Registered Nurse RN

Registered Nurse RN may specialize in the treatment of patients and help to establish patient care plans. Since the education requirements are much longer for a Registered Nurse versus a Nursing Assistant, Practical Nurse, or Vocational Nurse, the RN is expected to perform a wider variety of duties and will often train and supervise other nurses. A Registered Nurse can work under the direction of a physician, provide initial assessments, and immediate care for patients.

  • RN nursing programs generally last 2 to 4 years.
  • RN designation is obtained by passing a state approved exam.
  • RN jobs exceed 2,751,000 and are growing at 1.6% per year.
  • RN average salary is $66,640 per year or $32.04 per hour.

As a nursing career, Registered Nurse is the largest healthcare occupation and a requirement for many advancement opportunities in the field of nursing. It is not uncommon for a Registered Nurse to begin their career as a lower level nurse, for example, to gain experience and continue their education, later achieving the RN designation.

Duties Of A Registered Nurse

The majority of registered nurses work at hospitals. Registered nursing duties at a hospital vary by department, shift, nursing care philosophy, and hospital specific procedures. New nurses will undergo a nursing orientation period designed to help them learn and understand their daily routines. A few of the well known hospital departments where RN and other nurses work are the Emergency Room (ER), Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Cardiac Care Unit (CCU), Obstetrics & Gynecology, Operating Room (OR), and Outpatient.

In addition to hospitals, registered nurses may also work in private practice medical offices, clinics, surgical centers, emergency medical facilities, and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs). Nursing Homes and other private and public health facilities may also hire registered nurses, however, remember that state licensing and other factors may limit the role of a Registered Nurse.

A Registered Nurse in a hospital or nursing care facility may perform these basic duties: Record patients medical histories and symptoms, perform diagnostic tests, analyze test results, operate medical machinery, administer treatment, administer medications, follow up with patients, assist with rehabilitation, provide advice and emotional support. Starting and maintaining intravenous IV lines, consult with physicians and medical clinicians, and provide direction to or supervise LPN nurses and nursing assistants with regards to patient care. Information gathered by the RN is generally shared with other nurses, doctors, and facility staff as needed to best care for the patient.

As with many medical careers, a Registered Nurse often stands for a long period of time. A 40 hour work week is typical, however, shifts at facilities that require 24 hour care may be split into mornings, days, and nights, with the additional need to fill weekends and holidays. Medical environment hazards include the presence of disease, the use of chemicals, injections, possible radiation exposure, injury if providing direct patient care to patients who are confused or uncooperative. During times of overload at a hospital, for example, workload related stress can also be present for a Registered Nurse.

How To Become A Registered Nurse

To become a Registered Nurse, you must complete a state approved registered nursing program, then pass the state's licensing exam. Registered nursing programs generally last 2 to 4 years and are offered by hospitals, vocational nursing schools, technical schools, community colleges, junior colleges, colleges and universities. The applicable license exam for all U.S. states is the NCLEX-RN, which was developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The NCLEX-RN exam is computer based and covers 4 subject areas: (1) Safe Effective Care Environment, (2) Health Promotion and Maintenance, (3) Psychosocial Integrity, and (4) Physiological Integrity.

State government guidelines vary as to the minimum number of hours required for classroom and clinical training. Always remember to verify that your registered nursing program is approved by your state board of nursing, otherwise you may not be able to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam or obtain a registered nursing license.

Aside from the training requirements, RN candidates should be caring and sympathetic by nature. In other words, if you are easily agitated by others, then becoming a Registered Nurse may not be your best career choice. Caring for the sick, injured, disabled and convalescent can drain novice nurses emotionally. If you currently suffer from depression or drug addiction, for example, then registered nursing may not be your best career choice.

RN candidates should not be squeamish and afraid to interact with patients in a medical setting. Good decision making and communication skills are also required given the amount of interaction between the RN, patients, the patients' family, doctors, and other nursing and medical facility staff.

Registered Nurse Job Prospects

Registered nursing jobs are expected to grow faster than average through 2024 according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Registered Nurse employees hold approximately 2,751,000 jobs according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-2017 Edition. The reported average hourly pay is $32.04 per hour for a Registered Nurse. RN average salary is $66,640 per year assuming a 40 hour work week.

The state in which you live, the industry for which you work, and your experience level will greatly impact your hourly wage rate or annual average salary as a Registered Nurse. The latest 2016 report from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that the lowest 10% of Registered Nurse employees earned less than $22.06 per hour while the highest 10% earned more than $47.54 per hour. Assuming a 40 hour work week and 52 weeks per year, the annual average salary for a RN is in the range of $45,880 to $98,880 per year.

The industries listed below currently employ the most registered nurses.

  • Hospitals: 61%
  • Nursing and residential care facilities: 7%
  • Physician offices: 7%
  • Home healthcare services: 6%
  • Government: 6%
  • Other: 13%

The difference between a nursing care facility and a residential care facility is the level of assistance offered to the patient. A nursing care facility can be thought of as a nursing home which provides constant medical supervision. A residential care facility can be thought of as an apartment style complex, which provides room, board, housekeeping, and assistance with basic activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, and walking.

Registered Nursing Programs

RN state licensure restrictions alongside employer policies and procedures generally limit what duties a Registered Nurse can perform. While exploring a career as a Registered Nurse, we recommend that you visit and talk to RN nurses or a hiring manager currently working at a nearby hospital, nursing home, residential care facility, or physician office.

Before you enroll into a registered nursing program, search for current Registered Nurse jobs online for your intended state(s) of employment. Doing so provides real-time job descriptions, entry level job requirements, minimum degree requirements, and sometimes localized annual RN salary information.

Finally, search our nursing schools database for Registered Nursing programs in your preferred state(s) of employment. Take note of each RN nursing program's length of study, cost of attendance, accreditation (local vs national), and competitiveness.

Last updated: February 19, 2017

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