Registered nurses (RNs) occupy one of the most important health care practitioner careers on the market today. They work to provide basic care and emotional support to patients while collecting information for medical records and dispensing insight about health conditions and how they might be effectively managed.
Depending on the facility where they work, registered nurses may have a wide variety of specific responsibilities that they perform during their regular routine. Here's a list of some of the more common duties that aspiring registered nurses can expect to perform on the job:
- Recording and maintaining accurate reports about patient symptoms and vital signs
- Delivering medications by a variety of methods and monitoring patients for side effects
- Coordinating with doctors and other members of health care staff to plan and implement care
- Preparing patients for examinations or on-site steps to treatment
- Educating patients and their families about any at-home portions of a treatment plan
To fill the growing demand for registered nurses in clinical facilities and hospitals, traditional and online nursing schools offer a range of paths to education and training. Check out the details of the registered nursing profession and see if a career in nursing might be right for you.
How Much do Registered Nurses Make?
The salary you can expect as a registered nurse tends to depend on a number of factors, from your amount of experience on the job to the geographical region where you find employment. Here are five states in the U.S. where state average registered nurse salary figures were reported to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as being well above the nationwide annual median of $66,640 for 2014:
- California: $98,400
- Hawaii: $88,230
- Massachusetts: $85,770
- Alaska: $85,740
- Oregon: $82,940
While it's certainly true that the largest percentage of registered nurses work in hospitals or doctors' offices, those who find employment in other industries may be able to command higher salaries than their counterparts in conventional settings. Here's a list of industries where registered nurses enjoyed above-average mean pay in 2014, according to the BLS:
- Insurance and employee benefit funds: $82,030
- Federal executive branch: $80,510
- Management of companies and enterprises: $76,090
- Oil and gas extraction: $75,590
- Specialty hospitals, except psychiatric and substance abuse: $74,590
Naturally, some of the industries listed above employ larger numbers of nurses than others. While around 72,000 RNs worked in a federal government capacity in 2014, there were only fifty RNs each employed in the employee benefit fund and oil and gas industries.
Occupational Requirements and Job Types for Registered Nurses
Campus-based and online schools in nursing offer three distinct paths by which aspiring registered nurses can qualify for employment:
- The most comprehensive educational program for RNs is the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree, which can be earned at junior colleges, community colleges and universities from coast to coast. Online schools in nursing may offer BSN programs entirely in the virtual classroom, for members of the health care profession who have undergone the hands-on aspects of nurse training in another educational program.
- An associate degree program in nursing is a common option for nurses who want to get started in the profession relatively quickly while also setting the stage for career advancement via continued education at a later date. These degree programs include a few general education courses and are typically completed in 2-3 years of study.
- Programs offered at hospitals or career training centers typically lead to a nursing diploma, which requires very little if any core academic coursework. Graduates of nursing diploma programs can often earn a BSN online from schools in nursing that offer one, especially after earning the perspective gained by a few years' experience on the job.
Here's a list of skills and abilities that are commonly conducive to success as a registered nurse, according to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET):
- Clinical techniques
- Medical terminology
- Customer and personal service skills
- Active listening
- Social perceptiveness
- Critical thinking
- Judgment and decision making
- Reading comprehension
There were more than 2,650,000 registered nurses employed in May 2014, and more than 1,500,000 of them worked in general medical and surgical hospitals. Nurses are often required to spend long hours on their feet and interact with people to a significant degree. Approximately 20 percent of RNs worked part time in 2012.