Nursing Job Description
Registered nurses are currently the largest healthcare-related occupation. At least 2.6 million people in the U.S. are nurses who treat patients, provide education regarding medical conditions, and provide emotional support and advice to family members of patients. Nurses are responsible for recording the symptoms and medical histories of patients, assisting with diagnostic tests and analysis, operating medical machinery, administering medications and treatment, and helping with the rehabilitation and follow-up care of patients. In the course of patient care, they establish or contribute to a care plan and specific duties are usually determined by the patient population or work setting in which the nurse specializes.
Registered nurses earned a mean annual wage of $67,720 as of May 2010, reported the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest ten percent had a $44,190 annual wage, the middle 50 percent earned $64,690, and the highest ten percent had an annual wage of $95,130. After general surgical and medical offices, physician offices had the highest levels of registered nurse employment. Other industries employing many registered nurses were home health care services, nursing care facilities, and outpatient care centers.
Personal care service was the top paying industry, offering a mean annual wage of $86,470. The federal executive branch, medicine and pharmaceutical manufacturing, medical supply and equipment manufacturing, and professional schools, colleges, and universities were other top paying industries. California paid its registered nurses an annual mean wage of $87,480 in May 2010, the highest of all states. Massachusetts, Hawaii, Alaska, and Maryland rounded out the top five. The lowest paying states, offering an annual mean wage of $31,620 to $56,500 included Arkansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Nebraska, West Virginia, and South Dakota.
Certain industries will experience higher levels of growth in coming years. A growth rate of 48 percent is projected for physician offices and a 33 percent growth rate is expected in the home health care industry. Hospitals, the largest industry in healthcare and employer of about 60 percent of registered nurses, will experience a slower rate of growth.
Nursing Job Outlook
|2008 - 2018 Projected Employment Changes
|581,500 new Registered Nurse jobs
|22% increase in employment
Registered Nurse employment is anticipated to grow much faster than average and job opportunities should be excellent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 22 percent growth between 2008 and 2018 will result in 581,500 new jobs, which is among the highest number of new openings for any U.S. occupation. As of May 2010, California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania were the states with the highest employment level of registered nurses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Nursing Education & Training
When O*Net recently surveyed a sampling of registered nurses, 64 percent stated that they held an associate’s degree. A bachelor’s degree was held by 29 percent and four percent attended college but did not receive a degree. Graduating from an approved nursing program is another educational path to becoming a registered nurse, though relatively few of these programs exist. Individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in another field may qualify for an accelerated nursing education program.
It takes approximately two or three years to complete an associate’s degree program, three years to finish a hospital-administered diploma program, and four years to complete a bachelor’s degree program. Advanced practical nurses like nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse-midwives must obtain a master’s degree. Accelerated master’s programs are available that take three to four years and result in both a bachelor’s and master’s degree.
Instruction in the classroom and supervised clinical work in healthcare facilities like hospitals are included in nursing education programs. Upon completion of the educational requirements, the individual must pass a national licensing examination called the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in order to obtain a nursing license. Every state, the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia require graduation from an approved nursing program and a passing score on this examination in order to obtain a license to practice nursing. States may impose other licensing eligibility requirements.
Registered nurses perform various duties and may specialize in a wide array of areas. This causes many other occupations in healthcare to be similar. Some that entail working under the supervision of a medical professional include physician assistants, licensed practical and vocational nurses, and dental hygienists. A physician assistant practices medicine under physician and surgeon supervision. A licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse cares for patients under the direction of registered nurses and physicians. The nurse may work in a general or specialized setting. Dental hygienists remove tooth deposits, provide preventative dental care, and educate patients on proper oral hygiene.