What is a career that requires you to walk an average of four miles a day, has over 100 different specialties to choose from and is consistently named one of the most trusting jobs? Nursing! Nurses are essential not only to patients but to the doctor's they support. While there are many different career paths for nursing, becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) provides a solid foundation for other roles or specialties. So, what does it take to become a registered nurse, and what do they do that makes the career so valuable?
What is an RN?
An RN, or registered nurse, is someone who has graduated from a nursing program and meets the requirements outlined by their state of employment to obtain a license. In a typical day, an RN might administer medication, consult with other healthcare providers, monitor patients, educate individuals and family, and be responsible for managing medical records.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are nearly 3 million RN's employed in the United States. Despite being one of the fastest growing occupations in the country, the American Nursing Association anticipates a need for an additional 1.13 million nurses. What does it take to fill one of these open positions?
To obtain the title of RN, the student must first earn their associate's or bachelor's degree through an approved nursing program. An associate's program is designed to last two years while the bachelor's plan is a 4-year degree program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs who graduate from Bachelor of Science nursing programs may see more significant advancement opportunities than associate degree holders.
After completion of an approved nursing program, all states require the RN to obtain a license. The licensing requirements vary by state, but all boards need RNs to pass the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) before practicing the profession. The NCLEX-RN covers four basic categories:
- Psychosocial integrity
- Physiological integrity
- Healthcare environment safety
- Health promotion
Continuing education is also an essential part of an RN's long-term career path.
Why we love RNs – and why you should too!
Imagine being the hospital or going to the family doctor without the care provided by nurses. RNs are an essential part of assisting doctors, contributing to positive patient outcomes, and providing patients with both medical and emotional support. Let's take a look at some of the way RNs make the medical process run smoothly.
- Assessments of patients and documentation. This includes listening to the heart and lungs, assessing pupils, mental status, and pulses. After each evaluation, the nurse is required to document the results. The process of recording is different depending on where the nurse works. There are various requirements at each hospital for how often documentation is needed and how to go about documenting.
- Supervising Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN). What an LPN can and can't do is different across states. In some states, LPNs are not permitted to give any IV medications, requiring the RNs to do this. Supervision of a care team is a leadership role that RN's often undertake.
- Collecting specimens. This includes stool, urine, skin, hair, etc.
- Educating patients and their family members. A nurse must also be a teacher. It is up to the nurse to answer questions and educate their patient on their new medications, newly ordered tests, diets, activity, wound care, and much more.
- Basic daily care. Along with more intensive medical care, nurses make sure a patient's hygiene needs are taken care of, such as giving baths, providing oral care, and being turned every two hours of they are unable to turn themselves. Often certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are tasked with these duties under the supervision of an RN.
- Coordination with physicians. Nurses are responsible for reporting anything abnormal to the doctor. Nurses also monitor care, update doctors on a patient’s status, and must coordinate with doctors for medicine orders.
- Improving patients health along with other specialities. RNs are important throughout patient care, especially during hospital visits. For instance, most patients only get to see their physical therapist for 30-45 minutes (if that) at a time. However, it is the RN's responsibility to make sure the patient is getting out of bed and moving on a regular basis during their hospital stay.
- Holistic care. Beyond medical care, nurses also support a patient's emotional well-being. In big and small ways, nurses connect and encourage patients and their families during some of the most difficult times of their lives.
Nursing is a fast-paced, growing field that is the backbone of the medical field. The impact of nurses is felt both with patients, their families, and other medical professionals. Next time you see a nurse make sure to say thank you!