Although there are various pathways nurses can take, registered nurses (RNs) have the widest room for career growth. RNs have a wide range of educational backgrounds and can be trained in various nursing specialties. The more education an RN obtains, the more career opportunities become available.
What is a Registered Nurse?
A registered nurse is a licensed medical professional who provides and coordinates patient care. They educate patients and their families on the patient’s condition and explain the next steps once treatment is complete. RNs maintain patient records to ensure they align with current ethical and legal standards.
Registered nurses promote public health safety by educating clients and communities on preventative health measures including immunizations and health screenings. RNs can work as part of a medical team and oversee other healthcare professionals such as licensed practical nurses (LPNs). Based on their training, RNs can work in nursing specialties such as public health, pediatrics, or oncology.
What Does a Registered Nurse Do?
Although the exact responsibilities of a registered nurse can vary based on their specialty, each role shares some common tasks.
Registered nurses work directly with patients to assess current health needs, provide treatment, or administer medication. They can develop as well as implement customized nursing care plans to identify a diagnosis. This patient care plan explains the purpose for treatment, observations, and actions required, and an evaluation of the plan’s effectiveness.
Patient care plans are regularly updated during a patient’s stay to account for changing health conditions and new information. These regular updates allow healthcare professionals to provide consistent, accurate patient care throughout their stay to improve patient outcomes.
Registered nurses can delegate tasks to and supervise other healthcare professionals including LPNs and nursing assistants. This delegation can create smoother transitions between healthcare departments to increase efficiency. In addition to supervision, RNs can order and evaluate diagnostic tests.
How to Become a Registered Nurse
Before earning registration, those interested in becoming a nurse must complete a nursing program approved by a nursing regulatory body. Nursing programs include supervised clinical rotations and prepare students for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
Nursing students can differentiate themselves by earning:
- an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or
- a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN)
While these titles showcase a graduate’s education, these titles alone are not enough to become an RN. Students must pass NCLEX-RN after completing their program to earn their licensure and work as an RN.
The Difference Between ADN, BSN, and RN
ADNs and BSNs denote a graduate’s level of education. ADNs have completed a 2-year nursing program while BSNs have completed a 4-year nursing program. Both programs prepare graduates to sit for the NCLEX-RN and earn their licensure to work as a registered nurse.
While both ADNs and BSNs can become RNs, becoming a BSN provides more opportunities for career advancement.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM), now the Health and Medicine Division (HMD), made recommendations in The Future of Nursing. In 2010, the IOM reported around 50% of current nurses held their BSN. They recommended increasing this number to 80% by 2020 to improve patient outcomes.
The rationale behind this lies in how BSNs and ADNs are trained. Both programs train students in subjects such as anatomy, physiology, health science, medical science, and more. BSN programs similar to Berry College’s Nursing program expose students to a wide range of topics.
BSNs are trained in a wider range of topics including:
- Leadership and management
- Social sciences
- Nursing informatics
- Nursing theory
- Health policy
BSNs develop a broad skill set that can be used alongside their medical knowledge. BSNs are trained to analyze information, create evidence-based solutions, and act accordingly to improve patient outcomes. This knowledge combined with their broad skill set can make RNs with a BSN more desirable to employers.
Registered nurses with a BSN have access to more nursing career opportunities than their ADN counterparts. RNs with BSNs can apply for nursing positions in administration, public health, management, research, technology, education, and more.
Career Options for Registered Nurses
Registered nurses can work in a wide range of specialties, roles, and environments. Their skills can be used to prepare future generations of nurses or provide immediate care. While the following topics are not the only avenues available, these paths highlight different ways RNs can utilize their skills.
Emergency Room Nurse
Emergency room nurses (ER nurses) are RNs trained to treat patients suffering from medical emergencies. They perform quick assessments and observations to determine the severity of a patient’s symptoms. This allows ER nurses to quickly identify, prioritize, and treat symptoms posing an immediate danger to a patient’s life.
While ER nurses are trained to work in crisis situations, they also treat common conditions like cuts and infections. ER nurses can work in specialties such as trauma, triage, burn centers, operating rooms, and more.
ER nurses have a BSN or an advanced degree, NCLEX-RN certification, and a state board approved certification in their specialty.
Nurse educators are RNs who teach the next generation of nurses in academic and clinical settings.
Nurse educators in academic settings can teach general topics related to nursing or specialized areas such as nursing informatics. Nurse educators often update existing and design new nursing curricula to ensure students are trained in current methods and practices. As such, most nurse educators conduct independent research as well as work in clinical settings.
Nurse educators in clinical settings train nursing students in clinical skills and patient care methods. They teach students ways to collaborate with other professionals to provide optimal patient care. These nurse educators provide guidance to students during nursing simulations and in real-world scenarios.
Nurse educators must have a BSN, NCLEX-RN licensure and a Master of Science in Nursing Education.
Travel nurses are RNs who work through staffing agencies to fill nursing shortages. These nurses accept short-term assignments at different locations to support currently understaffed hospitals or clinics. Due to the transient nature of their assignments, their relocation expenses are often covered by the staffing agency.
Travel nurses must have an ADN or BSN and NCLEX-RN licensure.
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice registered nurses. They can work independently or with doctors to diagnose patients, prescribe medication, and write referrals. Due to their advanced training, NPs have more independence than RNs.
NPs can work in a variety of specialties such as emergency medicine, oncology, women’s health, and more.
NPs must have a BSN, NCLEX-RN licensure, an advanced degree, and an NP board certification.
Nursing offers a wide range of career pathways, opportunities, and chances for professional development. Registered nurses can advance their education throughout their careers to work in nursing specialties or pursue alternative roles in nursing.
No matter their official title, RNs are committed to improving patient outcomes and providing optimal patient care.