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Registered Nurse (RN)

Registered nurses may provide medications to patients, including intravenous (IV) drugs.

Registered nurses may provide medications to patients, including intravenous (IV) drugs.

Nurses are key to the successful running of a hospital. They treat patients according to doctors orders, monitor their conditions, and many times, save their lives. Many people assume that nurses are just people who weren’t smart enough to be doctors, but this is far from the truth: nurses and doctors fill fundamentally different roles. If you want to work directly with patients, handle their day-to-day treatment, and help them get the best care from their doctor, consider nursing.

Fast Facts

Minimum Degree Required: Bachelor’s Degree

Top Skills: Patient Interaction, Attention to Detail, Ability to Multitask

Average Starting Salary: $50,000/year

Job Description

A nurse acts as the go-between for doctors and their patients. Nurses see patients from their admittance to their release. They are responsible for gathering information about the patient’s illness/injury and medical history, following and/or adjusting their doctors’ treatment plan, and instructing the patient on proper at-home care. Nurses can work in almost any department of a hospital, from pediatrics to oncology to mental health. There are also nurses needed at nursing homes and hospice care centers, public clinics, and schools. Sometimes nurses use their degree and license to perform other vital duties, such as educating new nurses, or writing for medical journals.

Nursing is a 24-hour job. Typically, hospital place nurses on rotation, working three 12-hour shifts in three days, and then taking two days off. Shifts are typically 6am to 6pm, or vice versa. Some hospitals, however, have four or eight hour shifts, with varying hours. While nurses are needed 365 days a year, they are typically compensated for working holidays.

Education

To become a registered nurse, you must successfully earn a bachelors degree in nursing from an accredited program. This degree is not an easy one, and requires both heavy book-study as well as attendance at early-morning “clincals”, in real hospitals or care centers. Be prepared to take advanced courses in:

Biology

Anatomy and Physiology

Chemistry

Disease Prevention and Treatment

Treatment of Physical Injuries

Hospital Proceedure

It is also possible to earn an associate’s degree in nursing. This path limits your initial job opportunities, but will provide an income while you work towards becoming a Bachelors of Science Nurse (BSN) through a transition program. This degree typically takes two to three years to complete.

In high school, classes like advanced biology and chemistry, statistics, calculus, and communications will prepare you for a successful college experience as a nursing major.

Certification/Licensing

All US registered nurses must have a license. To become licensed, nurses must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN. Your state may have additional requirements — look up your state’s board of nursing to find out the current procedure for obtaining a license.

Job Outlook: Excellent

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 27% increase in Registered Nurse positions between 2010 and 2020. The median income for a registered nurse was approx. $64,690 a year in 2010.

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