Smiling Asian nurse in scrubs against a grey backdrop

How to Become a Registered Nurse

Your Comprehensive Guide to Pursuing a Rewarding Career in Nursing.

Smiling Asian nurse in scrubs against a grey backdrop

Nurses provide key support for physicians and champion the well-being of their patients. They are often selfless individuals who dedicate their lives to helping others. In this noble profession, you’ll find various types of nurses. You’ll also find a number of specialties and disciplines.

All aspiring nurses, however, begin their careers by pursuing formal training through a diploma or degree program. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is one such degree, and it is highly valued in the healthcare field. However, there are multiple paths aspiring nurses can take to achieve their ideal nursing career.

This blog post covers the duties, skills, and educational requirements for becoming a Registered Nurse. We’ll also go over salary information and a sunny job outlook. Learn more about this path and explore the highest paid nursing jobs to see if healthcare is right for you.

Registered Nurse Definition

What is a Registered Nurse?

Registered Nurses (RNs) provide medical care to patients in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, schools, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. They also educate patients and their families about health conditions, risk factors, and tips for maintaining a healthier life.

Registered Nurse Job Description

What Does a Registered Nurse Do?

Registered Nursing duties typically include assessing patient symptoms and conditions, recording medical histories, administering treatments, and developing treatment plans alongside doctors and other healthcare professionals. Depending on their locations, some RNs may also operate medical equipment or help perform diagnostic exams.

Many RNs work in healthcare settings like hospitals, clinics, and home healthcare environments. They use vital skills like communication and empathy in patient-centered care. In addition, they often use critical-thinking skills while on the job.

Registered Nurse Duties and Responsibilities

Below are just some of the day-to-day responsibilities of a Registered Nurse:

  • Assessing and coordinating patient care
  • Administering and recording treatment
  • Helping patients with physician-developed plans
  • Monitoring each patient’s vital signs
  • Collaborating with physicians to evaluate tests to determine patients’ conditions
  • Assisting physicians during examinations
  • Performing corrective measures or adjusting treatment as necessary
  • Communicating with patients as well as their families about treatment
  • Working with several other healthcare professionals to facilitate care

Registered Nurse Skills

Registered Nurses must maintain a diverse set of skills and qualities to thrive in their complex roles. Some of these attributes include clinical skills, leadership roles, and evidence-based practice. Here’s a succinct look at some other key attributes:

  • Adaptability and Flexibility: In general, all nurses must be resilient and adaptable. It takes a special kind of person to flourish in this stressful but rewarding environment.
  • Strong Communication Skills: Effective communication with patients, families, and fellow healthcare professionals is crucial for optimal care and ensuring patient safety.
  • Tech Savviness: Proficiency with healthcare technologies is essential for efficiently managing patients in various medical settings.
  • Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Registered Nurses often encounter unique patient care situations that demand quick thinking and sound decision-making. Strong critical thinking skills enable them to assess and address these kinds of challenges.
  • Organization and Time Management: Registered Nurses must manage a unique workload with multiple responsibilities. Being well-organized and efficient with time is imperative for delivering quality patient care.
  • Stress Management: Given the demanding nature of healthcare, Registered Nurses must effectively manage stress to maintain their own well-being and provide the best care possible.

African-American nurse sitting with an elderly woman

Where Do Registered Nurses Work?

Registered Nurses can work in a variety of healthcare facilities, offering a wide range of experiences and professional growth. Some of these facilities include hospitals, ambulatory healthcare services, nursing and residential care facilities, schools, and community health centers. Registered Nurses can also work in physicians’ offices and outpatient care centers.

In addition, some Registered Nurses pursue specialization in areas like pediatrics, oncology, or geriatrics.

Registered Nurse Education & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Registered Nurse?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Registered Nurse?

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is a popular and sought-after qualification that many pursue to launch or elevate their nursing careers. This degree requires more time in school than an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), as a BSN can open doors for greater salaries, management positions, and career advancement. In fact, you might see more hospitals listing this degree as a requirement for their nurses.

Alternatively, some choose to pursue a diploma program for Vocational Nursing. This path often leads to a career as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN). It might be an ideal choice for those who want to enter the nursing profession but do not want to spend years in school. In order to make this decision, aspiring nurses should look at their goals as well as the inherent value of the degree or diploma itself.

How to Get a BSN

Essentially, everything about the BSN degree comes down to leadership. Registered nurses fill a vital, necessary role in the healthcare community, and the BSN degree builds on the skills and clinical experience earned in ADN programs.

In addition to clinical skills, BSN students also learn more about communication, critical thinking, and other management skills. Overall, this combination allows BSN holders to take charge and make positive changes in their healthcare settings.

The best nursing schools typically offer three pathways to a BSN degree:

  1. Full Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  2. Advanced Placement
  3. RN-to-BSN

Full – The Full Bachelor of Science (BSN) is a three-year program that prepares graduates for the NCLEX-RN licensure exam.

Advanced Placement – If you’re already an LVN, you can complete the BSN through an advanced placement program that usually takes about two years.

