities are open 24 by 7. In other locations such as educational institutions, they will probably work during normal business hours.
Education and Certification
To be an RN, a candidate can get an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or complete an approved nursing program that produces a diploma. The four-year program produces a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing and the two-year program produces an Associate of Science Degree in Nursing.
There are many opportunities to receive certification from a variety of professional associations. The certification is achieved for specialties such as pediatrics or ambulatory care.
Nurses are required to be licensed in all states. Licensing follows after completing an approved nursing education program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Each state has their own variation as to its licensing requirements and you should check your state’s nursing board to find out the details.
*Salary Source: BLS May 2012