Registered Nurse

Registered nurses (RNs) work to promote health, prevent disease, and help patients cope with illness. They are advocates and health educators for patients, families, and communities. When providing direct patient care, they observe, assess, and record symptoms, reactions, and progress in patients; assist physicians during surgeries, treatments, and examinations; administer medications; and assist in convalescence and rehabilitation. RNs also develop and manage nursing care plans, instruct patients and their families in proper care, and help individuals and groups take steps to improve or maintain their health. While State laws govern the tasks that RNs may perform, it is usually the work setting that determines their daily job duties.

Working Conditions

Most nurses work in well-lighted, comfortable healthcare facilities. Home health and public health nurses travel to patients’ homes, schools, community centers, and other sites. Nurses may spend considerable time walking and standing. Patients in hospitals and nursing care facilities require 24-hour care; consequently, nurses in these institutions may work nights, weekends, and holidays. RNs also may be on call—available to work on short notice. Office, occupational health, and public health nurses are more likely to work regular business hours. More than 1 in 5 RNs worked part time in 2002 and nearly 1 in 10 held more than one job.

Employment

As the largest healthcare occupation, registered nurses held about 2.3 million jobs in 2002. Almost 3 out of 5 jobs were in hospitals, in inpatient and outpatient departments. Others worked in offices of physicians, nursing care facilities, home healthcare services, employment services, government agencies, and outpatient care centers. The remainder worked mostly in social assistance agencies and educational services, public and private. About 1 in 5 RNs worked part time.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

In all States and the District of Columbia, students must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass a national licensing examination in order to obtain a nursing license. Nurses may be licensed in more than one State, either by examination, by the endorsement of a license issued by another State, or through a multi-State licensing agreement. All States require periodic renewal of licenses, which may involve continuing education.

Job Outlook

Job opportunities for RNs are expected to be very good. Employment of registered nurses is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2012, and because the occupation is very large, many new jobs will result. In fact, more new jobs are expected be created for RNs than for any other occupation. Thousands of job openings also will result from the need to replace experienced nurses who leave the occupation, especially as the median age of the registered nurse population continues to rise.

Earnings

Median annual earnings of registered nurses were $48,090 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $40,140 and $57,490. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,970, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $69,670. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of registered nurses in 2002 were as follows:

  • Employment services $55,980
  • General medical and surgical hospitals 49,190
  • Home health care services 45,890
  • Offices of physicians 44,870
  • Nursing care facilities 43,850

Many employers offer flexible work schedules, childcare, educational benefits, and bonuses.

Source: US Dept of Labor – http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos083.htm