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Become A Nurse

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Working As A Nurse

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Getting Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Make Decisions

  • $62,353

    Average Salary

What Does A Nurse Do

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.

Duties

Registered nurses typically do the following:

  • Record patients’ medical histories and symptoms
  • Administer patients’ medicines and treatments
  • Set up plans for patients’ care or contribute to existing plans
  • Observe patients and record the observations
  • Consult and collaborate with doctors and other healthcare professionals
  • Operate and monitor medical equipment
  • Help perform diagnostic tests and analyze the results
  • Teach patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries
  • Explain what to do at home after treatment

Most registered nurses work as part of a team with physicians and other healthcare specialists. Some registered nurses oversee licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants, and home health aides.

Registered nurses’ duties and titles often depend on where they work and the patients they work with. For example, an oncology nurse may work with cancer patients or a geriatric nurse may work with elderly patients. Some registered nurses combine one or more areas of practice. For example, a pediatric oncology nurse works with children and teens who have cancer.

Many possibilities for working with specific patient groups exist. The following list includes just a few examples:

Addiction nurses care for patients who need help to overcome addictions to alcohol, drugs, and other substances.

Cardiovascular nurses care for patients with heart disease and people who have had heart surgery.

Critical care nurses work in intensive-care units in hospitals, providing care to patients with serious, complex, and acute illnesses and injuries that need very close monitoring and treatment.

Genetics nurses provide screening, counseling, and treatment for patients with genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis.

Neonatology nurses take care of newborn babies.

Nephrology nurses care for patients who have kidney-related health issues stemming from diabetes, high blood pressure, substance abuse, or other causes.

Rehabilitation nurses care for patients with temporary or permanent disabilities.

Registered nurses may work to promote public health, by educating people on warning signs and symptoms of disease or managing chronic health conditions. They may also run health screenings, immunization clinics, blood drives, or other community outreach programs. Other nurses staff the health clinics in schools.

Some nurses do not work directly with patients, but they must still have an active registered nurse license. For example, they may work as nurse educators, healthcare consultants, public policy advisors, researchers, hospital administrators, salespeople for pharmaceutical and medical supply companies, or as medical writers and editors.

Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) are a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). They provide direct patient care in one of many nursing specialties, such as psychiatric-mental health or pediatrics. CNSs also provide indirect care, by working with other nurses and various other staff to improve the quality of care that patients receive. They often serve in leadership roles and may educate and advise other nursing staff. CNSs also may conduct research and may advocate for certain policies.

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How To Become A Nurse

Registered nurses usually take one of three education paths: a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Registered nurses also must be licensed.

Education

In all nursing education programs, students take courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition, psychology, and other social and behavioral sciences, as well as in liberal arts. BSN programs typically take 4 years to complete; ADN and diploma programs usually take 2 to 3 years to complete. All programs include supervised clinical experience.

Bachelor’s degree programs usually include additional education in the physical and social sciences, communication, leadership, and critical thinking. These programs also offer more clinical experience in nonhospital settings. A bachelor’s degree or higher is often necessary for administrative positions, research, consulting, and teaching.

Generally, licensed graduates of any of the three types of education programs (bachelor’s, associate’s, or diploma) qualify for entry-level positions as a staff nurse. However, employers—particularly those in hospitals—may require a bachelor’s degree.

Many registered nurses with an ADN or diploma choose to go back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree through an RN-to-BSN program. There are also master’s degree programs in nursing, combined bachelor’s and master’s programs, and accelerated programs for those who wish to enter the nursing profession and already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement.

Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) must earn a master’s degree in nursing and typically already have 1 or more years of work experience as an RN or in a related field. CNSs who conduct research typically need a doctoral degree.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In all states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, registered nurses must have a nursing license. To become licensed, nurses must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

Other requirements for licensing vary by state. Each state’s board of nursing can give details. For more information on the NCLEX-RN and a list of state boards of nursing, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

Nurses may become certified through professional associations in specific areas, such as ambulatory care, gerontology, and pediatrics, among others. Although certification is usually voluntary, it demonstrates adherence to a higher standard, and some employers require it.

CNSs must satisfy additional state licensing requirements, such as earning specialty certifications. Contact state boards of nursing for specific requirements.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. Registered nurses must be able to assess changes in the health status of patients, including determining when to take corrective action and when to make referrals.

Communication skills. Registered nurses must be able to communicate effectively with patients in order to understand their concerns and assess their health conditions. Nurses need to explain instructions, such as how to take medication, clearly. They must be able to work in teams with other health professionals and communicate the patients’ needs.

Compassion. Registered nurses should be caring and empathetic when caring for patients.

Detail oriented. Registered nurses must be responsible and detail oriented because they must make sure that patients get the correct treatments and medicines at the right time.

Emotional stability. Registered nurses need emotional resilience and the ability to manage their emotions to cope with human suffering, emergencies, and other stresses.

Organizational skills. Nurses often work with multiple patients with various health needs. Organizational skills are critical to ensure that each patient is given appropriate care.

Physical stamina. Nurses should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as moving patients. They may be on their feet for most of their shift.

Advancement

Most registered nurses begin as staff nurses in hospitals or community health settings. With experience, good performance, and continuous education, they can move to other settings or be promoted to positions with more responsibility.

In management, nurses can advance from assistant clinical nurse manager, charge nurse, or head nurse to more senior-level administrative roles, such as assistant director or director of nursing, vice president of nursing, or chief nursing officer. Increasingly, management-level nursing positions are requiring a graduate degree in nursing or health services administration. Administrative positions require leadership, communication skills, negotiation skills, and good judgment.

Some nurses move into the business side of healthcare. Their nursing expertise and experience on a healthcare team equip them to manage ambulatory, acute, home-based, and chronic care businesses. Employers—including hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and managed care organizations, among others—need registered nurses for jobs in health planning and development, marketing, consulting, policy development, and quality assurance.

Some RNs choose to become nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, or nurse practitioners, which, along with clinical nurse specialists, are types of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). APRNs may provide primary and specialty care, and in many states they may prescribe medications.

Other nurses work as postsecondary teachers in colleges and universities.

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Do you work as a Nurse?

Nurse Jobs

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Nurse Career Paths

Nurse
Home Health Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Assistant Director Of Nursing
7 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Supervisor Case Manager
Career Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Nurse Manager Nursing Director
Chief Nursing Officer
14 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Registered Nurse Case Manager
Clinical Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Case Manager Nursing Director
Clinical Services Director
11 Yearsyrs
Career Coordinator Therapist Respiratory Therapist
Director Of Clinical Education
11 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Unit Manager Nursing Director
Director Of Clinical Operations
13 Yearsyrs
Nurse Manager Registered Nurse Case Manager Nursing Director
Director Of Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Nurse Practitioner Assistant Professor Clinical Pharmacist
Director Of Pharmacist
10 Yearsyrs
Clinical Instructor Assistant Professor
Medical Director
9 Yearsyrs
School Nurse Staff Nurse
Nurse Case Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Staff Nurse
Nurse Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Supervisor Nurse Manager
Nursing Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Instructor Nurse Practitioner Staff Nurse
Patient Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Case Manager Clinical Manager Practice Manager
Practice Administrator
10 Yearsyrs
Staff Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Registered Nurse Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Home Health Nurse Staff Nurse
Registered Nurse Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
Instructor Specialist Licensed Practical Nurse
Resident Services Director
6 Yearsyrs
Family Nurse Practitioner Nurse Practitioner Staff Nurse
Unit Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Instructor Senior Technician Specialist Licensed Practical Nurse
Wellness Director
7 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Nurse?

Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Staff Nurse 5.9 years
Registered Nurse 5.2 years
Head Nurse 4.2 years
Nurse Clinician 4.1 years
Visiting Nurse 3.2 years
Field Nurse 3.1 years
Practical Nurse 3.1 years
Nurse 3.0 years
Nephrology Nurse 2.7 years
Triage Nurse 2.6 years
Top Employers Before
Staff Nurse 26.9%
Top Employers After
Staff Nurse 19.7%
Supervisor 1.8%

Do you work as a Nurse?

Nurse Demographics

Gender

Female

84.2%

Male

13.8%

Unknown

2.0%
Ethnicity

White

79.8%

Hispanic or Latino

10.9%

Asian

7.0%

Unknown

1.5%

Black or African American

0.8%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

58.8%

French

9.0%

Russian

4.3%

Tagalog

3.4%

Mandarin

2.9%

German

2.9%

Hindi

2.6%

Chinese

2.5%

Cantonese

1.7%

Korean

1.6%

Italian

1.4%

Filipino

1.3%

Portuguese

1.2%

Ukrainian

1.0%

Japanese

1.0%

Polish

0.9%

Arabic

0.9%

Gujarati

0.8%

Vietnamese

0.8%

Dakota

0.8%
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Nurse Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

