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Are you searching for a challenging and fulfilling career that allows you to positively impact people’s lives? Registered nurses (RNs) enjoy increasing job opportunities, flexible work options, and the chance for career growth.Discover if a career as a registered nurse suits your aspirations. Get insights into the profession, the process to obtain your RN credentials, average earnings, and more. This guide delves into the path to becoming an RN, their workplaces, and their income. Continue reading to gain knowledge that can assist you in making the right career choice.
Are you seeking a challenging and rewarding career that enables you to make a difference in people’s lives? Registered nurses (RNs) benefit from a rising employment rate and flexible job prospects.
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This guide explores the steps to becoming an RN, their workplaces, and their income. Keep reading for valuable information to help you make an informed career decision.
How Long to Become:
9% increase from 2020-2030
Average Annual Salary:
Diploma, ADN, or BSN required
What Does a Registered Nurse Do?
Registered nurses (RNs) deliver patient care through activities such as evaluating and observing the patient’s condition, cooperating with physicians during medical procedures, and dispensing treatments as directed by healthcare providers. They also conduct diagnostic examinations, operate medical devices, and provide patients with guidance regarding post-treatment care.
A registered nurse’s primary duties and responsibilities include the following:
– Monitoring changes in patients’ conditions and notifying healthcare providers
– Educating patients about their health and providing support
– Performing diagnostic tests and updating patient medical records
– Assisting healthcare providers during medical procedures
– Advocating for the health and well-being of patients
– Strong math and science skills
– Ability to perform well under pressure
– Critical thinking
Where Do Registered Nurses Work?
Registered nurses are employed in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, private physician practices, residential care facilities (such as nursing homes), health clinics, and urgent care centers.
Hospitals (State, Local, and Private)
In hospitals, RNs monitor patients’ health, conduct tests, provide care such as dressing wounds and administering treatments, supervise certified nurse assistants (CNAs), and collaborate with other healthcare providers.
Ambulatory Healthcare Services
In ambulatory healthcare services settings, like physician practices, RNs take medical histories, answer patient questions, and oversee assistants.
Nursing & Residential Care Facilities
In nursing and residential care facilities, RNs administer care, conduct medical tests and monitoring, supervise certified nursing assistants, and act as liaisons to patients’ families.
Why Become a Registered Nurse?
Registered nurses are the most trusted profession in the United States. Nurses with more advanced credentials, such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), earn salaries well above the national median, and the demand for RNs continues to grow.
Advantages of Becoming an RN
– A respected and trusted profession
– Above-average salaries for highly credentialed nurses with good benefits
– Opportunities for career growth in administration or further education for an NP role
– Chances to make a positive impact on patients’ lives and health
Disadvantages of Becoming an RN
– Healthcare settings carry a risk of injury or illness
– Inpatient and residential care schedules can be demanding
– High pressure and multiple priorities
– Limited professional autonomy within the scope of practice
How to Become a Registered Nurse
To become a registered nurse, students must follow several steps. These steps include graduating from an accredited program, passing the NCLEX-RN, and obtaining their license from the state board of nursing.
The minimum educational requirement is an associate degree in nursing (ADN). However, many states are moving towards requiring BSN-prepared nurses. This benefits both patients and nurses, leading to lower patient mortality, shorter hospital stays, and reduced readmission rates.
BSN-prepared nurses also have higher earning potential, more job opportunities, and a shorter path to advanced education. After completing an accredited nursing program, candidates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to obtain a state nursing license.
To be eligible for the NCLEX-RN, candidates must have graduated from an accredited program, registered for the test, and paid the required fee. Candidates must meet the state licensure requirements established by their state board of nursing.
RN Certifications and Specializations
RNs can choose to specialize in patient care. After gaining the necessary experience, an RN may pursue optional certification in a specific specialty. Certification validates an RN’s expertise in the specialty and demonstrates their commitment to professional development. It can also increase job opportunities and enhance earning potential.
Pediatric RNs specialize in caring for children in family care physician practices, hospitals, or schools. They also educate families about child health and addressing specific health needs.
Neonatal RNs have the option to care for newborn infants in various settings, including hospital maternity units or assisting parents with newborn care in the community.
Critical care RNs provide specialized care to patients with severe conditions or injuries, often in intensive care units or emergency departments. This specialty demands composure under pressure, specialized knowledge, and quick decision-making.
Gerontology RNs work with older patients, typically in long-term residential care facilities or rehabilitation settings. Caring for patients over an extended period can be emotionally challenging and rewarding.
Oncology RNs specialize in assisting patients with cancer, usually in hospitals and specialized care facilities. Like gerontology, oncology nursing can be emotionally challenging and rewarding.
RN vs. RNC: What’s the Difference?
A registered nurse has graduated from an accredited program, passed the NCLEX, and obtained an RN license in their state. An RNC designation signifies that a registered nurse has earned a core certification from the National Certification Corporation (NCC).
The letters following the dash indicate the specialty. For example, RNC-NIC is a certification in neonatal intensive care nursing. Nurses must meet eligibility requirements to take a core certification exam. These requirements include holding an active, unencumbered license in Canada or the U.S., having 24 months of experience and at least 2,000 hours of specialty experience, and working in that specialty within the last 24 months.
Some employers in specialty areas may require RNC certification. The benefits include higher salary potential and validation of skills and knowledge in the specialty. Nurses must renew their core certification every three years by providing the necessary documentation, including evidence of continuing education.
How Much Do RNs Make?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are over 3 million registered nurses employed in the U.S., with an average annual salary of $82,750. This exceeds the average annual mean salary of $58,260 for all U.S. workers.
The salary range for RNs starts at $59,450 for those in the lowest 10% of the nursing workforce. The median annual salary is $77,600, and those in the highest 90% of the workforce make $120,250.
The largest employers are general medical and surgical hospitals, where nurses earn an annual mean salary of $85,020. Nursing care facilities employ the fewest RNs and offer the lowest annual mean salary of $72,260, which still exceeds the mean salary of U.S. workers.
Factors that can impact salary potential include geographical location, cost of living, education, certification, and experience. Below is a list of the top-paying states and the total number of RNs employed in each.
Top-Paying States for RNs
|Annual Mean Wage
|Total Number of RNs
Frequently Asked Questions about Registered Nurses
What is the difference between an RN and an NP?
An NP (Nurse Practitioner) is a nurse who has earned at least a master of science in nursing and has passed the national NP certification examination. An RN has either a diploma, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree in nursing and has passed the RN certification exam. An NP is authorized to perform more medical functions than an RN, including prescribing medication and making diagnoses.
Can you complete an RN program online?
While all RN programs require fieldwork or clinical hours, many schools offer hybrid or online RN programs that allow students to take online classes and complete clinical hours in their own communities.
What kind of accreditation should nursing programs have?
Nursing programs should be accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The ACEN accredits all levels of nursing programs, including diploma, associate degree, and doctoral programs, as well as bachelor’s and master’s programs.
What qualities are important for RNs?
RNs should be able to display empathy for patients and their families, balance heavy workloads, think clearly under pressure, and communicate effectively.
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