Registered Nurse (RN)
If you're looking into how to become an RN, it's important to make sure that a registered nursing career is a good fit for you. Learn about what you can expect on the job, where you might work as a nurse, and how to get there. You can also check out how to become a nurse practitioner for additional insight to the field.
What does a registered nurse do?
Here's short list of the duties that may be expected of you after becoming a registered nurse:
- Making accurate reports about patient symptoms and vital signs
- Delivering medications and monitoring patients for side effects
- Coordinating with doctors and other staff members to plan and implement care
- Preparing patients for examinations or on-site treatments
- Educating patients and their families about treatment plans
Where do registered nurses work?
The settings and industries for RN work can depend on how you approached your registered nursing degree program. Remember that although any of these settings might employ a registered nurse, the education requirements may vary:
- State, local and private hospitals
- Ambulatory health care services
- Nursing and residential care facilities
- Military bases and other government agencies
- Community centers
- Elementary and secondary schools
Important skills and abilities for nurses
- Active listening can help you pay close and effective attention when patients describe their symptoms and conditions
- Social perceptiveness assists in understanding patients' reactions and non-verbal cues
- Service orientation, or actively seeking ways to help people, can make you an asset to fellow health care workers and patients alike
- Oral expression skills make it possible to deliver comprehensive and comprehensible information and instructions to patients and co-workers
- Inductive reasoning provides a framework for generating preliminary conclusions from the various pieces of information provided by patents' medical records and real-time communication
How to become a registered nurse
Typically, the fastest routes to becoming an RN are an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a diploma from an approved nursing program, which can each take 2-3 years to complete and may include options for online courses. You may also earn a full four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, although RN education requirements at most facilities don't insist on a BSN for entry-level work. Find more information about the top schools for nursing degrees.
Exams and licensing
Once you've finished your registered nursing degree requirements, you'll need to take and pass the National Council License Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). It's possible to apply for the test before completing your study plan, but your state Board of Nursing won't approve the application until your requirements for graduation have been satisfied.
A passing score on the NCLEX-RN isn't all it takes to start work as an RN. Each state's Board of Nursing has its own specific approach to how to be a registered nurse -- you can check with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to learn more about yours.
Some positions may require additional training, as well, such as earning certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support (BLS) and advanced cardiac life support (ACLS).
RN salary and career outlook
With a general increasing awareness that healthy choices can lead to longer lives, and the baby boomer and following generations living to a more advanced age, nursing careers can typically expect to be in demand, per the BLS. Here's a snapshot of job growth and salary information for nurses:
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage||Projected Job Growth Rate|
It might be a good idea for potential registered nurses, whether at the BSN degree level or DNP level, to be familiarized with the following resources: