What is a Registered Nurse?
A Registered Nurse (RN) is a nurse who assesses and plans care for patients who are ill, injured or disabled. One of the critical differences between an RN and a Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse (LPN/ LVN) is that the RN is responsible for planning care and educating patients and families about disease prevention and health maintenance. Although a Registered Nurse can practice without any specialization, many nurses also elect to continue their education to become Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS).The RN license is required to become an Advanced Practice RN. The RN typically serves as the patient’s Case Manager to guide the care of the team.
Quick Facts about Registered Nurses:
- 2015 Median Pay
- Number of Jobs in 2014
- Job Prospects from 2014-2024
- Much faster than average
- Projected Employment in 2024
- Projected Employment Change from 2014-2024
- Areas of Growth
- All areas of healthcare
Figure 1: Accessed online from Bureau of Labor Statistics July 2016
What does a Registered Nurse do?
The Registered Nurse (RN) provides hands-on patient care, plans and coordinates patient care provided by others on the team, and provides education to patients, families, other healthcare team members and the general public. Depending on the Board of Nursing scope of practice in the specific state, facility-specific job description and the training of the individual, a Registered Nurse (RN) is a nurse who will do some or all of the following:
- Take nursing histories from patients and families;
- Perform head to toe assessments of patients;
- Diagnose nursing problems based on the history, exam and testing;
- Create plans of care for patients and families based on the nursing diagnoses;
- Administer medications and provide treatments based on orders and the nursing plan of care;
- Evaluate the individual’s response to the prescribed medications and treatments;
- Teach and collaborate with patients and families about the findings and plan of care;
- Consult with other members of the healthcare team;
- Conduct or participate in research studies;
- Collaborate with other team members as part of the healthcare team.
Where do Registered Nurses work?
The Registered Nurse can work in almost any area of health care. In general, this role can be found throughout healthcare:
- Acute care hospitals;
- Skilled and long-term nursing facilities;
- Retirement communities;
- Assisted living facilities;
- Specialty hospitals;
- Home Health agencies;
- Insurance companies;
- Physicians’ offices;
- Surgery centers;
- Public health;
- Clinics and outpatient services.
Most Registered nurses (about 83%) work full time but the Bureau of Labor Statistics note that in 2014 approximately 17% worked part time.The need for RNs remains high and is expected to increase over time; therefore, many employers will allow nurses to work alternative schedules in order to retain experienced nurses.
What qualities should a Registered Nurse have to be successful?
The Registered Nurse is often the nursing leader of the healthcare team. As such, the successful RN should have the following skills and qualities:
- Great basic nursing skills’
- In addition to great nursing skills, the successful RN will also have exceptional critical thinking skills.
- Since much of the work of the RN is planning care for the patient, the ability to accurately assess and develop an appropriate plan of care is critical.
- Communication and interpersonal skills are vital for accurately relaying information to patients, families and other members of the healthcare team.
- A Registered Nurse must be attentive to details since they must be able to detect even small changes in a patient’s condition.
- Finally, the RN must be compassionate and willing to understand that the patient and family are typically under a huge amount of stress when seeking care.
Depending on the scope of practice in the state and facility policy, you must be willing to learn new skills that were not part of the training in your education.
How much can I expect to earn as a Registered Nurse?
Since the Registered Nurse license includes a huge array of different certifications and specializations, the salary range will be correspondingly wide. However, even the RN without special training can expect to earn an excellent salary. As of May 2015, the median annual wage was $67,490 with a range from $34,350 to $101,260. Of course, wages vary widely by state, cost of living, and need. In May 2015, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the following as average wages for a Registered Nurse by state:
Figure 2: Accessed online from Bureau of Labor Statistics July 2016
What are the job prospects for a Registered Nurse?
The need for Registered Nurses continues to be very high and will grow by 16% through 2024. However, the number of RNs beginning work has begun to increase and competition for jobs has also increased. Therefore, many employers will tend to hire Master’s prepared nurses over BSN and will hire BSN prepared nurses over the ADN nurse. Job prospects for the RN will continue to be good over the next 10 years as baby boomers age, begin to develop health issues, and begin to leave the work force.
In May 2015, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed the following as employment of Registered Nurses by state:
Figure 3: Accessed online from Bureau of Labor Statistics July 2016
How can I become a Registered Nurse?
There are three typical paths to becoming a Registered Nurse: a diploma from an approved nursing program, an Associate’s Degree In Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing (BSN). The diploma is a path that is much less common than in past years. Most nurses use the ADN degree as a way to more quickly (within 2 years) begin making money as a registered Nurse as they study for a BSN. As more nurses are available, many employers show preference for a Bachelor’s prepared nurse rather than the other two paths.
For all three paths, you will study anatomy and physiology, chemistry, nutrition, microbiology, other sciences, psychology and other social sciences. All of the paths require clinical training in addition to the classroom education. Following your education, you will also be required to pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN) which ensures that every Registered Nurse is at least able to practice nursing at a minimally safe level.
Depending on the state in which you practice, you may be required to obtain continuing education hours to maintain your license.