Career Development

What Does a Registered Nurse Do?

Find out what a registered nurse does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a registered nurse.

A registered nurse (RN) is a healthcare professional who provides direct patient care. They are responsible for assessing, diagnosing and treating patients with medical conditions.

Registered nurses may also be involved in the development of nursing practice standards, education of future nurses, research into new treatments or therapies, and other activities related to improving the quality of health care.

Registered Nurse Job Duties

A registered nurse typically has a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Performing diagnostic tests such as drawing blood or collecting tissue samples
  • Providing emotional support to patients and their families in times of stress or trauma
  • Recording medical histories and physical examination results in patients’ charts
  • Implementing treatment plans by providing nursing care to patients
  • Performing diagnostic tests, such as taking blood pressure or pulse rate
  • Educating patients about their condition and treatment plan and answering their questions
  • Coordinating patient care with doctors, therapists, social workers, and other members of the health care team
  • Preparing medications and administering them to patients according to physicians’ orders
  • Observing and recording changes in a patient’s physical condition, such as weight loss or gain, as well as other indicators such as fever or rash, to track progress toward treatment goals

Registered Nurse Salary & Outlook

Registered nurses’ salaries vary depending on their level of education and experience, the size of the hospital or medical facility where they work, and the geographic location of their job.

  • Median Annual Salary: $76,500 ($36.78/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $100,000 ($48.08/hour)

The employment of registered nurses is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

Demand for healthcare services will increase as more people have access to health insurance and treatment for chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity. Nurses also will be needed to educate and care for older patients, who typically require more medical care than younger people.

Registered Nurse Job Requirements

A registered nurse typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: To become a registered nurse, you must earn a bachelor’s degree from a nursing program accredited by the National League for Nursing (NLN). These programs typically take four years to complete and include both classroom and clinical instruction.

During the first two years of the program, students take courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry, psychology, sociology, statistics, and nursing theory. The final two years of the program are spent in a clinical setting, where students apply their knowledge to real-world situations under the supervision of an experienced nurse.

Training & Experience: After graduating from an accredited nursing program, CNAs must complete a state-approved training program. These programs typically last between six and 12 weeks and teach the skills and knowledge necessary to work as a CNA.

Certifications & Licenses: After completing a degree program, the most direct path to becoming a registered nurse is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). This is a licensure exam that all nurses must pass before they can start practicing.

Registered Nurse Skills

Registered nurses need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication: Communication is the act of exchanging information. As a registered nurse, you must be able to communicate with patients, other medical professionals and patients’ families. You must also be able to communicate complex medical information in a way that is easy for patients to understand.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. As a registered nurse, you may be responsible for caring for patients who are experiencing severe pain or emotional distress. Empathy can help you connect with your patients and make them feel more comfortable.

Time management: Time management is the ability to prioritize tasks and manage the time you have to complete them. As a registered nurse, you may have many patients to care for throughout the day. This requires you to prioritize your tasks and manage your time effectively.

Critical thinking: Critical thinking is the ability to make quick decisions based on the information you have. As a registered nurse, you may need to make important decisions about patient care. For example, if a patient has a low blood pressure, you may need to make a decision about whether to administer a medication to increase their blood pressure or wait to see if their blood pressure naturally rises.

Organization: As a nurse, you may need to prioritize tasks and manage multiple responsibilities at once. Having strong organizational skills can help you manage your time and responsibilities effectively. This can help you meet the needs of your patients and keep your work area clean and safe.

Registered Nurse Work Environment

Registered nurses (RNs) work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, physician’s offices, and home health agencies. They also may work in schools, camps, and other community settings. RNs usually work on rotating shifts that include evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays. Some RNs work part time, and about 20 percent work more than 40 hours per week. Many RNs work overtime or take on additional assignments to earn extra money. The work environment of RNs can be physically and emotionally demanding. RNs must be able to stand for long periods, lift heavy patients and equipment, and deal with the stress of life-and-death situations.

Registered Nurse Trends

Here are three trends influencing how registered nurses work. Registered nurses will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Importance of Patient Experience

The patient experience is becoming increasingly important in healthcare, as more and more patients are looking for a positive experience when they visit the doctor. This means that nurses will need to be able to provide excellent care while also creating a comfortable environment for patients.

Nurses can utilize this trend by focusing on providing excellent care and customer service. They can also work to create a positive atmosphere in the hospital by promoting activities and events that patients will enjoy.

Patient Advocacy Will Become More Important

As patients become more involved in their own care, nurse professionals will need to develop skills in patient advocacy.

This trend is already being seen in the increasing popularity of patient satisfaction surveys, which allow patients to provide feedback about the care they received. Nurses who are good at advocating for their patients will be in high demand, as hospitals and other healthcare facilities look for ways to improve the patient experience.

More Focus on Preventative Care

Preventative care is becoming an increasingly important focus in the medical field, as it can help reduce the number of people who get sick or injured in the first place. Registered nurses are in a unique position to take advantage of this trend, as they are often the first point of contact for patients who are seeking preventative care services.

By developing relationships with patients and understanding their needs, RNs can help to direct them towards the most appropriate care options. In addition, they can also provide education and support to help patients make better decisions about their health.

How to Become a Registered Nurse

A career as an RN is full of possibilities. You can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. You can also specialize in a particular area of nursing, such as oncology or pediatrics.

No matter where you work or what you specialize in, being an RN requires dedication and hard work. It’s important to keep up with the latest developments in your field and continue learning new skills. You should also be prepared to take on additional responsibilities as they arise.

Related: How to Write a Registered Nurse Resume

Advancement Prospects

After working for a few years as a staff nurse, many nurses move into management positions. Some become head nurses or nurse managers, while others become assistant directors or directors of nursing. Many nurses with a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) move into administration because it offers more opportunities for career advancement.

Nurses with an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) or a doctorate (DNP), may choose to become nurse educators or nurse researchers. Others may become certified nurse-midwives, certified registered nurse anesthetists, or clinical nurse specialists. These nurses often work in hospitals, but some may work in private practices, schools, or research centers.

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