Nursing is one of the oldest and most honorable professional in the world. When patients are ill or injured, it is often the nurses that provide the majority of care and support.

When people think of nurses, the image that usually pops into their heads is that of a registered nurse. Becoming a registered nurse is not only rewarding, but it is also one of the best careers moves you can make, since nursing is one of the fastest growing occupations in the country. Oftentimes, becoming a registered nurse is the first step toward becoming a nursing professional in a more specialized area, such as pediatrics or oncology.

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What is a Registered Nurse?
What do Registered Nurses Do?
Where do Registered Nurses Work?
How do I Become a Registered Nurse?

What Is a Registered Nurse?

A registered nurse is a nursing professional that has completed a nursing education program and passed a national licensure examination. These nurses care for all types of patients, from infants to children to adults. In addition to acting as caregivers, registered nurses also often act as educators and supporters for patients and their loved ones.

The majority of registered nurses choose to specialize in caring for certain types of patients or certain types of medical problems. For instance, pediatric nurses care primarily for children, while geriatric nurses care primarily for elderly patients. Other types of registered nurses include oncology nurses, trauma nurses, school nurses, nephrology nurses, psychiatric nurses, and rehabilitation nurses.

In 2010, it was estimated that there were nearly 3 million registered nurses in the United States. This profession is also expected to grow 26 percent by 2020, which makes it one of the fastest growing professions in the country. The increased demand for qualified nursing professionals is due to a few different reasons. A greater concentration on preventive care combined with advances in medicine have helped people live longer than ever and increase the average lifespan. Aging Baby Boomers are also increasing the number of patients that need medical and nursing care.

Before you make the decision to become a registered nurse, keep in mind that there are a few characteristics that make the difference between registered nurses and great registered nurses. First of all, you must be in good general physical health, and able to walk and stand for long periods of time; you should also be able to bend frequently and lift heavy objects with relative ease. Organization and communication skills are also imperative, as is the ability to make quick decisions under pressure. Mental and emotional maturity are also necessary if you’re looking to become a registered nurse.

A true desire to help individuals in need, however, is the most important characteristic of any nursing professional.

Registered Nurse Job Description

Registered nurses have several duties and responsibilities. Their first priority, however, is the health and well-being of their patients.

Oftentimes, a registered nurse is the first medical professional that a patient will come in contact with when visiting a medical facility. These nurses will usually perform the first physical examination, which is necessary in order to assess patients and their needs. Registered nurses will also examine patients medical histories and assist with other diagnostic procedures, such as laboratory testing and internal imaging.

Based on a patient’s diagnosis, a registered nurse will also create and follow care plans. In order to do this, they must have mastered basic nursing skills. Throughout their careers, registered nurses will often be required to perform duties such as changing wound dressings, administering medications, recording vital signs, and drawing blood. Registered nurses may also be responsible for admitting and discharging patients.

Patient monitoring is another important responsibility of a registered nurse. This often includes monitoring a patient’s vital signs and progress. They may record side effects of medications and symptoms of medical conditions as well.

Registered nurses also often act as educators. For instance, they may help patients and their loved ones better understand a certain medical condition or treatment method. They can also give them tips for dealing with an injury or illness, and teach them methods for caring for themselves at home.

Where Do Registered Nurses Work?

Once you become a registered nurse, you will find that there is no shortage of jobs. Nearly every healthcare facility in the country is in need of qualified registered nurses. You will often be able to find employment in hospitals, clinics, physician offices, long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, and rehabilitation centers. Depending on your specialty and experience, you may also be able to find employment with schools, correctional institutes, and the military.

RN Programs- Attending Nursing School

To become a registered nurse, you must have the proper training and pass a difficult licensing examination.

Below is the educational path for a Registered Nurse (lowest to highest level of education)

Educational TrackSchool ProgramsAverage Education LengthChoosing Online or Campus
Earn a Bachelors DegreeView Programs4 Years Online or Campus
Earn a MSN DegreeView Programs2 Additional YearsOnline or Campus
Earn a PHD or DNPView Programs2-4 Additional YearsOnline or Campus

Obtaining the proper education is your first step toward becoming a registered nurse. Education or training can be obtained a few different ways:

  • Nursing diploma programs can be obtained through hospitals, vocational schools, and community colleges. Although diploma programs were once widely accepted, more and more employers today prefer applicants that possess nursing degrees from accredited colleges or universities.
  • An Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) program takes roughly two to three years to complete, and is generally offered by a college or university. Once you earn an ASN, you can proceed with your nursing career, or you can continue your education and earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN).
  • A Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a four year nursing degree, usually offered by an accredited university. Although a BSN is not always required by employers, it could open the door to more opportunity for you and possibly qualify you for promotions and leadership positions.

Once you obtain your diploma or degree, you must then pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Before you can take the exam, however, you must first obtain an Authorization to Test (ATT) from your state’s Board of Nursing and register for the exam, which is administered by Pearson VUE.