Registered nurses (RNs) are licensed health care professionals who provide direct care to patients on various levels that may include assessing, planning, implementing and evaluating nursing care of the sick and injured. RNs treat patients in a wide variety of settings and venues, including doctors' offices, outpatient treatment facilities, home health care agencies and hospitals.

Day in the Life of a Registered Nurse

On a typical day, a registered nurse might perform any of the following duties:

  • Administrating medication
  • Tending to patient hygiene
  • Completing patient rounds
  • Consulting or reporting to other health care professionals
  • Explaining follow-up care to patients
  • Helping establish plans for patient care
  • Case management
  • Operating medical equipment
  • Performing diagnostic tests
  • Recording patients' medical histories

Most RNs work in comfortable health care facilities, but their schedules can vary from job to job. For example, those employed in hospitals and nursing care facilities may need to work nights, weekends or holidays or be on call or subject to work on short notice.

Nurses who work in settings that do not have 24-hour care, such as schools, offices and some government agencies, are more likely to work a normal 40-hour weekly schedule. Some RNs choose to work as floater nurses, perhaps working the night shift on weekends in a hospital. Such a nurse may work in a different unit or ward each time she reports to work, but this flexible schedule may be a good fit for her personal or family life.

In some cases, RNs travel for work, especially if they work in home health care or public health. In some situations, they may also transport patients when the usual transportation crew is unavailable.

Important Characteristics for Registered Nurses

Successful nurses feel compassion toward patients. They communicate well with patients, physicians and other co-workers. They are also skilled in making critical and time-sensitive decisions. It's important for RNs to have physical strength and stamina, since they spend much of their time walking, standing, moving and lifting. RNs can also be exposed to infectious diseases and toxic/hazardous compounds, so maintaining a strong immune system is key. Every RN should know how to manage the emotional strain the job can bring.

Typical Steps for Becoming a Registered Nurse

1. Decide which type of nursing program or degree to pursue.

There are three primary paths to meet nursing education requirements:

  • Bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). Typically a four-year program, the BSN is the most versatile of the RN training options. The BSN leads to greater career opportunities in clinical nursing and administrative roles. Choose registered nursing schools accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, or both. It is also possible to advance from an associate degree or diploma to a bachelor's degree through an accelerated RN-to-BSN program.
  • Associate degree in nursing (ADN). Usually a two- or three-year program at a community college, the emphasis is on practical instruction and applied training.
  • Diploma from an approved nursing program. Typically a three-year program administered in a hospital, the curriculum is tied to clinical practice, with rotations and hands-on training. This option is becoming increasingly rare.

2. Take the prerequisites required by your nursing program.

Most schools do not allow you to enter directly into a nursing program. Once you are accepted as a pre-nursing student, you will need to take all required prerequisites courses, such as, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, math and chemistry.

3. Complete the nursing component of your education.

With your prerequisites behind you, you can focus on the nursing component of your education, which include classroom instruction and clinical rotations.

4. Pass the licensing exam to become a registered nurse.

You will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN, to earn a nursing license. Licensing requirements vary by state; check with the board of nursing in the state where you plan to practice.

5. Apply for entry-level-nursing jobs.

Once you have completed the nursing education requirements and passed all state-required testing for nurses, you can apply for entry-level jobs in your field.


  • Registered Nurses, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm
  • Summary Report - Registered Nurses, O*NET OnLine, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1141.00
  • Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, http://www.acenursing.org/
  • Accredited Baccalaureate & Graduate Nursing Programs, Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, https://directory.ccnecommunity.org/reports/accprog.asp

Most Popular Industries for
Registered Nurse

These industries represent at least 1% of the total number of people employed in this occupation.

Industry Total Employment Percent Annual Median Salary
Hospital 1,535,440 60% $63,890
Medical Office 454,100 17% $59,600
Nursing And Residential Care 162,190 6% $56,570
Government 144,990 5% $64,340
Office Services And Staffing 98,770 3% $67,720
Education 79,640 3% $53,620
Click the Visit School Site buttons to go directly to a school's website and learn more about the school and programs it has to offer. School website will open in a new tab.
Click the Request Info buttons to request more information from a representative at the school.
Results:  10
Matching School Ads
  • Do you aspire to fulfill an evolving healthcare role as a highly-qualified nursing professional? GCU is the place for you.
  • RNs, pursue your BSN or MSN conveniently online, backed by the legacy of GCU's traditional campus.
  • GCU's bachelor's and master's programs prepare students to fill roles in direct care, management, health education and administrative disciplines.
  • The baccalaureate degree in nursing and master's degree in nursing at GCU are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Develop with hands-on practice, online and lab simulations and in depth peer discussions exploring best practices.
  • Presents stimulating, thoughtful programs for students in every academic field
  • SACS accredited w/many accreditations per program & 14:1 teacher-student ratio
  • 7 colleges with dozens of majors & programs to choose from for undergrads & grads
  • Beautiful 248 acre campus with ¾ mile waterfront located in Jacksonville, FL
  • Named an “America’s Best College” in the south for 10+ years, US News & World Report
  • Began in 1909 as a single classroom in Los Angeles.
  • Offers no-cost dental clinic in Anaheim, where students gain experience by offering a selection of free dental services.
  • Involved in philanthropy, through partnerships with several organizations, such as the California Institute for Nursing and Healthcare (CINHC) and Shriner’s Hospital.
  • Accredited by The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission.
  • Has 4 California campuses and 2 other campuses in Florida and Texas.
camnpus icon
Request Info
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Implements a one-to-one teaching model, partnering one student with one faculty member in each course.
  • 100% of faculty members hold doctoral degrees.
  • No physical residency requirements, allowing students to pursue their degree online.
  • Committed to innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability since its founding in 1996.
  • Offers several programs in business, education, psychology, and more.

Saint Xavier University education that is grounded in the tradition of liberal arts. SXU offers graduate and post-graduate programs that are recognized and respected by employers and delivered by professional faculty who are experts in their fields. 

  • Loyola gives you an edge for an exciting career & an education for a fulfilling life
  • Accredited by the SACSCOC with a 10:1 student-faculty ratio & 5 distinct colleges
  • #10 Best Regional Universities of the South U.S. News and World Report
  • Top 20 Fulbright Producer in 2015-2016 w/ a 20% application acceptance rate in 2017
  • Programs in musical theatre, digital filmmaking, chemistry, business, & more!
  • SJU provides a rigorous, student-centered education rooted in the liberal arts
  • A Jesuit school with 8,415 students in all programs for 2016 grads &undergrads
  • Institutionally Accredited by the MSCHE and the AACSB (Haub School of Business)
  • 96% of 2016 graduates employed, pursuing graduate study or volunteering full time
  • Qualifying students can receive financial assistance with tuition costs

Why Choose Widener University?

At Widener University, we proudly cultivate challenging and culturally diverse learning environments where academics, leadership, and service come first. Our curricula are connected to societal issues and challenge students to take social responsibility for their role in today's global society.

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota's Online Master's Programs

At Saint Mary's, we take pride in offering online graduate degrees designed to complement the schedules of working adults like you. Get an affordable, convenient education from a top-ranked university that's grounded in real-world applications.

  • Ranked among the Best Grad Schools for Physician Assistants in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
  • Dedicated to delivering quality education and personalized attention to students since 1899.
  • Provides a range of campus experiences and services online including advising, tutoring, student community, and career services.
  • Offers counseling services and a 24/7 crisis hotline to students at no extra charge.
  • Gives students and alumni access to career assistants who help with resumes, cover letters, job hunting, and more.

We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Registered Nurse.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

Back to Top