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Career Information

Registered Nurses Career, Salary and Education Information

Career Profile: What do Registered Nurses do?
Known for their ability to multitask and communicate, registered nurses serve as the conduit between patients and physicians. Their overall job description is varied, but in general, registered nurses must be comfortable with a range of procedures and patients. Nurses can work nightly or on-call, ready to come to a hospital, clinic, or nursing home if they're needed.

Top employers include general medical and surgical hospitals, offices of physicians, home health care services, and nursing care facilities.

A Day in the Life of a Registered Nurse
For registered nurses, any given work day is full of unique challenges and activities. Actual job duties vary based on location and specialization, but a nurse can administer medication, record blood pressure and other vital signs, administer IV lines, or perform minor diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.

Job duties for registered nurses vary widely based on specialization. Critical care nurses are found in intensive care wards of hospitals, providing closely monitored attention and care to patients. Holistic nurses practice aromatherapy, acupuncture, and other procedures designed to improve mental and spiritual health along with physical ailments. Infusion nurses deal closely with blood, administering and monitoring IV medication, while perianesthesia nurses keep their focus on patients under anesthesia in surgery.

Training and Education for Registered Nurses
Educational requirements for registered nurses differ based on career goals. Registered nurses choose between obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), an Associates of Nursing (ADN) degree, or a nursing diploma. Completion of a national licensing examination leads to a nursing license.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that registered nurses with at least a bachelor's degree will have better job prospects than those without. Some nursing careers are only possible with a master's degree, including all four advanced practice nursing specialties--nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse-midwives, and nurse anesthetists.

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Employment & Outlook
Over 2.4 registered nurses were employed nationwide in 2007. General medical and surgical hospitals employed the majority, over 1.4 million. All four nursing specialties are expected to be in particularly high demand, as well as positions in medically underserved inner city and rural areas. Employment is expected to skyrocket 26% through 2016, due in part to an aging population's increased need for medical care. About 587,000 jobs are projected to be added to the industry.

Typical Salary for Registered Nurses
In 2007, registered nurses earned mean annual wages of $62,480, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The mean hourly wage was $30.04. Nurses working in the federal executive branch earned some of the highest salaries nationwide, with annual mean wages of $71,410. California is the top-paying state, with annual mean wages of $78,550.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

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