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Registered Nurse

(aka: Nurse Practitioner, RN, Medical Assistant)

Being sick sucks. Feeling weak, achy, and vulnerable is humbling and sometimes downright scary. But chances are that you can remember an experience where a compassionate and attentive nurse made the experience as tolerable as possible. Being a nurse requires an interest in healthcare and an ability to remain patient and empathetic under sometimes-stressful circumstances, but can be extremely fulfilling on both a professional and personal level.

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What do Registered Nurses do?

  • Assist in the treatment of patients. Each nursing sub-speciality prescribes guidelines for job responsibilities and restrictions on the activities a nurse may be licensed to perform. Generally, the role may include some combination of taking vital signs, performing triage in emergency situations, operating medical equipment, inserting IVs and catheters, drawing blood, administrative duties, and patient record-keeping.
  • Monitor patient condition and perform diagnostic tests. Most nurses are licensed to perform routine diagnostic procedures including drawing blood, checking vital signs, measuring blood pressure, cleaning cuts, and administering medication. They will convey results to physicians and draw attention to any irregularities.
  • Convey instructions for at-home treatment and answer patient inquiries. As the expression goes: "A hospital is no place to be sick." As patients are discharged, nurses convey information about continued at-home recuperation, including use of prescribed medications, rehabilitation exercises, or other activities and restrictions directed by a physician.
  • Provide comfort and peace-of-mind. Nurses often spend far more time with patients than do doctors, who are often in a robotic "just-the-facts-ma'am" mode while making their rounds. Acting as a good listener and knowledgeable professional to patients in a sick and vulnerable state can provide invaluable and soothing peace-of-mind.

How much do Registered Nurses make?

Salaries vary widely depending on the nursing sub-speciality, but the median overall annual wage in 2012 was $65,500, with the top 10% earning $94,700. The most popular industries for nursing employment (and their associated median annual salaries) are Government ($68,500), Hospitals ($67,200), and home healthcare services ($62,100).

How do I become a Registered Nurse?

Education Requirements. In the U.S. there are 3 educational paths for aspiring nurses: a Bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN, typically taking 4 years), Associate's degree in nursing (ADN, 2-3 years), or a diploma earned from an approved nursing program (2-3 years). All paths include education on human anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and behavioral sciences. A BSN degree will offer the most opportunities for employment and career advancement, and many nurses who begin with an ADN or nursing program diploma will return to school for a Bachelor's degree. All nurses must be licensed, which involves passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Some States impose additional licensing requirements, and certain nursing specialties may also require advanced certifications.

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