Registered Nurse

Ambulatory Care Coordinator, Cardiac Care Unit Nurse (CCU Nurse), Cardiac Nurse Specialist   More Names
Case Manager, Central Supply Nurse, Certified Nurse Operating Room (CNOR), Charge Nurse, Circulating Nurse, Clinical Nurse, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Clinical Supervisor, Community Health Nurse, Community Health Nurse Supervisor, Consultant Nurse, Consulting Nurse, Coronary Care Unit Nurse (CCU Nurse), County Nurse, Delivery Nurse, Delivery Room Supervisor, Dialysis Nurse, Dialysis Registered Nurse (Dialysis RN), Director of Nursing (DON), Discharge Planner, Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice, Emergency Department RN (Emergency Department Registered Nurse), Emergency Room Nurse, Emergency Room Registered Nurse (ER RN), Emergency Room RN, Endoscopy RN (Endoscopy Registered Nurse), Evening or Night Nurse Supervisor, Field Nurse, Flight Nurse, Floor Supervisor, Forensic Nurse, General Duty Nurse, Genetics Nurse, Geriatric Care Manager, Head Nurse, Health Care Coordinator, Health Unit Supervisor, Home Health RN (Home Health Registered Nurse), Hospice Registered Nurse, Industrial Nurse, Industrial Registered Nurse, Industrial Staff Nurse, Infection Control Nurse, Intensive Care Unit Nurse (ICU Nurse), Intensive Care Unit Registered Nurse (ICU RN), Labor and Delivery Nurse, Labor and Delivery Registered Nurse, Lactation Consultant, Legal Nurse Consultant, Life Care Planner, Maternity Floor Supervisor, Maternity Nurse, Medical/Surgery Registered Nurse (Med/Surg RN), Mid Wife, Neonatal Intensive Care Registered Nurse (NICU RN), Neonatal Nurse, Nephrology Nurse, Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Case Manager, Nurse Clinician, Nurse Consultant, Nurse Coordinator, Nurse Educator, Nurse Manager, Nurse Receptionist, Nurse Technician, Nurses Supervisor, Nursing Researcher, OB/GYN Nurse (Obstetrics/Gynecology Nurse), Obstetrical Nurse, Obstetrics Nurse (OB Nurse), Obstetrics Scrub Nurse (OB Scrub Nurse), Occupational Health Nurse, Occupational Health Nurse Supervisor, Occupational Nurse, Oncology Nurse, Oncology RN (Oncology Registered Nurse), Operating Room Nurse, Operating Room Registered Nurse (OR RN), Patient Care Coordinator, Pediatric Nurse, Pediatric Oncology Nurse, Perianesthesia Nurse, Perinatal Nurse, Perioperative Nurse, Physical Therapy Nurse, Post Anesthesia Care Unit Registered Nurse (PACU Nurse), Post Anesthesia Room Nurse, Post-Anesthesia Care Unit Nurse, Post-Anesthesia Care Unit Registered Nurse (PACU RN), Prenatal Nurse, Private Duty Nurse, Psychiatric Nurse, Psychiatric Registered Nurse, Public Health Nurse (PHN), Public Health Staff Nurse, Receptionist Nurse, Recovery Room Nurse, Registered Health Nurse, Registered Nurse (RN), Registered Nurse Resident, Registered Nurse Supervisor, Registered Nurses, Registered Private Duty Nurse, Registered Public Health Nurse, Relief Charge Nurse, RN BSN (Registered Nurse Bachelor of Science in Nursing), School Nurse, Scrub Nurse, Special Duty Nurse, Staff Nurse, Staff RN (Staff Registered Nurse), Student Nurse, Supervisor Nurse, Surgical First Assistant, Surgical Nurse, Surgical Registered Nurse, Surgical Supervisor, Telemetry Registered Nurse, Telephone Triage Nurse, Transverse Abdominal Muscle Nurse (TRAM Nurse), Trauma Nurse, Travel RN (Travel Registered Nurse), Traveling Nurse, Triage Register Nurse, Visiting Nurse, Ward Nurse, Ward Supervisor, X Ray Nurse

Provide a wide-range of essential medical care and treatment to patients under direction of nursing supervisors and doctors. Educate patients about medical conditions and offer advice and emotional support to family members.

Registered nurses also take patients' medical histories, record signs of illnesses, and help perform diagnostic tests and analyze their results. Especially in hospitals, doctor's offices, and clinics, they routinely monitor vital signs, operate medical equipment, and help doctors administer needed treatments and medications.

Registered nurses (RNs) are mainly employed in doctor's offices, hospitals, outpatient clinics and treatment centers, and other medical specialty treatment facilities. They also work in nursing home, home care, and hospice (i.e., end-of- life care) settings. Most work for private employers, but a significant number also are employed by local, state, and federal public health agencies, such as local community offices of public health, states' health departments, and federal facilities such as U.S. Public Health Service hospitals and clinics and veterans hospitals administered by the Veterans Administration (VA).

Registered nurses work under the overall direction of one or more medical doctors who are in charge of the medical care and treatment being given to patients. In some settings that service larger numbers of patients, like in hospitals and outpatient clinics and treatment centers, teams of registered nurses will receive immediate direction and management from senior-level nursing supervisors. Of all registered nurses working in the U.S. today, a little under two-thirds hold a two-year associate's degree, under one-third have a bachelor's degree, and the remainder have earned some other type of postsecondary certificate.

During a typical week, registered nurses instruct patients and their families about how to manage illness, injury, or disease. This includes teaching about home care treatment needs, diet and exercise requirements, and self-management of medicine and physical therapy schedules. As part of caring for patients, registered nurses may develop a care plan or contribute to an existing one.

Care plans can include a wide range of activities such as giving medicines (checking amounts and watching out for negative interactions); starting, watching, and stopping intravenous lines for fluids (e.g., medicines, blood and blood products, glucose or other blood thinners, etc.); and checking treatment progress and vital signs, recording and reporting these to nursing supervisors and doctors.

Some registered nurses also get involved with public awareness, such as helping to warn the general public about early signs of disease or illness and where to go for help if these occur. They also work to promote good public health by running health screening and immunization clinics as well as assisting with blood drives and public health awareness forums.

Careful listening and clear, precise speaking are two of the important skills needed by registered nurses. When they are listening they need to give full attention to what the patients, doctors, or others are saying; making sure they understand points being made or instructions being given so that they can take the right actions. When they are speaking, registered nurses need to be able to express themselves clearly and concisely in order to effectively give information.

Registered nurses need to be well-organized and to be able to read and understand written orders and instructions accurately so that they can correctly carry-out patient treatments. Furthermore, they need to be able to build and maintain good personal relationships with their co-workers, including supervisors, doctors, and other medical team members, and various diagnostic and treatment technicians. Throughout their day-in and day-out activities, registered nurses need to maintain and reflect their genuine concern for the health and welfare of each of their patients. They also need to have a sympathetic understanding of the needs and feelings of their families and friends.

Within the U.S. healthcare industry, registered nurses are the largest healthcare occupation, holding more than 2.6 million jobs. In keeping with this large size, the possibilities for career pathway growth and development are especially broad and varied. There are two main career advancement pathway options normally open to registered nurses: (1) nursing specialization, and (2) advanced education and experience.

Entry-level registered nurses usually are employed as part of the staff that works as a team to support doctors, surgeons, and other health care practitioners. Early on in their careers, entry-level registered nurses can begin to specialize in one particular area out of a wide range of nursing specialty possibilities.

The American Medical Association (AMA) breaks down the range of possible nursing specialties into four broad categories: (1) work setting or type of treatment; (2) particular disease, ailment, or condition; (3) particular organ or body system; and (4) population segment.

Registered nurses may specialize by their type of work setting or treatment they provide. Examples within hospitals include acute care nurses, critical care nurses, and emergency room nurses. Outside of hospitals, examples include home care nurses, hospice and palliative care nurses (for terminally-ill patients), and rehabilitative nurses.

Registered nurses may also specialize in a particular disease, ailment, or condition. Examples of these nurses include: addictions nurses (for treatment of alcohol, drug, or other addictions); developmental disabilities nurses (for treatment of physical, mental, or behavioral disabilities); diabetes management nurses (for managing diabetes through diet and other means); genetics nurses (for prenatal genetic disorder early detection screening, counseling, and treatment); HIV/AIDS nurses (for treatment of those diagnosed with these conditions); and oncology nurses (for treatment of those with various kinds of cancer). Particular disease nurses work in many settings including hospitals, doctor's offices, outpatient clinics and treatment centers, and home health care.

Another way registered nurses may specialize is by treatment for a particular body organ or system. Examples of such nurse specialty areas include: cardiology and vascular medicine; dermatology (skin diseases); gastroenterology (stomach and digestive tract); gynecology; neuroscience (nervous system disorders); orthopedics (spine and skeletal system); respiratory (lung and breathing problems); and urology. Particular organ or body system nurses usually are found in hospitals (especially critical care departments), doctor's offices, and outpatient clinics and treatment centers.

Finally, some registered nurses may specialize in providing preventive and acute care in any of the previously mentioned specialty areas for a particular segment or part of the population. Examples include: neonatology nurses (newborns), pediatric nurses (children and adolescents), and geriatric nursing (elderly adults).

Over time and with experience, some registered nurses will choose to pursue additional education to couple with their work experience in order to become an advanced practice nurse. Such nurses are considered primary care practitioners who work independently or in collaboration with doctors, and typically this will involve earning at least a master's degree.

Four types of advanced practice nurses are generally recognized: clinical nurse specialists (direct patient care and specialty expertise); nurse anesthetists (advanced anesthetic care before and after medical procedures); nurse-midwives (primary prenatal, delivery, and neonatal care for women and infants); and nurse practitioners (primary and specialty blends of nursing and healthcare services to patients and their families).

There are some jobs that require little or no direct patient care or treatment, but still require an active registered nurse license. For example, Infection control nurses identify, track, and respond to infectious outbreaks in healthcare facilities, as well as develop programs for outbreak prevention and to counter biological terrorism. Forensics nurses help in the investigation and treatment of victims of abuse, violence, criminal activity, and traumatic accident.

Informatics nurses gather, manage and communicate nursing data and information to inform decision-making by the public, patients, nurses, and other healthcare providers. Nurse educators plan, develop, implement, and evaluate nursing education programs and curricula for nursing students and practicing registered nurses and others.

Finally, some experienced registered nurses may be found working as healthcare consultants, public policy advisors, medical writers and editors, or pharmaceutical and medical supply researchers and sales representatives.

Credentials Needed: All 50 states and the District of Columbia (plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) require that registered nurse candidates graduate from an accredited nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination. After passing this national licensing exam, candidates will be ready to seek licensure by the state in which they intend to practice. To check what your state may require regarding licensing or other credentials for registered nurses, see the About Nursing link under Resources for this career.

Some Key Things to Remember: Registered nurses provide a very wide-range of essential medical care and treatment services to patients under the direction of nursing supervisors and doctors. Early in their careers, many registered nurses begin to specialize in one of many specialty areas. They are mainly employed in doctor's offices, hospitals, and outpatient clinics and treatment centers, as well as nursing care homes, home care, and hospice settings. Whatever their roles or work settings, they need to be caring, sympathetic, responsible, and detail oriented

Registered nurses currently hold over 2.6 million jobs, making this the nation's largest healthcare occupation. Of all registered nurses working today, a little under two-thirds hold a two-year associate's degree, under one-third have a bachelor's degree, and the remainder have earned some other type of postsecondary certificate.

Reviewed for content and accuracy by the American Nurses Association, February 6, 2012.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
16% - Faster than average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $56,190 - $83,770    Hourly: $27 - $40
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

A registered nursing job can involve long hours on your feet. It often requires moving patients, along with helping them walk, stand or perform other physical tasks and can cause stress on the back, knees and other joints. Maintaining fitness and health is essential to a registered nurse job and can help minimize the risk for physical injuries.

Legal Requirements
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(Data Drawn from O*NET)

Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

Associate's Degree (High School + 2 or more Years)
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Percent Job Growth:

16% - Faster than average
Find Jobs

Typical Wages:

Annual: $56,190 - $83,770

Hourly: $27 - $40