A registered nurse (also known as an RN) is a nurse that has successfully completed a nursing program offered at a qualified college or university and has passed the national licensing exam for registered nurses.
Individuals who are interested in becoming registered nurses are able to study for the Associates of science in nursing (ASN) , Bachelors of science in nursing (BSN), Masters of science in nursing (MSN) or Doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree in nursing.
Registered nurse who have achieved post-graduate level education and have earned either their MSN or DNP are considered advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) or nurse practitioners and are able to perform well beyond the scope of a registered nurse.
In some cases an individual may decide to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN) before deciding to become a registered nurse.
The higher a registered nurses degree the more opportunities he/she will have in applying for better positions that generally offer increased pay and better benefits.
So now that we’ve given a brief but informative answer to the question,”what is a registered nurse” well go a bit more in-depth into what a registered nurse does and how to become a registered nurse.
What do registered nurses do?
Registered nurses are responsible for providing medical care and emotional support to patients suffering from injuries or illnesses while helping them achieve full health and prevent diseases.
They educate patients about their injury or illness and provide them with answers to their questions.
Registered nurses also record their patients symptoms and state of recovery, assess their ailments, administer medications and treatments (the are not able to prescribe medications), aid their patients in rehabilitation programs and work alongside a team of medical professionals providing them with updated information to help them provide proper care to the patient.
Hospital nurses are one of the most common and well-known positions in the nursing field.
These nurses work at a hospital providing patients with bedside care and usually work in a team oriented environment alongside other medical professionals.
They are responsible for assessing the condition of patients and providing them with proper medication and information pertaining to rehabilitating from an injury.
They may also work alongside a doctor or other medical professional and help by gathering information necessary for the doctor to make a proper assessment of the patients condition and recommended course of recovery.
Registered nurses usually specialize in one area of medical care such as intensive care, pediatrics, geriatrics, neonatal care, gastroenterology, psychiatric, emergency room nurse and a number of other medical fields.
Home nurses provide medical care to patients in their home environment.
In addition to providing them with medical care home nurses also provide patients with a deep sense of companionship and emotional support by not just treating the illness/injury but giving their patient positive feedback, educating them about their ailments and providing them with helpful psychological reinforcement.
Head Nurse (Supervisor)
Head nurses are responsible for overseeing the performance, training and abilities of the nursing staff and providing them with the proper information/actions necessary to achieve their optimal performance.
They provide nurses with work assignments, create schedules, assess individual nurses performances and capabilities, set up training programs for nurses and observe/record nurses treating their patients.
Head nurses are also responsible for keeping good up to date records, monitoring the condition of medical equipment and ordering new medical supplies.
Office nurses assist doctors at their privately owned doctors office, hospital or care facility.
These nurses are often responsible for collecting information regarding a patient ailments and setting up the proper preparations for the doctor.
Office nurses may also give medication, administer injections, provide anesthesia, provide care to wounds and incisions, assist in operations and keep medical records.
Those with more experience may work for a lawyer or insurance company and provide them with proper medical knowledge regarding insurance claims or lawsuits from participants claiming to be injured.
Occupational nurses may be hired by companies or firms to provide medical care to employees and customers at work.
They provide their patients with proper medical knowledge and educated them about their ailment, give workers private consultation and support, provide emergency care to injured/sick people, record and store accident reports and ensure a safe and healthy working environment.
They also asses the condition of severe injuries and give proper medical care to patients while waiting for an ambulance to arrive and act as a liaison for the ambulance crew and doctors at the hospital the patient will be taken to.
Public Health Nurse
A public health nurse works for a privately owned or Government owned company, clinic, health care center, school district or agency.
Public health nurses are responsible for providing medical education and guidance to the public and may administer health exams, give immunizations, provide blood tests and participate in other similar tests/examinations.
They generally work in an environment that is focused on keeping the public educated about injuries and illnesses and work to keep the public safe, injury free and in good health.
For a list of the types of nursing careers that are available to registered nurses read: Careers in nursing
Registered nurses work in a large variety of health care settings within the private and public health care sectors.
