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Registered Nurse Job Overview

Registered Nurses (RNs) work in a variety of healthcare settings to care for and meet the needs of patients. They are responsible for promoting health and wellness, while helping patients to cope with their health problems or illnesses. In some cases, they provide direct patient care, which can include administering medication, dressing a wound, assessing a patient's condition, and supervising nurse aides and practical nurses.

Much of the daily tasks and job responsibilities depend upon in what setting a registered nurse works. For example, RNs in hospitals often work in one specific area, such as surgery, pediatrics, emergency or delivery. The tasks they do in these areas differ based on the needs of their patients, but they are usually focused on providing direct care.

However, RNs working in public health facilities provide less direct care to people at the facility, and instead provide more education than RNs at a hospital on general health and well-being.

Education: All RNs are required to have completed a two-year nursing program from an accredited community college, technical school or university. They also must take and pass a licensing exam, which periodically must be renewed through continuing education. RNs seeking additional education can advance on to achieve their bachelor's degree in nursing, which takes four years but allows them to teach nursing at a higher education institution.

Where They Work: Almost 60% of Registered Nurses work in a hospital, while the remainder work in physician offices, home health services, schools, public health facilities, and nursing care facilities.

Average Pay: The average yearly salary for an RN is $48,000, although it can range from $33,000 at entry level to over $70,000 for experienced RNs.

Job Outlook: The job outlook for RNs is very good as the number of job opportunities is expected to grow. In fact the Department of Labor expects RNs to have more new jobs created for them than any other occupation through the next five years. Part of this is due to the growing elderly population needing nursing care, while the remainder growth will be to replace RNs nearing retirement. Of course, job opportunities in some locations will grow faster than others. For example, nursing care facilities, which house elderly patients are expected to provide the most job opportunities for RNs in the next few years.

Work Environment: Most RNs work a 40 hour week, although many healthcare employers are providing alternatives in order to recruit nurses to work at their facility. For example, some allow nurses to work 12 hours for 3 days a week and still receive payment for working 40 hours. In addition, RNs have the option to work at times that fit their schedule and their needs, since many facilities need care for their patients 24 hours a day.

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