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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.

Sources:

  • 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
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Results:  10
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Programs
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice with an Emphasis in Educational Leadership
  • M.S. in Nursing with an Emphasis in Leadership in Health Care Systems (Bridge)
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Nursing Degree Programs from Grand Canyon University's College of Nursing & Health Care Professions
  • Degree Variety: GCU offers a full-spectrum of nursing programs including bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, as well as post-master’s certificates.
  • The baccalaureate degree in nursing and master's degree in nursing at Grand Canyon University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.aacn.nche.edu-accreditation).
  • GCU provides a Christian environment that provides an opportunity for you to embrace a holistic approach to caring for patients: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
  • Depending on the degree you choose, you could take online, evening, or on-campus classes. Speak with an enrollment counselor to discuss your options!
Programs
  • Master of Science in Nursing: Nursing Administration
  • Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Educator
  • • Liberty University’s online programs ranked in the top 10 out of more than 2,100 colleges & universities for academic quality, affordability, and accessibility.*
  • 100% online programs at associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level.**
  • Transfer up to 90 credits into an undergraduate degree program.
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  • *BestColleges.com Gold Medal of Distinction
  • **excludes licensure, certification, and some doctoral programs
Programs
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • 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.
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Programs
  • Doctor of Education - Nursing Education
  • 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.
Programs
  • Master of Science in Nursing
  • Ranked 25th among the Best National Universities in 2015 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • One of the world’s leading private research universities.
  • Its student-faculty ratio is 9:1, and 56.8% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • Has an average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, of 96.8 percent.
  • Dedicated to a strong tradition of integrating liberal and professional education since 1880.
  • Its faculty includes National Academy members, Nobel Laureates, MacArthur Fellows, and more.
Programs
  • Master of Science in Nursing

Founded in 1887, Benedictine University is dedicated to the education of undergraduate and graduate students. Benedictine is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).

Benedictine University provides a values-centered Liberal Arts education. Today, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students from all 50 states in the US and over 17 countries.

Why Benedictine University Online?

  • Over 130 year legacy of academic excellence
  • Ranked among America's Top Colleges by "Forbes" Magazine
  • 91% of current students report they are satisfied or very satisfied with their learning experience
Programs
  • MSN - Clinical Nurse Leader
  • MSN - Nursing Management and Executive Leadership
  • 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
Programs
  • Nurse Educator Certificate
  • Master of Science in Nursing - Nurse Educator
  • Master of Science in Nursing - Clinical Leadership

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. 

Programs
  • MSN Clinical Nurse Educator
  • 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
Programs
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Ranked among the 2015 Best National Universities by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Designated as a Military Friendly School every year since 2012 by Victory Media.
  • Offers credit for prior learning and experience through assessment tests.
  • Provides a short term Leadership Certification program in partnership with EQUIP®.
  • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).

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.

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