Registered nurses have become advocates for patients, families, communities, and health educators. They are often the mediator between doctor and patient. When providing direct patient care, RNs observe, assess, and record symptoms and reactions in their patients. They many assist physicians during surgery, administer medication, and assist in convalescence or rehabilitation. Registered nurses also develop and manage patient care plans and instruct patients and their families in proper care that will maintain and improve patient health.
Registered nurses hold approximately 2.3 million jobs and constitute the largest occupation in the field of health care. Three out of five nurses work for hospitals. Others work in nursing care facilities, physician offices, home health care services, government agencies, and outpatient care centers. A small percentage of RNs are employed through social assistance agencies and educational services.
Hospital nurses are most often staff nurses who provide bedside care and carry out healthcare regimens. They may also supervise licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or nursing aides. In most cases, hospital nurses are assigned to one department, such as maternity, pediatrics, surgery, intensive care, long-term care, or emergency care. Those with experience may rotate between departments.
Nursing care facility nurses care for residents with various conditions. RNs assess the health of residents, develop treatment plans, and perform invasive procedures, such as IVs and catheters. They also spend time on administrative and supervisory tasks, often responsible for a small staff of LPNs and nursing aides.
Home health care nurses provide nursing services to home-bound patients. They assess the patientsâ€™ home environments and offer care instructions to patients and their family members. Home health nurses care for a broad range of patients, including, accident victims, cancer patients, and those recovering from illness and childbirth. They may also be responsible for supervising home health aides.
Office nurses provide care for outpatients in physicians an offices, clinics, and medical centers. They prepare patients for examinations, administer injections, dress wounds, assist in minor surgery, perform lab work, and maintain patient records. Office nurses may also be responsible for office related paperwork along with other duties.
Public health nurses work for government or private agencies, such as schools, clinics, retirement communities, and other community settings. They work with groups, individuals, and families to improve overall health by offering instructions related to preventative care, nutrition, and childcare. They may also arrange for community health screenings or immunizations.
To become a registered nurse, you must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass a national licensing examination. Licensed are awarded when an examination is passed and must be renewed periodically through continuing education.
There are three avenues of education that can be taken to become a registered nurse: a Bachelor degree in nursing (BSN), an Associate degree in nursing (ADN), and a nursing diploma. BSN programs are offered by colleges and universities and take about four years to complete. ADN programs are offered by community and junior colleges and take about two to three years to complete. Diploma programs are administered by a declining number of hospitals and take about three years to complete. Accelerated Masterâ€™s degree programs in nursing are also available and take an additional three years to complete.
Advancement opportunities are usually broader for registered nurses who have a BSN. Some career paths may be open only to nurses with a Bachelor degree or another advanced degree.
Future job opportunities for registered nurses are expected to be very good. Employment of RN is expected to grow faster than any other occupation and because the occupation is very large, many new jobs will result.
The industries currently employing the largest numbers of registered nurses are as follows:
2. Home Health Care Services
3. Physician Offices
4. Nursing Care Facilities
The annual median salary for registered nurses is $48,090.