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Nursing Schools and Training Programs

Registered nursing is the largest occupation in health care, with 2.6 million jobs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) reported in 2011. While registered nurses generally work to improve the health of patients, there are many career paths within the registered nursing field.

General duties of RNs include providing patient care by observing and recording symptoms, assisting physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses and injuries, and assisting patients and families during recuperation and convalescence. Nurses may develop treatment plans, and instruct and educate the patient on how to cope and recover from a disease.

Types of Registered Nurses

The specific duties performed by RNs typically depend on where they are employed, and the type of patients they work with. Here are some job titles and duties performed by nurses:

Hospital Nurses

This is the largest group of nurses. They typically work in one area of the hospital, such as maternity, the emergency room, surgery, or intensive care, and provide bedside assistance for patients. They may also have supervisory responsibility for nursing aides and practical nurses.

Physician’s Office Nurses

Working in individual physicians’ offices or clinics, these nurses work with doctors and outpatients by assisting with examinations, counseling patients and administering medicines. Depending on the size of the office, they may also assist with lab work or perform front office duties.

Public Health Nurses

Public health nurses work to improve the overall health of a community. They may be employed by government or private agencies. Their responsibilities include planning and running health programs, instructing individuals and groups on proper health procedures and issues, and conducting health screenings.

Other Types of Registered Nurses

Registered nurses may also work in nursing homes, where they manage the care of residents and supervise the activities of less-experienced licensed practical nurses and nursing aides. Home health nurses provide care to patients at their homes. Industrial nurses work for companies, providing on-site care and counseling at the workplace.

Training Requirements and Educational Opportunities for Registered Nurses

Most registered nurses prepare for their career by earning an associate or bachelor’s degree from an accredited program. Completing a diploma program can also qualify a candidate for an entry-level position as a registered nurse.

Nursing education involves a combination of classroom training and supervised experience in a clinic or hospital. Courses include anatomy and physiology, nutrition, psychology, and nursing. Most programs also include liberal arts and general education components.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov), associate degrees in nursing (ADN) programs take two to three years, and are often offered by community colleges and junior colleges.

Bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs are offered by private and public colleges and universities. They usually require about four years of study, according to bls.gov. BSN programs are taken not only by those wishing to start a nursing career, but also by graduates of diploma or associate degree programs who wish to enhance their career potential. Many hospitals offer tuition reimbursement programs for nurses who want to obtain a bachelor's degree.

According to the bls.gov (2011), diploma programs usually take two to three years to complete. These programs typically include clinical experience in hospital departments or long-term care facilities.

Some career paths in nursing, such as administrative work, research or teaching are only available to those who have completed their BSN degree.

Licensing Requirements for RNs

In addition to graduating from an approved program, nurses must obtain a nursing license from the state in which they want to practice. To do so, they must pass a national licensing examination, known as the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN. Other eligibility requirements for licensure vary by State. A nursing license is not valid for all time, but  must be periodically renewed.

Employment and Advancement Opportunities for Registered Nurses

Employment in nursing is expected to grow 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the bls.gov. This growth will be driven by retirement of current RNs, technological advancements that will increase treatment options, and the growing number of older people.

Hospitals are traditionally the largest employers of RNs, holding 60 percent of RN positions in 2008, the bls.gov reports. However, hospital employment is expected to grow at a slower pace than at clinics and outpatient treatment facilities. Hospitals are admitting patients for shorter periods of time, and moving more care to outpatient facilities.

Much of the projected job growth in nursing will occur in home health care. Many patients prefer to be treated at home, and technological advances will allow for more advanced treatment options there.

Advancement Potential for Registered Nurses

With additional training and experience, there are many career advancement paths available to registered nurses. Staff nurses can advance to head nurse or nurse supervisor positions, where they have responsibility for creating work schedules, providing training, and supervising other nurses and nurses aides. Increasingly, management-level nursing positions require a graduate or an advanced degree in nursing or health services administration.

Other advanced nursing positions include nurse practitioners, who provide primary healthcare, and may be allowed to prescribe medication. Clinical nurse specialists, nurse-midwives, and nurse anesthetists are other advanced nursing positions that typically require additional training – at least a master’s degree – and licensing. In addition, all States specifically define requirements for registered nurses in advanced practice roles.

Experienced nurses can also seek management positions in health care. These positions often require graduate level work in nursing or health services administration. Beyond head nursing, opportunities exist as directors or vice presidents of health care organizations. Other career paths include marketing, health planning, and quality assurance.

Additional Resources for Nursing Careers Found on Health-Care-Careers.org
Career Information for Registered Nurses

Additional Resources for Individuals Obtaining a Degree in Nursing:
American Nursing Association
National Student Nurse Association

Campus and Online Nursing Schools

 
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