17.9%

Walden University

11.2%

Grand Canyon University

11.0%

Chamberlain College of Nursing

6.7%

Excelsior College

6.3%

Kaplan University

4.8%

University of Texas at Arlington

4.7%

University of South Alabama

4.2%

South University

4.1%

Indiana Wesleyan University

4.0%

Liberty University

3.2%

Western Governors University

3.2%

University of Cincinnati

2.9%

Drexel University

2.7%

Indiana State University

2.6%

University of Pennsylvania

2.2%

University of Alabama at Birmingham

2.2%

New York University

2.1%

Weber State University

2.0%

George Mason University

2.0%
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Majors

Nursing

77.0%

Business

3.1%

Nursing Assistants

2.2%

Health Care Administration

2.1%

Nursing Science

2.0%

Health/Medical Preparatory Programs

1.6%

Family Practice Nursing

1.6%

Medical Assisting Services

1.5%

Education

1.4%

Psychology

1.2%

Management

0.9%

Public Health

0.8%

Biology

0.7%

Clinical Psychology

0.7%

General Studies

0.7%

Medical Technician

0.6%

Health Sciences And Services

0.5%

Liberal Arts

0.5%

Criminal Justice

0.4%

Elementary Education

0.4%
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Degrees

Bachelors

30.0%

Associate

20.3%

Masters

19.0%

Other

17.9%

Certificate

3.9%

License

3.5%

Diploma

3.3%

Doctorate

2.0%
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Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Nurse Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Nurse Practioner Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Boston, MA Jan 08, 2015 $138,674
Nurse Practioner Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Boston, MA Aug 01, 2015 $138,674
Nurse Trainer Bristol Hospice-California, LLC Merced, CA Dec 13, 2013 $115,500
Nurse Laguna Elder Care, Inc. Laguna Niguel, CA Mar 23, 2016 $99,029 -
$99,030
Nurse Practioner Central Florida Hospitalist Partners, Pa GA Apr 14, 2013 $98,000
Nurse Practioner Adjetey K LOMO, Pa, Inc. Houston, TX Sep 20, 2013 $93,600
Nurse Practioner AGI Medical PLLC New York, NY Aug 25, 2016 $93,000
Cardiothoracic or Nurse North Shore-LIJ Health System New York, NY Dec 01, 2012 $90,951
Nurse Practioner 8Th Avenue Anesthesia PLLC New York, NY Jan 09, 2016 $90,000
Nurse Practioner Kelin Medical PC New York, NY Jan 09, 2016 $89,900
Nurse Practioner Chippenham Family Medicine Richmond, VA Aug 01, 2013 $89,684
Nurse Practioner AGI Medical PLLC New York, NY Sep 01, 2015 $87,422
Nurse Practioner North Point Internal Medicine, PC Alpharetta, GA Dec 01, 2011 $84,000 -
$89,117
Nurse Practioner Joshi Medical Services, Inc. Billerica, MA Sep 12, 2014 $83,491 -
$85,000
Nurse Practioner North Point Internal Medicine, PC Alpharetta, GA Nov 01, 2011 $68,000 -
$74,305
Managing Nurse VXL Medical Care P.C. NY Sep 01, 2015 $66,784
Dialysis Nurse Heritage Care Inc. Hagerstown, MD Aug 15, 2016 $65,790
Flight Nurse TMH Medical Services, LLC Oviedo, FL Jan 07, 2016 $65,000 -
$70,000
Flight Nurse TMH Medical Services, LLC Oviedo, FL Jan 01, 2016 $65,000 -
$70,000
Quality Management Nurse C Care Services, LLC Anchorage, AK Sep 15, 2014 $65,000 -
$75,000
Dialysis Nurse Heritage Care Inc. Hagerstown, MD Dec 09, 2016 $65,000
Flight Nurse TMH Medical Services, LLC Oviedo, FL Jun 15, 2016 $65,000 -
$70,000
Restorative Nurse Oak Brook Healthcare & Rehab Centre Oak Brook, IL Sep 30, 2012 $62,275
Restorative Nurse Oak Brook Healthcare & Rehab Centre Oak Brook, IL Sep 24, 2012 $62,275
Nurse Suprevisor Glen Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre Northbrook, IL Aug 13, 2015 $62,275
Hemodialysis Nurse Health & Home Management, Inc. Skokie, IL Sep 01, 2012 $62,130
Hemodialysis Nurse Health & Home Management, Inc. Skokie, IL Sep 15, 2012 $62,130
Nurse Green Path Health Group Zion, IL Apr 20, 2012 $61,963
Pain Management Nurse Universal Medical Records Information Network Corp Sayville, NY Sep 08, 2014 $61,504
Pain Management Nurse Universal Medical Records Information Network Corp Sayville, NY Sep 09, 2014 $61,504

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Top Skills for A Nurse

VitalSignsEmergencyCareRNPatientCarePlansTriageHealthCareClinicDailyLivingICUMedicalRecordsCNAPatientEducationHospicePatientTeachingIVMedicalHistoryEKGTelemetryBloodPressureCriticalCare

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  1. Vital Signs
  2. Emergency Care
  3. RN
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Interviewed patients to obtain medical information and measure their vital signs, weight and height.
  • Provided patient care including assessments, medication administration, emergency care, documentation of health, and communication with staff and physicians
  • Experienced in overnight 12 hour shifts, able to quickly adapt back to day shifts.
  • Developed patient care plans, including assessments, evaluations and nursing diagnoses Documented patient information obtained from interviews.
  • Provide triage, nursing care, and evaluation to campers and staff for a variety of chronic and acute disease processes.

How Would You Rate Working As a Nurse?

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