Some of the health care settings registered nurse may work in include:
- The armed forces (ie. the military and navy)
- Community centers
- Doctor offices
- Emergency rooms
- Geriatric care centers
- Health care facilities
- Intensive care units
- Nursing homes
- Nurse practitioner offices
- Psychiatric care facilities
- Research centers
- School districts
- Walk in clinics
and a variety of other health care settings.
Schedule and Hours
The number of hours a registered nurse is likely to work in a week depends on several factors such what health care organization they work for, the need for registered nurses at their health care facility and any agreements that were made between the registered nurse and their employer.
Common work rotations for registered nurses include 5 – 8 hour work shifts, 4 – 10 hour work shifts or 3 – 12 hour work shifts per week, however in some cases registered nurses may end up working 24 hour work shifts during unexpected emergencies where their contribution may be vital to the health care of the patients at their facility.
These hours do not include any voluntary or required overtime, which may be common at some health care facilities.
Health care centers that are suffering from nursing shortages may require nurses to work as many as 60 hours per week or more in order to maintain proper patient care hours may be very dependent upon the health care organizations needs.
Registered nurses may also be able to work part-time schedules which are typically 30 hours or less per week.
Becoming a registered nurse
In order to become a registered nurse you must first graduate from a nursing program at a college or university and pass a national licensing exam.
Depending on the college or university you apply to the level of education you are able to acquire will vary.
Some colleges/universities only offer programs that allow you to complete your associates or bachelors degree while others will allow you to take continuing education courses and earn your masters or doctorates.
The GPA requirements and necessary prerequisites for getting into the nursing program are likely to vary by college/university so it is important to look at all of your options before applying at a particular school.
Applicants looking to apply for a nursing programs must also have either a high school diploma or a GED (General Education Development certificate) before applying for the program.
Some school may have more openings and less competition for their nursing programs than others.
They may also have higher or lower GPA requirements, prerequisite requirements, nursing program costs, varying resources and a high/low-level of academic prestige, so do your research and look for a college or university that best fits your situation, needs and educational requirements.
The path to become a registered nurse requires lots of education, training and effort, but the pleasure and reward of being able to help others improve their medical condition may be well worth the sacrifices required to become a registered nurse.
Is nursing right for you?
Those who have a strong desire to help others heal and improve their lives and enjoy communicating with people on a regular basis may find that becoming a registered nurse can be a great career choice.
Registered nurses provide medical support and emotional care to patients who are suffering from an illness and/or injury, and will assist patients by aiding them in their recovery, educating them about their condition and answering any questions they may have.
Some of the responsibilities registered nurses are in charge of performing include medical record keeping and updating, assisting patients in their recovery process, administering medications, diagnosing the condition of an injured or ill patient, dressing wounds, providing patients with feedback to help them reach a healthier state of being and a host of other tasks related to the health care field.
When it comes to salary the average income for a registered nurse in the United States is around $66,000 with the lower 10% earning around $54,500 and the top 10% earning close to $80,000 (11/01/12), however the amount of income a registered nurse is likely to make will vary widely based on the location they live in, their level of experience and the demand for nurses in their area.
In some locations and under the right circumstances nurses have been known to make in excess of $100,000 per year!
Besides working in a general registered nursing position those who acquire lot’s of training, education and experience have many opportunities to branch out into a variety of areas within their profession where they can further specialize in the specific field of nursing that most interests them.
Some of these specialties include becoming a flight nurse, critical care nurse, legal nurse, geriatrics, psychiatrics, ER nursing, forensics, ambulatory care, travel nursing and a host of other career choices and opportunities.
As a whole the nursing industry is in high demand and the number of available jobs over the next decade is expected to increase to as many as 800,000 open nursing positions, which means plenty of opportunities for those who either work in the field or are interested in working as a registered nurse.
For new nurses who are having difficulty getting hired in many cases it’s not an issue of getting a job, it’s an issue of getting the job they want.
While the job market may be plentiful it’s a matter of supply and demand in their area that drives the number of available jobs and the level of competition they face.
Those who are just entering the nursing field may find the best opportunities for getting a job quickly by relocating to area’s that are suffering from a nursing shortage or are in need of additional staffing.
The more experience, education and training registered nurses gain the more opportunities they will have in choosing the location and health care facility they want to work for.
While nursing can be an extremely demanding field of work to some, the pay, benefits and overall pleasure in helping others can be well worth the effort.