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Nursing Career Information and Nursing Resources

Significant Nursing Career Points

Nature of Nursing Work
Working Conditions
Healthcare Employment
Nursing Training and Nursing Qualifications
Job Outlook
$ Earnings $

Nature of the Work

Registered nurses (RNs) may work to promote health, prevent disease, and help patients cope with illness. They are advocates and health educators for patients, families, and communities. When providing direct patient care, they observe, assess, and record symptoms, reactions, and progress; assist physicians during treatments and examinations; administer medications; and assist in convalescence and rehabilitation. RNs also develop and manage nursing care plans; instruct patients and their families in proper care; and help individuals and groups take steps to improve or maintain their health. While State laws govern the tasks that RNs may perform, it is usually the work setting that determines their daily job duties.

Hospital nurses
Are the staff nurses, who provide bedside nursing care and carry out medical regimens. They also may supervise licensed practical nurses and nursing aides. Hospital nurses usually are assigned to one area, such as surgery, maternity, pediatrics, emergency room, intensive care, or treatment of cancer patients. Some may rotate among departments.

Office nurses
may care for outpatients in physicians' offices, clinics, surgicenters, and emergency medical centers. They prepare patients for and assist with examinations, administer injections and medications, dress wounds and incisions, assist with minor surgery, and maintain records. Some may also perform routine laboratory and office work.

Nursing home nurses
may manage nursing care for residents with conditions ranging from a fracture to Alzheimer's disease. Although they often spend much of their time on administrative and supervisory tasks, RNs may also assess residents' health condition, develop treatment plans, supervise licensed practical nurses and nursing aides, and perform difficult procedures such as starting intravenous fluids. They may also work in specialty-care departments, such as long-term rehabilitation units for patients with strokes and head-injuries.

Home health nurses provide periodic services to patients at home. After assessing patients' home environments, they may care for and instruct patients and their families. Home health nurses care for a broad range of patients, such as those recovering from illnesses and accidents, cancer, and childbirth. They must be able to work independently, and may supervise home health aides.

Public health nurses
may work in government and private agencies and clinics, schools, retirement communities, and other community settings. They focus on populations, working with individuals, groups, and families to improve the overall health of communities. They may also work as partners with communities to plan and implement programs. Public health nurses instruct individuals, families, and other groups regarding health issues, disease prevention, nutrition, and childcare. They arrange for immunizations, blood pressure testing, and other health screening. These nurses may also work with community leaders, teachers, parents, and physicians in community health education.

Occupational health
or industrial nurses
may provide nursing care at worksites to employees, customers, and others with minor injuries and illnesses. They provide emergency care, prepare accident reports, and arrange for further care if necessary. They also offer health counseling, assist with health examinations and inoculations, and assess work environments to identify potential health or safety problems.

Head nurses
or nurse supervisors
may direct nursing activities. They may plan work schedules and assign duties to nurses and aides, provide or arrange for training, and visit patients to observe nurses and to ensure the proper delivery of care. They also may see that records are maintained and equipment and supplies are ordered.

At the further level, nurse practitioners provide basic primary healthcare. They diagnose and treat common acute illnesses and injuries. Nurse practitioners may also prescribe medications(but certification and licensing requirements vary by State. Other practice nurses include clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists,
and certified nurse-midwives. Advanced practice nurses must have completed high school (or have pursued an online high school diploma) as well as higher educational and clinical practice requirements beyond the basic nursing education and licensing required of all RNs.

Working Conditions

Most nurses might work in well-lighted, comfortable healthcare facilities. Home health and public health nurses travel to patients' homes, schools, community centers, and other sites. Nurses may spend considerable time walking and standing. They need emotional stability to cope with human suffering, emergencies, and other stresses. Patients in hospitals and nursing homes require 24-hour care; consequently, nurses in these institutions may work nights, weekends, and holidays. RNs also may be on-call(available to work on short notice. Office, occupational health, and public health nurses are more likely to work regular business hours.

Nursing has its hazards, especially in hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics where nurses may care for individuals with infectious diseases. Nurses must observe rigid guidelines to guard against disease and other dangers, such as those posed by radiation, chemicals used for sterilization of instruments, and anesthetics. In addition, they are vulnerable to back injury when moving patients, shocks from electrical equipment, and hazards posed by compressed gases.

Employment

Nurses may work in offices and clinics of physicians and other health practitioners, home healthcare agencies, nursing homes, temporary help agencies, schools, and government agencies. The remainder may work in residential care facilities, social service agencies, religious organizations, research facilities, management and public relations firms, insurance agencies, and private households.

Training and Qualifications

In all States and the District of Columbia, students might be required to graduate from an approved nursing program and pass a national licensing examination to obtain a nursing license. Nurses may be licensed in more than one State, either by examination, by endorsement of a license issued by another State, or through a multi-State licensing agreement. All States require periodic license renewal, which may involve continuing education.

There are three major educational paths to registered nursing: associate degree in nursing (A.D.N.), bachelor of science degree in nursing (B.S.N.), and diploma. A.D.N. programs, offered by community and junior colleges.

Many A.D.N. and diploma-educated nurses may later enter bachelor's programs to prepare for a broader scope of nursing practice. They may often find a staff nurse position and then take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs to work toward a B.S.N.

Individuals considering nursing might carefully weigh the pros and cons of enrolling in a B.S.N. A bachelor's degree may be required for administrative positions, or an admission to graduate nursing programs in research, consulting, teaching, or a clinical specialization.

Nursing education may include classroom instruction and supervised clinical experience in hospitals and other health facilities. Students may take courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition, psychology and other behavioral sciences, and nursing. Coursework might also includes the liberal arts.

Supervised clinical experience may be provided in hospital departments such as pediatrics, psychiatry, maternity, and surgery. A growing number of programs include clinical experience in nursing homes, public health departments, home health agencies, and ambulatory clinics.

Nurses should be caring and sympathetic. They must be able to accept responsibility, direct or supervise others, follow orders precisely, and determine when consultation is required.

Experience and good performance may lead to promotion to more responsible positions.

Within patient care, nurses may pursue clinical nurse specialist, nurse practitioner, certified nurse-midwife, or certified registered nurse anesthetist.

Some nurses may move into the business side of healthcare. Their nursing expertise and experience on a healthcare team may equip them to manage ambulatory, acute, home health, and chronic care services. 

Job Outlook

Job opportunities for RNs are expected to be very good according to Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010 Data. 

Earnings

Median annual earnings of registered nurses were $64,690 in 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,190, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $95,130.

Many employers may offer flexible work schedules, childcare, educational benefits, and bonuses.

Information on this page courtesy of the Occupational Outlook Handbook by Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor (http://www.bls.gov)



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