Career Development

Nurse Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Nurses work with patients and other team members to provide direct patient care, perform administrative duties, and educate patients and the public about health matters.

Nurses work with patients and other team members to provide direct patient care, perform administrative duties, and educate patients and the public about health matters.

Nurses may work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, schools, or other healthcare facilities. Nurses may also work as travel nurses, providing short-term care for patients in hospitals across the country.

Nurses work with patients to make sure they get the right treatments. Nurses also may help doctors and other health care providers by performing vital tests and procedures, like drawing blood or inserting catheters.

Nurses can specialize in areas like surgery, pediatrics, psychiatry, or the operating room. They can also choose to work in specific areas of nursing, like administration or gerontology.

Nurse Job Duties

Nurses are responsible for a wide range of duties:

  • Administering medications and treatments, monitoring patient reactions, and adjusting dosages as needed
  • Observing patients for signs of physical or emotional distress
  • Cleaning and sterilizing equipment and instruments for examinations and treatment
  • Performing diagnostic tests such as taking blood pressure, measuring heart rate, or drawing blood
  • Preparing patients for examinations and surgeries
  • Preparing operating rooms, examining rooms, or other treatment areas for medical procedures
  • Applying bandages, splints, casts, braces, or other forms of support to injured limbs or other body parts
  • Talking with patients to provide emotional support and to keep them informed about their health status
  • Educating patients about their illness or injury and how to manage their treatment
  • Maintaining accurate records on patients’ conditions and summarizing patient care plans

Nurse Salary and Outlook

Nurses are well-respected professionals, and their earnings reflect this. As of May 2020, the median annual wage for nurses was $75,330. The top 10% of earners were pulling in over $116,230 annually.

Nurses are expected to enjoy healthy job growth over the next decade, due to a number of factors. The aging population will continue to drive demand for healthcare, and the demand for nursing care will increase as a result. In addition, healthcare is increasingly becoming more specialized, and nurses will be needed to provide care for more complex patients.

Nurse Job Requirements

The education and training requirements for a nurse include the following:

Education

Nurses must have a Bachelor’s degree in nursing to be eligible for extensive roles and positions. Nursing degrees offer a substantial general education component and help nurses qualify for more advanced positions. Popular undergraduate nursing degrees include BSNs in nursing, nursing administration, nursing education or nursing science.

Bachelor’s degrees take approximately four years to complete, and candidates need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to practice as nurses. This is an exam that tests the candidate’s knowledge of nursing laws, ethics and health promotion and maintenance.

Training

Most nurse training is on the job. Before beginning their roles, nurses spend months to years in training programs, which include an internship and clinical experience. During an internship, nurses gain hands-on experience through supervised practice in a clinical setting, which gives them more practical knowledge than they would receive in a classroom.

Certifications

Nurses can also earn certifications, which allow them to practice nursing independently. Many nurses pursue certifications like:

National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN): This licensing exam tests a nurse’s knowledge of diseases, injuries and disorders. Nurses must pass the exam to practice independently.

National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN): This exam focuses less on theory than the NCLEX-RN and tests a nurse’s practical skills. Nurses with a current certification in the NCLEX-RN are not required to take this exam.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): This advanced certification shows a nurse’s expertise in a specialized field of nurse anesthesia.

Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM): This certification indicates that a nurse-midwife has the skills and knowledge to safely and effectively care for women during pregnancy and labor.

Nurse Skills

A nurse must have the following skills:

Nursing knowledge: A nurse must have a thorough understanding of nursing theory and practice.

Communication skills: Nurses must be able to communicate effectively with patients, families, and other members of the healthcare team.

Empathy: Nurses must be able to empathize with patients in order to help them feel comfortable and cared for.

Interpersonal skills: Nurses must be able to work well with others on the healthcare team as well as with patients and their families.

Teamwork: Nurses must be able to work well in teams in order to provide quality care for patients.

Critical thinking skills: Nurses need strong critical thinking skills in order to make sound decisions about patient care.

Problem-solving skills: Nurses need strong problem-solving skills in order to address issues that arise during patient care.

Professionalism: Nurses need strong professional ethics and morals in order to do their jobs ethically and responsibly.

Nurse Work Environment

Nurses typically work in hospitals, though they can also be found in doctor’s offices, clinics, nursing homes, and schools. Nurses are on their feet for most of the day and need to be in good physical shape to handle the demands of the job.

Nurse Career Advancement

Nurses who want to advance their careers can choose to become Nurse Practitioners (NPs). These professionals work directly with patients and may diagnose and prescribe medications. They must pass challenging exams, but once they do, they can enjoy a wide variety of options for advancement.

