Registered Nurse Career Guide

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A registered nurse (RN) is a professional health care worker who cares for patients of all ages across the lifespan by addressing the needs of the whole person; the physical, emotional and mental. RNs perform an array of medical procedures and tasks independently and in conjunction with other RNs or doctors. They work in every healthcare setting and in homecare by fulfilling orders given by physicians for the health and well-being of their patients.

RNs are known to be pioneers of medicine who were inspired by Florence Nightingale during the 1800's. Florence Nightingale's dedication to caring for wounded soldiers during the Crimean paved the way for RNs today. Registered nurses are a caring professionals who believe in listening to patient needs and advocating on their behalf.  RN services also include addressing issues in patients' families and communities by working to improve environmental and social conditions. RNs are involved in research and work by gathering data that is statistically analyzed to help develop interventions which improve the health and welfare of society.

Education

Before gaining acceptance into an RN program, students will have to successfully complete pre-requisite classes in chemistry, biology and pre-algebra. They will then be able to choose which type of RN program is best for them to enroll in. RN students have many options to attaining their educational goals. RN programs are offered at two-year community colleges, four-year colleges and in universities.

  • Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) programs are concentrated programs which cover caring for patients of all ages utilizing theoretical and scientific principles. A large percentage of an ADN programs are concentrated on clinical rotations, which give students ample hands on opportunities to experience many types of patient health problems. An ADN program prepares students to sit for the NCLEX-RN and is the quickest way for a new RN to start working and earning a salary. There are many educational bridge opportunities for ADN nurses to take advantage of which advance their career to the next level.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs teach with a heavy concentration on theoretical views in nursing. Students learn to care for patients across the lifespan and participate in required clinical rotations. BSN programs prepare nursing students for higher levels of education through learning research, gathering data and statistical skills. After successfully completing a BSN program, students are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN and work in a many types of health care settings.
  • Masters of Science Degree in Nursing programs prepare nursing students for higher levels of care, such as specialties involving primary patient care. Students are required to participate in research studies, compose a thesis and complete community service requirements. Students also complete an internship under the supervision of a nurse who holds a master’s or higher degree in their chosen field of study. Students who hold a master’s degree in a different area other than nursing are able to attain a MSN in nursing through accelerated program. Upon completion of part of the master's of nursing program, students are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN
  • Nursing Diploma programs, although now fading away from nursing education scene, they also lead to NCLEX RN examination and into becoming RN.  

Job Description

RNs work by assessing patients' health status and making decisions in accordance with their physicians’ for the best outcome. RNs compose care plans and emphasize a large percentage of their patient care with patient teaching. They administer medications and perform medical procedures as ordered and work as part of a health care team in conjunction with therapist and other disciplines to improve patients' health status. RNs are needed to work on all hospital units, clinics and in home care settings. RNs also have the advantage of accepting travel nurse assignments in an array of geographical areas. Travel assignments are known to pay a lucrative salary and provide paid housing or a generous stipend for living expenses.

Salary and Job Outlook

Median income for an RN in the United States is approximately $65,000.  Nurses with higher degrees earn significantly more than RNs with an associate’s degree. RN jobs are predicted to grow by 26% until 2020 due to the population aging and changes in health care reform. Registered nurses are assuming more responsibility as they train for advanced degrees and can deliver high-, cost-effective care. RNs have more choices than ever before to work and make a difference in patients’ lives. They are needed in areas such as drug-rehabilitation and in alternative medicine practices geared toward naturopathic medicine. 

About the Author

Carrie

Carrie Cronkite

BSN, RN

Carrie has been a registered nurse for 14 years and works at a local hemodialysis outpatient center. She has experience in cardiac nursing, orthopedic rehabilitation and nephrology nursing. [...]

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