What you need to know
Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.
Registered nurses work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, home healthcare services, and nursing care facilities. Others work in outpatient clinics and schools or serve in the military. Most registered nurses work as part of a team with physicians and other healthcare specialists.
Some of the things a registered nurse might do:
- Assess patients’ conditions
- Record patients’ medical histories and symptoms
- Observe patients and record the observations
- Administer patients’ medicines and treatments
- Set up plans for patients’ care or contribute information to existing plans
- Consult and collaborate with doctors and other healthcare professionals
- Operate and monitor medical equipment
- Help perform diagnostic tests and analyze the results
- Teach patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries
- Explain what to do at home after treatment
- Critical-thinking skills: Registered nurses must assess changes in the health status of patients, such as determining when to take corrective action and when to make referrals.
- Communication skills: Registered nurses must be able to communicate effectively with patients in order to understand their concerns and assess their health conditions. Nurses need to clearly explain instructions, such as how to take medication. They must work in teams with other health professionals and communicate the patients’ needs.
- Compassion: Registered nurses should be caring and empathetic when looking after patients.
- Detail oriented: Registered nurses must be responsible and detail-oriented because they must make sure that patients get the correct treatments and medicines at the right time.
- Emotional stability: Registered nurses need emotional resilience and the ability to manage their emotions to cope with human suffering, emergencies, and other stresses.
- Organizational skills: Nurses often work with multiple patients with various health needs. Organizational skills are critical to ensure that each patient is given appropriate care.
- Physical stamina: Nurses should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as moving patients. They may be on their feet for most of their shift.
The average pay for registered nurses in the United States ranges from $50,800 to $106,530 as of May 2018.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Demand for healthcare services will increase because of the aging population, given that older people typically have more medical problems than younger people. Nurses also will be needed to educate and care for patients with various chronic conditions, such as arthritis, dementia, diabetes, and obesity.
Registered nurses usually take one of three education paths: a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Registered nurses must be licensed.
In all nursing education programs, students take courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition, psychology, and other social and behavioral sciences, as well as in liberal arts. BSN programs typically take 4 years to complete; ADN and diploma programs usually take 2 to 3 years to complete. Diploma programs are typically offered by hospitals or medical centers, and there are far fewer diploma programs than there are BSN and ADN programs. All programs include supervised clinical experience.
Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) must earn a master’s degree in nursing and typically already have 1 or more years of work experience as an RN or in a related field. CNSs who conduct research typically need a doctoral degree.
Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in Nursing.