Guide to Becoming a Registered Nurse (RN)
Learn about the registered nursing shortage and many opportunities for qualified RNs.
Registered nurses (RNs) make up the majority of workers in the health care industry. They hold a position of seniority over licensed practical nurses and nursing assistants and are often in charge of assigning tasks in a hospital environment.
Being a registered nurse can be challenging and rewarding. Some RNs work evening, weekend or on-call hours, and are exposed to a variety of medical conditions. But they also have fairly lucrative salaries as well as the satisfaction of making a valuable impact on the lives of patients and their families. RNs can also have quite diverse jobs, depending on their work setting and area of expertise.
What You'll Do
A registered nurse is responsible for the needs of patients suffering from illness or injury, and can provide care and cater to the needs of patients in a variety of settings, including operating rooms, ambulatory care, intensive care, physicians offices, health care clinics or specialized practices.
Most registered nurses can be found working in teams for health care facilities. Some of the positions involve little or no direct patient care and varying roles with health care staff, but the general responsibilities of a registered nurse can include:
- Observing and recording patient medical history and symptoms
- Establishing a plan of care for patients or adding to an existing one then putting the plan into action
- Managing and assigning tasks to licensed practical nurses and nursing assistants
- Advising and providing emotional support for patients and their families
If a nurse decides to work outside of a health care facility there is a different set of nursing careers available to them. Some of these include clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives and nurse anesthetists.
Registered Nurse (RN) Education
A degree in registered nursing is the foundation for a career in the field of health care. Credentials can be acquired by completing one of these three programs offered at many registered nursing schools:
The most popular program is the associate's degree in nursing, which takes an average of two-to-three years to complete. One of the perks associated with this path is that once you've obtained the degree, you can apply for an entry-level position that offers benefits—including tuition reimbursement and college credit toward your two-year bachelor's in nursing degree. This choice also provides valuable hands-on experience in the field while earning an education.
After completing any degree program a nurse must pass a national licensing examination (NCLEX-RN). Nursing degree education requirements vary based on state, and a nurse may sometimes be required to take the local NCLEX-RN examination to work in a new state.
Registered nursing is one of the fastest-growing career fields. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2012-13 Occupational Outlook Handbook, many hospitals offer signing bonuses, family-friendly work schedules or subsidized continuing education for new employees. Many people currently providing care in nursing are expected to retire, leaving a large vacancy in the profession. There is a great need to fill these positions with a new and younger workforce. Registered nursing schools are accepting new applicants and helping them reach their nursing education goals.
Registered Nurse (RN) Education Resources
RN Career & Degree Information
- Registered Nurse (RN) Degree and Career Overview
- RN Schools and Training Programs
- Registered Nurse Career Paths
- RN Salaries and Career Outlook
- RN Jobs: Everyday Tasks
- Registered Nursing Career Q&A
- Registered Nurse Opportunities
- State Boards of Nursing
Related RN Articles
Registered Nurse (RN) Perks at a Glance
A Versatile Profession
Along with being bedside nurses, RNs can also work with physicians, attorneys, insurance companies, school districts, and more. Some registered nurses are independent consultants, and others assist in research in areas like biology, psychology, human development and health care. Registered nursing can be as rich and versatile a career as you want to make it!
An In-Demand Career
RNs are the largest group of health care workers in the United States, with over 2.6 million active workers. Even with this amount, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, there is an insufficient amount of new graduates and foreign-trained nurses to meet the market-place demand.