Nurses who enjoy teaching may become nurse educators. Their job is to instruct students on everything from disease prevention to palliative care.

Those who prefer leadership positions may consider becoming a charge nurse or unit manager. In these positions, nurses are responsible for the daily operations of a nursing unit. They must ensure that patients receive appropriate care and that staff members remain on schedule and provide the best possible care.

No matter which path you choose to advance your career, it is best to gain relevant certifications in your area of interest to show that you are committed to growing your knowledge base.

Nursing Trends

Here are three trends influencing Nurses. Whether you are currently in the profession or looking to enter it, stay current on these developments so that your skills remain relevant and you continue to succeed.

Healthcare Reform

Healthcare reform has had a huge impact on the nursing profession over the last decade.

As of 2014, the Affordable Care Act was estimated to increase the number of insured Americans by 20 million people. With this increase, more patients will be able to receive preventative care and treatment for chronic diseases, which will result in a healthier population and reduced costs for both patients and providers.

The increased focus on preventative care will also alleviate pressure on nurses in hospitals and other medical facilities. As medical professionals will now be better equipped to handle more complicated patients, they will be able to spend more time focusing on early intervention and treatment, which will have a positive impact on patient outcomes.

Increased Focus on Personalized Care

Nurses are increasingly being tasked with providing personalized care to patients rather than following a set routine or care plan.

This trend is largely driven by the rise of personalized medicine in the United States, which means that Nurses may need to spend more time than ever before gathering information about their patients’ specific needs and goals.

Moreover, this trend also reflects the increased focus on patient satisfaction in the healthcare industry in recent years: In a recent survey, more than half of all patients said they would be less likely to return to a hospital that they felt didn’t provide sufficiently personalized care.

The Rise of Telehealth

The use of telehealth has been steadily increasing in recent years, largely due to its convenience and cost-effectiveness.

This trend has been boosted by the rise of telemedicine applications such as Skype, FaceTime, and other video conferencing technologies.

Using these tools can help nurses provide better care for their patients while reducing their workloads and travel time.

How to become a Nurse

1. Planning Your Career Path

If you’re not sure where to start your career, think about what interests you most. Some nurses may find themselves drawn to specific areas of the profession (such as pediatrics or mental health), while others might be more interested in finding a niche that will allow them greater flexibility with their schedules.

2. Obtaining an Education

Aspiring nurses have a few different options when it comes to pursuing their education. Many of these professionals are certified through nursing programs, while others may pursue degrees in related fields (such as psychology or social work). The choice is up to you and what you’re looking for in your future career. 

Below, we’ve listed some of the most popular pathways to becoming a nurse: 

  • Nursing Program — Some nurses are educated at universities with nursing programs; typically, this means they will complete four years of college before earning their degree. Other routes include associate degree and diploma programs. 
  • Medical Assistant Degree — A medical assistant who wishes to become a nurse may pursue an associate degree in order to broaden his or her qualifications. While not all employers require that their staff be licensed by the state board of nursing, being eligible for certification helps applicants stand out from other job seekers during the hiring process. 
  • Mental Health Associate Degree — Mental health assistants can earn certifications in mental health administration as well as psychiatric/mental health nursing services; doing so allows them to specialize within certain areas such as child psychiatry or geriatric mental health care. These professionals often find themselves working closely with psychiatrists and psychologists on treatment plans designed specifically for patients dealing with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc., which makes this specialization appealing if that area interests you more than others do.
3. Gaining Experience

Aspiring nurses should also consider gaining experience through volunteer work, internships, and other hands-on opportunities. By dabbling in a variety of different areas within the profession (such as pediatric nursing or mental health), you can learn what type of nurse you would like to be. 

4. Getting Certified 

Certification is another option for those who are looking to stand out from the crowd during their job search. The most popular certification for nurses is a registered nurse license, which signifies that an individual has completed an accredited nursing program and passed all necessary state board exams. This certification will allow them to become employed in hospitals, clinics, schools, prisons—almost any organization with a need for qualified medical professionals. Other options include certifications related specifically to pediatrics or psychiatric care; these will allow prospective employees to specialize more than general RNs do without having gone through traditional college programs beforehand. As always, make sure you research each certificate before committing time and money into it so that you know exactly what benefits it provides before investing your resources into it.

5. Applying For Jobs

Finally, once you’ve gained experience and certification in the field, it’s time to apply for jobs. Update your resume and cover letter to include any relevant information (such as where you attended school or which certifications you have). Make sure that all of your materials are up-to-date and reflect the professional level of expertise that employers are looking for.

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