A registered nurse, also called a RN for short, are medical professionals that provide care to patients and educate their patients on how to treat their health conditions. RNs give patients their medications and help administer specific treatments to help with a patient’s illness or medical condition. RNs also record their observations of their patients. All of these treatments, recordings, and patient care are coordinated with the doctor who treats the patient. When a doctor observes, diagnoses, or wants to test a patient, they ask their RN team to conduct these procedures and provide general care for the patient.
According to figures gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2012, 61 percent of all RNs work in a hospital setting while 14 percent work at a nursing care facility or a physician’s office. A typical work day for a RN is to work on one’s feet and walk around the medical facility visiting and treating patients. Like any medical professional, RNs are at risk of injury or illness working with patients with various physical or psychological illnesses. Although many RNs work on a part-time schedule, shifts are needed for 24-7 at hospitals and nursing facilities, giving RNs many shift options to choose from.
Nationally, the median annual wage for a RN calculated to $65,470 a year as of 2012 according to the BLS. The lowest 10 percent of RNs earned an annual wage of $45,040 a year, while the highest 10 percent earned $94,720 a year. The BLS calculates that job openings for RNs will increase by 19 percent between 2012 and 2022. The reasons for this will be the rising demand for health care, particularly for the aging Baby Boomer population, and the increasing popularity of outpatient care centers. As of 2012, there are 2,711,500 RNs who work in the United States.
The BLS outlines that there are three main academic paths a person can become a RN. Each path can fit a student’s specific goals and provide them with certain positions within a RN team. One path is through a diploma program provided at community colleges or state-approved nursing programs at technical or career schools. Another academic path is to enroll in an associate’s degree program for an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Both a diploma and ADN program take around 2-3 academic years to complete and will include clinical experience to supplement academic work. The third path is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), which is attained at a 4-year college or university. This pathway also requires clinical work supplementing classroom work.
Whichever path a student chooses, the student should expect classes in anatomy, nutrition, psychology, and microbiology. BSN programs will include liberal arts classes as part of general education requirements. The BLS states that job prospects over the next decade are more favorable for BSN holders than for diploma or ADN holders. This is because of BSN holder’s extra years of education, which typically help improve communication, critical thinking, and leadership skills. The BLS notes that most diploma and ADN holders can enter entry-level jobs in nursing, while BSN holders have a higher chance to hold an administrative, consulting, or teaching position at a medical facility. Because of this, many 4-year colleges offer RN-To-BSN programs, which help diploma and ADN holders attain a BSN quickly thanks in part to their previous education and work experience. There are also master’s degree programs in nursing, which can help a RN reach higher-level positions at medical facilities.
Once a student has attained his or her education, they must become licensed. Graduates of a state-approved nursing program in any of the 50 states and Washington, DC, must pass the National Council Licensure Examination, also known as the NCLEX-RN. Once the graduate passes this exam and meets any other requirement their state may have under the specific state’s Board of Nursing, they can become a RN. Voluntary certifications are also available that are in specific medical specialties. Passing these certification exams, such as in gerontology or pediatrics, can help the RN land specific job opportunities in their certified field.
With high demand across the country, students who are interested in nursing can enroll at their local community college, technical school, or 4-year university to jump start a promising career in the health care sector.