Registered nurses (RNs) work in conjunction with other health-care professionals to provide complete care to patients. As the health-care provider responsible for patients’ well-being, an RN assesses patients and develops care plans. In addition, an RN educates both patients and the public on various medical conditions, provides support and/or advice to patients’ families, and helps with follow-up care or rehabilitation. Other RN duties can include running medical machinery, performing laboratory tests and analyzing the results, and administering medication. Many RNs supervise nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses (LPNs)/vocational practical nurses (VPNs).
Specializations are divided into four general categories—the kind of care provided or work setting, diseases or medical conditions, organs or organ systems, and the age of treated patients. Highly skilled RNs with graduate education can become advanced practice nurses (APNs) or advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). Types of APNs are certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), certified nurse midwife (CNM), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), and nurse practitioner (NP).
To become an RN, one has three options. First, many community colleges and universities offer the two-year Associate of Science in Nursing (A.S.N.). There are hospital diploma programs, which usually take three years to complete. These usually require students to take science classes at an affiliated university before enrolling in nursing courses. Finally, the four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.), offered at many colleges, provides a foundation for graduate-level study. For all three RN programs, one must have a high school diploma. For the B.S.N., a student should also have taken the SAT or ACT. Upon successful completion of an RN program, a student can take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to obtain licensure.
RNs have a variety of employment options. They can work in traditional health-care settings, such as hospitals or doctors’ offices, or for schools, insurance companies, lawyers, chemical companies, and others. Although most nurses work directly with patients, some RNs work as case managers or in forensics, among other fields.