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If you feel called to care for others and want to have an impact on your community, you might find that the nursing profession allows you to carve out your own path. With opportunities to specialize in niche areas of the healthcare field, you could pursue a career that is both exciting and rewarding.

By becoming a registered nurse, you could build the foundation to pursue various careers in this dynamic field.

Understanding the Role of a Registered Nurse

Described by the American Nurses Association as the backbone of the American healthcare system, registered nurses play a vital role in ensuring that patients receive the comprehensive care they need. Registered nurses are licensed healthcare professionals who often provide hands-on patient care. According to the ANA, registered nurses are often responsible for:

  • Coordinating patient care and treatment plans with the patient’s medical team.
  • Providing patients with exams, medication, and treatment.
  • Educating patients about best practices and providing information about community resources.

The Scope of Practice of a Registered Nurse

The scope of practice of a registered nurse includes both clinical and administrative duties, with most registered nurses updating medical records and patient forms while providing hands-on patient care. The job responsibilities of an individual nurse will vary based on their place of employment and role in that organization. For instance, the scope of practice for a registered nurse working in the emergency room will vary significantly from that of a nurse working at a pediatric clinic.

Holistic Healthcare: A Vital Part of Nursing

Nurses are often called upon to bridge the gap between the stark, clinical landscape and the realities of caring for individual patients, who are human beings with feelings, emotions, and unique perspectives. Registered nurses often look at situations from a more holistic perspective, evaluating how the patient might feel about a particular treatment option or working with them to make them feel at ease.

The Historical Influence on Modern Nursing

Prior to the 19th century, nursing as a profession essentially did not exist. Sick or injured individuals were cared for by friends and relatives, often without the guidance of medical professionals. Florence Nightingale, considered to be the founder of modern nursing, introduced the concept of nursing as a profession, and her influence can still be felt in clinics, hospitals, and doctors’ offices worldwide. Although modern nursing practices have evolved significantly since Nightingale’s era, the heart of the profession remains the same—to provide all patients with the care they need in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

Differentiating Registered Nurses From Other Nursing Positions

Registered nurses are nursing professionals who have completed both the educational and licensing requirements for their state, including passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Understanding the difference between a registered nurse and other types of nurses can help you determine which career path is right for you.

Comparing Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and Registered Nurses

According to the Cleveland Clinic, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are able to provide basic patient care. Typically, LPNs work in entry-level positions under the supervision of registered nurses and other members of the medical care team.

LPNs may find work in a variety of healthcare settings, including physicians’ offices, long-term care facilities, hospitals, and nursing homes. Their scope of practice is limited to basic patient care, such as monitoring vital signs, cleaning and wrapping wounds, inserting catheters, bathing and dressing patients, and communicating updates about the treatment plan to patients and families.

Certified Nurse Assistants: How Do They Differ From Registered Nurses?

Sometimes described as health aides or patient care technicians, certified nurse assistants are healthcare professionals who work under the supervision of LPNs and RNs. CNAs differ significantly from registered nurses because they are only able to provide patients with basic care and administrative support, and they often must be supervised by LPNs or RNs. Common job responsibilities of a CNA include monitoring vital signs and providing patients with basic care.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN): A Higher Level of Nursing

Advanced practiced registered nurses, or APRNs, are registered nurses who pursued further education and training to obtain a specialized role within the nursing field. APRNs can provide patients with more advanced care, including diagnosing illness and prescribing medication.

According to the American Nurses Association, some APRN roles include:

  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Certified Nurse Midwives
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists

Specializations in Registered Nursing

Within the field of nursing, there are many opportunities to specialize, allowing you to combine your interests and passions with your professional skill set. With more than 30 specializations to choose from, these are just a few of the options you can consider within the field of nursing:

  • Hospice Nurse — Hospice nurses provide patients with end-of-life care, often prioritizing comfort and mental well-being.
  • Cardiac Nurse — Cardiac nurses often work in cardiology clinics or on the cardiology floor of the hospital, providing patients with specialized care after they have suffered from a heart attack or have undergone heart surgery.
  • Labor and Delivery Nurse — Labor and delivery nurses work on the labor and delivery floor of the hospital, providing women with personalized care during labor, delivery, and the hours immediately following childbirth.
  • Oncology Nurse — Oncology nurses work with patients who have been diagnosed with cancer, providing them with treatment as well as prioritizing their mental health and well-being.

The Four Steps to Become a Registered Nurse

There are four distinct steps you must take to become a registered nurse:

  1. Complete an accredited nursing degree program. You can pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to fulfill the educational requirements for registered nursing.
  2. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam. In all states, nurses are required to pass this exam to obtain licensure.
  3. Pursue nursing opportunities.
  4. Work toward specialization in an area that interests you most.

The Importance of Accredited Nursing Education

To become a licensed registered nurse, you must earn your nursing degree from an accredited program. Choosing an accredited program is crucial because it allows you to be confident in your investment in your education. Accreditation agencies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, and they work to ensure that a nursing degree program is providing students with the comprehensive, skills-based education they need to achieve licensure and practice as a registered nurse.

