Registered Nursing: Job overview and career outlook

Providing compassionate care as a registered nurse is a calling that almost 4 million people in the United States have answered. Registered nurses, or RNs, work in a variety of medical and healthcare settings. This work is an invaluable service that directly helps people and can change lives, which is why it’s a role that is always in high demand. 

RNs vs. LPNs

Though RNs and LPNs often have overlapping functions, their educational requirements differ along with the corresponding salary. LPNs are licensed vocational nurses who typically handle general patient care under the supervision of RNs and doctors. In other words, LPNs ensure patient comfort but are generally unable to work with patients independently. Because RNs have higher education and licensing requirements, they are given more responsibilities and subsequently receive higher pay. 

What do registered nurses do?

The precise role of an RN depends on their job setting and specialty. Generally speaking, many RNs are responsible for patient-related tasks such as taking vitals, administering medications, updating medical charts, and educating patients and their family members about a diagnosis. In some cases, RNs may supervise LPNs and certified nursing assistants. 

The variety and volume of work depends on the job setting. For example, an RN working in a hospital may have many patients, requiring them to perform similar tasks multiple times a day. On the other hand, a home health nurse may work one-on-one with just one patient, handling a greater variety of duties. 

Where can RNs work?

RNs often work in private medical centers, rehab centers, nursing homes, primary care clinics, and hospitals. Though you can become an RN without a bachelor’s degree, many hospitals around the country strongly prefer to hire nurses with a BSN. 

In addition to these traditional workplaces, RNs can also find employment helping with medical research, educating other nurses, and developing community outreach programs to control infectious diseases. These jobs can be found in the private sector and in local and federal government. 

RN job outlook and earning potential

RN employment is expected to grow 6% from 2021 to 2031 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics with over 200,000 jobs added each year. This ensures that nursing will remain in demand for years to come, making it one of the most secure careers in the ever-changing job market. 

As of 2021, the median wage for registered nurses was $77,600. This figure is greatly influenced by many factors including education level, years of experience, industry, and specialty.  For instance, nurses with a BSN or those working in hospitals have a higher earning potential than those with an RN who work in nursing education. 

Specializations and graduate degrees can also significantly increase your pay compared to those who only have an associate or bachelor’s degree. Specialized certifications can help you qualify for niche and high-paying jobs in an area that you love. That’s why becoming an RN may just be the first step in a long and fruitful career in healthcare.

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