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Information About Registered Nurse Job Duties and Responsibilities

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a registered nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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If you like caring for people and are willing to put the time into training, a career as a registered nurse may be for you. Becoming a registered nurse requires completing an accredited program as well as passing an exam. Registered nurses work in many different environments and specializations providing the opportunity for a full and rewarding career.

Essential Information

Registered nurses (RNs) care for patients by treating and educating them about various medical ailments. The largest group of RNs work as staff nurses in hospitals. Although medical duties of RNs vary greatly depending upon the specialty or area in which they work, all RNs offer emotional support and advice to patients and their families. Registered nurses obtain an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing. In school they learn about anatomy and human development, while gaining extensive supervised clinical experience. After graduation, nurses must pass their state's exam to become a licensed RN.

Required Education Associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing
Other Requirements state license
Projected Job Growth 16% from 2014-2024*
Median Salary (2015) $67,490*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Registered Nurse: Job Duties and Responsibilities

Registered nurses mainly focus on patient care. They provide the best care they can, while making themselves indispensable to both doctors and patients. Their care duties include preparatory work before, during and after patient procedures. An RN's duties are often shaped by which specialty area he or she works in.

Staff nurses at hospitals make up the largest group of RNs. These nurses provide bedside patient care and are generally assigned to one specific area in the hospital, such as maternity or pediatrics, Intensive care (ICU) or Emergency room (ER), surgery, oncology, and cardiology.

Some duties within these wards include giving patients intravenous (IV) lines for fluid, blood or medication, administering medications, conducting diagnostic tests and keeping patients as comfortable as possible. RNs may also aid doctors during exams and procedures and keep records of vital signs and symptoms.

RNs regularly rotate among specialties within a hospital to gain experience in different nursing techniques and disciplines. With more experience and education, many hospital staff RNs become head nurses and supervise other nurses or move on to become nurse educators or researchers.

Registered nurses may choose a specialty based upon the type of treatment administered and thus narrow their scope of job duties. For example, an RN can choose to work solely with patients who have substance abuse problems or those with cancer or HIV/AIDS. Other options include focusing on a specific organ or body system, as well as working with different ages of the population, such as caring exclusively for children or elderly patients. When an RN chooses a specialty area of care, their responsibilities are more clearly defined and predictable on a day-to-day basis.

Specialty Care Options

Some fields in which RNs can specialize are diabetes management, ambulatory care, holistic medicine, long-term care, psychiatry-mental health or dermatology. Other options in specialty care, along with the respective job duties, include:

Home health nursing: providing in-home care to a wide range of patients recovering from accidents, illness or child birth, or to those who cannot provide their own transport

Office nursing: offering the same type of services and care as hospital nurses, except within physicians' offices, immediate care centers and clinics

Adult home nursing: giving specialty care to geriatric patients, including treating conditions varying from simple bone breaks to more serious conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's

Critical care nursing: treating patients with serious or acute injuries or illness, which demand constant monitoring and extensive care regimens

Job Outlook and Salary Info

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows registered nurses earned a median salary of $67,490 in May of 2015. The BLS projects demand for registered nurses will increase by 16% between 2014 and 2024.

A career as a registered nurse requires completing an accredited program as well as passing an exam. Programs are available that also lead to an associate's or bachelor's degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports growth for nurses far surpasses the job market as a whole.

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