A registered nurse (RN) is a nurse who has earned an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), has successfully passed the NCLEX-RN exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCBSN), and has met all of the requirements to become a nurse outlined by their state’s licensing body (state board of nursing).
The scope of practice for a registered nurse is quite broad. RN roles range from providing direct patient care and implementing nursing care plans to directing complex nursing care systems, teaching in nursing programs, instructing patients on disease prevention and health maintenance, conducting clinical research, as well as practicing independently in a variety of challenging settings
Registered nurses also can specialize in certain areas, such as neonatal, pediatric, geriatric, surgical, and emergency medical care. To succeed in these roles, an RN must possess strong communication skills, be detail-oriented and compassionate, and have the ability to adapt to new technologies, techniques, and medical procedures as they are introduced.
Registered nurses may also choose to pursue positions in teaching, management, and administration. For example, nurse educators are registered nurses who possess clinical knowledge and teaching expertise to help train licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, and other licensed nursing staff. Additional roles in designing and implementing academic curriculum for continuing education programs also are available for clinical nurse educators.
As a registered nurse, you will be responsible for assessing patient health problems, administering nursing care to ill, disabled, convalescent, or injured patients, maintaining vital medical records, implementing nursing care plans, advising patients on health maintenance, and providing guidance about preventative services, such as health screenings and medications.
Therefore, technical nursing skills are a priority if you want to excel at the duties you are asked to perform. This is one of the reasons why the requirements to become a nurse is so rigorous. When a nurse is at work, the lives of their patients are on the line. Accordingly, the top clinical nursing skills employers expect RNs to have included the following:
One of the most exciting aspects of nursing as a profession is the surprising number of career opportunities available to registered nurses. RNs have the ability to work in a variety of work settings, pursue hundreds of unique credentials and specializations, work with unique patient populations, and challenge themselves daily in an environment that is constantly evolving. A few of the most popular career paths for a registered nurse are listed below.
Emergency room nurses work as part of a team to provide care for patients with various forms of illness, trauma, and life-threatening conditions that require immediate, emergency attention. They work with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to administer medicine, perform medical operations, clean and bandage wounds, manage life support needs, and provide basic bedside care.
An Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Nurse is a registered nurse who performs a range of tasks in delivering care to injured or seriously ill patients (patients who have suffered heart attacks, strokes, or undergone invasive surgery). As specialized nurses, their duties included providing constant support during a patient’s recovery, including administering treatment, diagnostic tests, identifying subtle or sudden changes in a patient’s medical condition, and responding to medical emergencies.
Medical-surgical nurses manage 5-7 patients while providing care and treatment to ill, injured, and recovering adults. They are responsible for a multitude of duties, which depend largely on the setting. A “med-surg” nurse must be able to administer medication, monitor vital signs, change dressings and provide wound care, implement nursing care plans, and provide patients with education and support. While juggling multiple patients’ needs, a medical-surgical nurse may delegate some basic tasks to LPNs on staff.
A pediatric nurse provides medical care for patients from birth through adolescence, including infants, children, and individuals ages 10-19. They perform duties similar to those provided for adult patients but with the added challenge of administering care to children who cannot clearly communicate their problems. Pediatric nurses must also offer emotional support, education, and counseling to children and their parents.
Advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) is an umbrella term used to describe a nursing professional who has advanced clinical expertise in a specialty area after earning a master’s or doctoral degree. APRNs treat and diagnose illnesses, manage chronic diseases, and educate the public about health issues and preventative healthcare. They are often primary care providers, filling advanced roles in various healthcare settings. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, APRNs include nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, and nurse-midwives.
A certified registered nurse anesthetist cares for patients at all acuity and age levels by administering anesthesia, making adjustments to anesthesia, monitoring vital signs, and providing care before, during, and after procedures. They work autonomously and in collaboration with physicians, nurses, and other members of an interprofessional team. The CRNA works in various settings, including surgical, diagnostic, obstetrical, therapeutic, and pain management.
A certified nurse midwife (CNM) assists women, focusing on pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum health care. They practice within the healthcare system, working under the indirect supervision of gynecologists and obstetricians to diagnose, treat reproductive health issues, perform screenings, and consult families through their attempts to conceive. Their duties also include preparing women for labor and delivery, assisting with the birthing process, and care for the newborn.
A clinical nurse specialist provides expert care for patients with multiple or complex health needs in addition to handling conventional nursing responsibilities. Their scope of practice includes assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients with unique considerations, using advanced clinical skills. A few areas of specialization include cardiology, pediatrics, diabetes, respiratory.
A nurse practitioner may serve as a patient’s primary healthcare provider in inpatient and outpatient settings, helping individuals and families with all aspects of health care, including diagnosis, assessment, and treatment. They often work as part of a treatment team but may also work independently, providing general consultations and performing the important task of educating patients about treatments, wellness plans, and preventative care. Nurse practitioners can order lab tests and legally allowed to prescribe medication for children and adults.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual wage for a registered nurse was $80,010 in May 2020, equivalent to $38.47 per hour. Registered nurses in the lowest 10 percent earned an annual median wage of less than $53,410 while those in the 90th percentile earned more than $116,230.
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