Coursework Involved in Nursing Education Programs

In most nursing programs, the coursework will provide students with a foundation in math, science, and technology while emphasizing the most practical and reliable nursing practices. Some of the commonly required courses of a nursing degree program include:

  • Nursing Fundamentals
  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Microbiology
  • Ethics in Nursing
  • Care Transitions

The coursework required for your degree program will vary based on the college or university you choose, so it is important to research the programs you are considering and verify that the coursework aligns with your interests and needs.

Understanding the Role of Degrees in Becoming a Registered Nurse

Nursing degree programs provide aspiring nurses with the academic foundation they need to provide their patients with personalized, comprehensive care. Not only does a degree program allow nurses to develop a better understanding of the medical profession and healthcare industry, but it also gives them an opportunity to hone the hands-on skills required of nurses. Nearly all nursing degree programs include clinical training as part of their requirements for graduation.

The Path to Becoming a Registered Nurse With a Bachelor’s Degree

Registered nurses who have earned a BSN can provide patients with higher-level care and skills more tailored to the patient’s area of need due to more specialized training. Nurses who have a BSN may feel more confident when considering becoming a registered nurse due to their previous training and, potentially, on the job skills that they have learned.

Advancing Your Nursing Skills With a Master’s Degree

Nurses who choose to pursue a master’s degree will find that they could elevate their skills in a variety of ways. Nurses who earn an MSN degree are able to pursue specialized job opportunities, leadership positions in nursing, and higher-level administrative or managerial roles.

Licensing Process for Registered Nurses

Registered nurses must meet the licensing requirements to practice in their state. For the most part, the licensure process is consistent from one state to the next.

These are the steps you will need to take to become a licensed registered nurse:

Navigating the NCLEX Examination

The National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, is the exam that all nurses must complete and pass to obtain licensure in their state. It is known as an intensive, challenging exam, with aspiring nurses required to complete a minimum of 75 questions within a five-hour period.

According to the American Association of Nurses, you can best navigate this exam by:

  • Reviewing NCLEX study guides.
  • Completing practice exams in advance.
  • Joining study groups or participating in NCLEX support groups on social media.
  • Resting adequately and eating well on the day of your exam.

Landing Your First Job as a Registered Nurse

Once you have graduated with your degree and passed your NCLEX exam, you are ready to enter the workforce. Landing your first job as a registered nurse is an important milestone, and you will want to consider your options carefully.

Potential Work Environments for Registered Nurses

Registered nurses could find employment in a variety of settings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses most often work in hospitals, clinical settings, long-term care facilities, physicians’ offices, and schools. In addition, registered nurses could consider employment as home healthcare providers.

Exploring Unusual Nursing Jobs

While you may aspire to help patients in the hospital setting or work with individuals visiting their doctor’s office for a routine check-up, you also should be aware of the unique and unusual job opportunities that exist within the nursing field, such as:

  • Travel Nurse — A travel nurse can travel to other parts of the country or world to provide patients with critical healthcare services.
  • Nurse Writer — A nurse writer researches, writes, and publishes academic papers for the purpose of educating readers on health care issues.
  • Forensic Nurse – A forensic nurse often works closely with victims of violent crimes, providing them with critical care and preserving evidence that may be relevant to a criminal investigation.

What Is the Job Outlook for a Registered Nurse?

As the population continues to age, there will be an increased need for advanced healthcare services, further heightening the demand for qualified registered nurses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nursing field is expected to grow by 6 percent between 2022 and 2032, with more than 193,000 open nursing positions anticipated each year.

Maintaining Your Registered Nurse License

Once you have earned your license to practice as a registered nurse, you will need to take steps to maintain your license throughout your career. Continuing education requirements and licensure renewal procedures may vary based on the state in which you practice.

The Importance of Continuing Education for Registered Nurses

Regardless of where you practice as a nurse, you will be required to complete continuing education courses to maintain your license. Continuing education benefits you as a nurse because it:

  • Refreshes your nursing foundation.
  • Introduces you to the latest technology and new developments in the field.
  • Provides you with an opportunity to advance or improve your nursing skill set.

How Challenging Is It to Become a Registered Nurse?

You must be a dedicated, motivated individual who is passionate about healthcare to become a registered nurse. The rigorous coursework required throughout your nursing degree program is designed to provide you with a foundation that you can rely upon for your entire career. While it may be challenging at times, most nursing students find that the rewards of the profession are well worth the effort.

The Rewards and Challenges of a Nursing Career

Nursing can be one of the most invigorating and rewarding career fields, although not without its challenges. While the healthcare industry is continuing to address staffing shortages and burnout, nurses can appreciate the fact that they are able to play a direct role in the health, happiness, and success of their patients.

Elevate Your Nursing Career at Post University

If you are a registered nurse looking to specialize or pursue higher-level positions in nursing, you may find that the nursing programs at Post University could help you gain the skills and education you seek. Our Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) and RN to MSN online degree programs are uniquely designed to help registered nurses achieve their academic goals.

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!

Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s programs and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.