Registered nurse smiling. Over 2.6 million registered nurses work in the United States.
Registered Nurse Job Description: Registered nurses (RNs), regardless of specialty or work setting, treat patients, educate patients and the public about various medical conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients’ family members.
RNs record patients’ medical histories and symptoms, help perform diagnostic tests and analyze results, operate medical machinery, administer treatment and medications, and help with patient follow-up and rehabilitation.
RNs teach patients and their families how to manage their illness or injury, explaining post-treatment home care needs; diet, nutrition, and exercise programs; and self-administration of medication and physical therapy. Some RNs work to promote general health by educating the public on warning signs and symptoms of disease. RNs also might run general health screening or immunization clinics, blood drives, and public seminars on various conditions.
When caring for patients, RNs establish a plan of care or contribute to an existing plan. Plans may include numerous activities, such as administering medication, including careful checking of dosages and avoiding interactions; starting, maintaining, and discontinuing intravenous (IV) lines for fluid, medication, blood, and blood products; administering therapies and treatments; observing the patient and recording those observations; and consulting with physicians and other health care clinicians.
Some RNs provide direction to licensed practical nurses and nursing aids regarding patient care. RNs with advanced educational preparation and training may perform diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and may have prescriptive authority.
RNs can specialize in one or more areas of patient care. There generally are four ways to specialize. RNs can choose a particular work setting or type of treatment, such as perioperative nurses, who work in operating rooms and assist surgeons. RNs also may choose to specialize in specific health conditions, as do diabetes management nurses, who assist patients to manage diabetes.
Other RNs specialize in working with one or more organs or body system types, such as dermatology nurses, who work with patients who have skin disorders. RNs also can choose to work with a well-defined population, such as geriatric nurses, who work with the elderly. Some RNs may combine specialties. For example, pediatric oncology nurses deal with children and adolescents who have cancer.
Most RNs work in well-lighted,
comfortable health care facilities. Home health and public health nurses travel
to patients’ homes, schools, community centers, and other sites. RNs may spend
considerable time walking, bending, stretching, and standing. Patients in
hospitals and nursing care facilities require 24-hour care; consequently, nurses
in these institutions may work nights, weekends, and holidays. RNs also may be
on call—available to work on short notice. Nurses who work in offices, schools,
and other settings that do not provide 24-hour care are more likely to work
regular business hours.
Nursing has its hazards, especially in hospitals, nursing care facilities, and clinics, where nurses may be in close contact with individuals who have infectious diseases and with toxic, harmful, or potentially hazardous compounds, solutions, and medications. RNs must observe rigid, standardized guidelines to guard against disease and other dangers, such as those posed by radiation, accidental needle sticks, chemicals used to sterilize instruments, and anesthetics.
In addition, they are vulnerable to back injury when moving patients, shocks from electrical equipment, and hazards posed by compressed gases. RNs also may suffer emotional strain from caring for patients suffering unrelieved intense pain, close personal contact with patients’ families, the need to make critical decisions, and ethical dilemmas and concerns.
Training and Qualifications - to be a Registered Nurse
The three major educational paths to registered nursing are a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree, and a diploma from an approved nursing program. Nurses most commonly enter the occupation by completing an associate degree or bachelor’s degree program. Individuals then must complete a national licensing examination in order to obtain a nursing license.
Further training or education can qualify nurses to work in specialty areas, and may help improve advancement opportunities. Nurses desiring a career in management or advanced nursing practice such as Nurse Practitioner or Clinical Nurse Specialist will need to acquire a masters or doctorial degree in nursing.
Other qualifications: Nurses should be caring, sympathetic, responsible, and detail oriented. They must be able to direct or supervise others, correctly assess patients’ conditions, and determine when consultation is required. They need emotional stability to cope with human suffering, emergencies, and other stresses.
Licensing and Credentialing
In all 50 states and the U.S. Territories Registered Nurses are regulated. The usual method to be a credentialed and licensed RN is:
1) Possess an Associates Degree, Diploma or Bachelor's Degree from an accredited college.
2) Pass national exams for nursing or NCLEX-RN.. In some states you may have to take an additional exam.
3) Apply for licensure in the state you wish to practice in
Significant Points to the Registered Nurse Job Description
Registered nurses constitute the largest health care occupation, with over 2.6 million jobs.
About 59 percent of all registered nurses are in hospitals.
The three major educational paths to registered nursing are a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree, and a diploma from an approved nursing program.
Registered nurses are projected to generate about 587,000 new jobs over the 2006-2016 period, one of the largest numbers among all occupations; overall job opportunities are expected to be excellent, but may vary by employment setting.
The registered nurse job description is expanding and evolving due to the rapidly changing trends in health care.
Some RNs start their careers as licensed practical nurses or nursing aides, and then go back to school to receive their RN degree. Most RNs begin as staff nurses in hospitals, and with experience and good performance often move to other settings or are promoted to more responsible positions.
In management, nurses can advance from assistant unit manger or head nurse to more senior-level administrative roles of assistant director, director, vice president, or chief nurse. Increasingly, management-level nursing positions require a graduate or an advanced degree in nursing or health services administration. Administrative positions require leadership, communication and negotiation skills, and good judgment.
Some nurses move into the business side of health care. Their nursing expertise and experience on a health care team equip them to manage ambulatory, acute, home-based, and chronic care. Employers—including hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and managed care organizations, among others—need RNs for health planning and development, marketing, consulting, policy development, and quality assurance. Other nurses work as college and university faculty or conduct research.
An additional avenue for advancement is called Advanced Practice Nurse. Currently there are 4 careers or skill paths that are considered APN roles. These are Nurse Practitioner, Clincial Nurse Specialist, Nurse Anesthetist and Nurse Mid-wife. A masters degree or higher is required in most states and territories to practice in these roles.
Resources for Registered Nurse Job Description
National Center for O*NET Development. 29-1141.00. O*NET OnLine. Retrieved June 27, 2014, from http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1141.00
American Nurses Association (ANA) , 8515 Georgia Ave., Suite 400, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Phone: (800) 274-4262.