Registered Nurse (R.N.)

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Registered Nurse (R.N.)


Registered nurses do far more than just take temperatures and change bed pans. Registered nurses are some of the most important members of the health care team, who do everything from counsel pregnant teenagers to saving heart attack victims. They work in hospitals, emergency rooms, schools, nursing homes, and with private home care companies. They can be teachers, administrators, and supervisors.

The majority of registered nurses work in hospitals and nursing homes. They deal with patients who are in the hospital for tests, operations, and assessments, as well as long-term residents. They assess the patients' physical, mental, and emotional states. This involves finding out as much as they can about personal and family histories, and doing routine physical exams, including checking blood pressure, heart rates, and other vital signs. They also initiate treatments, including bandaging wounds and starting up intravenous drips. They record all their treatments, and fill in the doctors about the patients' conditions. Finally, nurses monitor the patients, and provide medication and treatments when necessary. They let the patients know what's going on with them, and keep them up-to-date on their health and treatments.

Registered nurses can have extremely stressful jobs, especially those who work in critical care, emergency care, and operating rooms. These nurses work long, hard hours, including weekends, holidays, and overnight. But regardless of whether they deal with preventing accidents and illness or treating the victims, all registered nurses work with patients, in some form or another.
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Programs Offered:
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming a registered nurse? You need to be flexible, as well as physically and emotionally stable. A sense of humor, a strong set of morals, and a desire to help others are also important qualities. You should enjoy science. You should be organized, patient, and in good health. You should be a good communicator, and be able to connect with children, the elderly, and everyone in between. You should be a self-starter who doesn't mind working alone. You should be compassionate, as well as critical, and able to motivate and inspire others. You should be open to and respectful of all backgrounds, cultures, and religious belief systems. You should be confident, and able to make good decisions, even under stress.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Monitor patients
  • Administer medication and treatments
  • Update charts and files
  • Meet with families of patients
  • Discuss patients with doctors and nurses
  • Assist in operations
  • Design and present health education programs
  • Develop support groups and community solutions to local health problems
  • Initiate preventive programs, such as immunization or screening programs for breast cancer
  • Provide home care services to new parents, the elderly, and others needing care
  • Supervise personal care attendants and other care givers
  • Assist in controlling communicable disease outbreaks
  • Provide health support and counseling services for people in crisis
  • Assist in childbirth and caring for newborns and their families
  • Supervise licensed practical nurses, graduate nurses, and support staff
  • Registered nurses spend much of each day actively working with patients in a variety of environments. They plan and host information sessions, workshops, and classes, do routine checkups, and administer medication. They also assist in operations. Their days are spent mostly indoors, where they meet with patients and consult with other health care practitioners.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Registered nurses can work for the government in hospitals, community health centers, and clinics. However, an increasing number of nurses are finding work with private businesses which provide community health care services. Some also choose to be self-employed.
  • Registered nurses work in hospitals, doctors' offices, or in the homes of patients and clients. They may also do some counseling over the phone. Their hours can range from regular, set schedules to on call and evening work, depending on the type of work they are involved in. Anyone working in health services faces health risk. They are exposed to infectious diseases, chemicals, and back injuries, and must take care and be cautious each and every day.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Registered nurses can specialize in critical care, operating room work, emergency work, and public health services. Those who don't want to work in the public sector can work in private organizations which provide health-care related services, or can be self-employed. They can specialize in an area like health education, infant care, teen sexual health, or communicable disease control. They can also travel the world with international relief organizations.

If they want to leave health care, nurses can get into counseling, teaching, childcare and sales.

  Educational Paths  
In order to become a registered nurse, you should pursue either a bachelor's degree in nursing or a science-in-nursing degree. Diploma programs with colleges are available, however registered nurses have more opportunities for advancement. While both programs qualify you to work, nurses with a bachelor's degree find it easier to advance within the field. A graduate degree in nursing is required for those nurses who would like administrative or management positions, and additional training is required for those who would like to specialize.

The courses cover psychology, child development, sociology, anatomy, and psychology. The courses include class time as well as supervised practice.

Nurses must pass national nursing licensing exams upon completion of their training, and some regions require nurses to register with a professional association before they can begin work.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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