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Career Facts for Registered Nursing (RNs)

Nature of Work

Registered nurses (RNs) 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, record and report symptoms, reactions, and progress; perform treatments and examinations; start IVs; administer medications; and assist in convalescence and rehabilitation. RNs also develop and manage patient plans of care; instruct patients and their families in proper care; and help individuals and groups take steps to improve or maintain their health.

Hospital nurses form the largest group of nurses. Most are 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, orthopedics, emergency, mental health, intensive care, or treatment of cancer patients. Some may rotate among departments. Office nurses care for outpatients in physicians' offices, clinics, surgical centers, 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 also perform routine laboratory and office work.

Nursing home nurses 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 also assess residents' health condition, develop treatment plans, supervise licensed practical nurses and nursing aides, and perform procedures such as starting intravenous fluids.

Home health nurses provide periodic services to patients at home. After assessing patients' home environments, they 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. Other nurses work in public health, occupational health, industrial settings, research and academia.

Employment Prospects

Registered nursing is one of the 10 occupations projected to have the largest numbers of new jobs. Job opportunities are expected to be very good. Thousands of job openings also will result from the need to replace experienced nurses who leave the occupation, especially as the median age of the registered nurse population continues to rise.

Skills You Need

One must possess scientific knowledge, interpersonal skills, and a high energy level to succeed in nursing. The ability to communicate and interact effectively with people is essential. Nursing also requires manual dexterity to deal with the technical demands in the profession. Managerial and critical thinking skills are vital for effective organization and clinical reasoning.

Expected Earnings

Median annual wages of registered nurses were $62,450 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $51,640 and $76,570. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $43,410, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $92,240. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of registered nurses in May 2008 were:

Employment services $68,160
General medical and surgical hospitals 63,880
Offices of physicians 59,210
Home health care services 58,740
Nursing care facilities 57,060

Many employers offer flexible work schedules, child care, educational benefits, and bonuses. About 21 percent of registered nurses are union members or covered by union contract.

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LCC Nursing Careers Deparment

Health and Human Services
Health and Human Services Bldg, Room 108
Phone: (517) 483-1410
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