RN to BSN – This is a degree-completion program that transitions associate degree RNs into bachelor’s degree RNs. This can take about 1 year to complete. Whether you have a high school diploma or years of nursing experience, these pathways can lead you to a BSN degree and create a foundation for career advancement.

African-American nurse clapping with colleagues

How to Get an ADN

An Associate Degree in Nursing is another valuable option for aspiring nurses. While an ADN takes less time to obtain than a BSN degree, it requires more time than a Vocational Nursing diploma program. In addition, this alternative route does not offer the same benefits or prepare nurses for the same levels of responsibility as BSN graduates.

If aspiring RNs pursue an associate degree, they will complete about two years of study at a community college or a vocational school. ADN courses typically include basic nursing skills, anatomy and physiology, emergency care, nutrition, and more.

As with many healthcare degrees, an ADN program tends to blend hands-on training with class work. Graduates equipped with this degree might find work in various medical settings, such as hospitals, outpatient care centers, nursing care facilities, home healthcare services, insurance carriers, or offices of other health practitioners.

In recent years, statistics from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) revealed that the average salary of an RN was about $75,000, while the average salary for a BSN holder was around $85,000.

If you’d like to become an RN, you might want to consider pursuing a BSN degree rather than an ADN. Though a BSN requires more time, it also comes with various benefits. Both degrees can lead you to the registered nursing profession, but a BSN degree creates a solid foundation for your future.

Here are the educational requirements for becoming a Registered Nurse:

  • Earn a Nursing Degree: Obtain an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. A BSN is often preferred and may enhance job opportunities.
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam: Successfully complete the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), a standardized test to obtain a nursing license.
  • Gain Clinical Experience: Acquire experience in Registered Nursing. You can start with entry-level positions. Once you have gained a certain degree of experience (such as two years), you can pursue further certification or specialization.

Specializations for Registered Nurses:

Registered Nurses with a BSN degree may qualify for added responsibilities, specializations, and career opportunities. They can become specialized nurses in the fields of pediatrics, surgery, ICU, palliative care, or other focus-areas. They can also pursue advanced roles as researchers, department supervisors, or nursing instructors.

In addition to all the standard duties of a regular RN, those equipped with a BSN might also qualify for added responsibilities, specializations, and opportunities. Some of these include the following areas:

  • Management
  • Department Supervisor
  • Research Positions
  • Teaching Positions
  • Hospice Nurse
  • Palliative Care Nurse
  • OB/GYN Nurse
  • Pediatrics Nurse
  • Surgical Nurse
  • ICU Nurse

African-American medical graduate giving two thumbs up

Registered Nurse Salary

How Much Do Registered Nurses Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Registered Nurses earned an annual wage of approximately $89,000 in 2022.

Salaries for Registered Nurses can vary significantly based on the employer, experience, and location. Areas with a higher cost of living or in-demand healthcare facilities may offer higher pay to attract nurses. Experience also plays a crucial role in determining a nurse’s pay. Seasoned nurses or those with specialized skills and certifications often command higher wages compared to those just starting in the field.

Registered Nurse Job Outlook

What is the Job Outlook for Registered Nurses?

The BLS anticipates a 6% growth in employment for RNs from 2022 to 2032, which is faster than the average for all occupations (3%). This is driven by an increased emphasis on preventive care and growing rates of chronic conditions among the aging population.

The aging population in the United States is contributing to a higher demand for healthcare services. As more individuals require medical care, the need for healthcare professionals continues to rise. Rural and underserved areas often face healthcare staff shortages. Seasonal fluctuations and unexpected events like the COVID-19 pandemic require a surge in healthcare staffing.

Why a BSN Degree is Important

Several years ago, the Institute of Medicine released a report called The Future of Nursing & Advancing Health. This document included many recommendations for improving the U.S. healthcare system, nursing requirements, and competitive edge over the rest of the world. One of the report’s many recommendations focused on the BSN degree.

It’s not difficult to understand why the Institute of Medicine places such a high value on the BSN degree:

  1. The BSN degree allows nurses to specialize in certain disciplines. This means more job opportunities and better marketability as an employee.
  2. Nurses with a BSN degree earn significantly more on average than RNs equipped with an ADN.
  3. Multiple studies state that more nurses with BSN degrees mean better patient care overall within a hospital setting.
  4. A BSN is a requirement for most nurse management positions.

African-American nurse hugging an elderly female patient

Your Journey into Nursing Starts Here

In summary, this article sheds light on the exciting career path of a Registered Nurse. This profession is in high demand due to factors like an aging population, healthcare disparities, and the nursing shortage crisis. Registered Nurses help save lives and provide specialized care to a number of people. They will always fill a vital role in healthcare, which means that there will always be a level of job security.

Prospective Registered Nurses are encouraged to pursue the necessary education, gain clinical experience, and seek opportunities for professional growth. If you follow this path, you can find a career that makes a profound impact on patients and their families.

Interested in nursing education? Unitek College offers tailored programs to help you transition into the healthcare field and become a nurse in a shorter duration. Start by checking out the LVN to BSN Advanced Placement Option for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. We also offer a Vocational Nursing program, Practical Nursing program, and ASVN program.

Our courses are designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge needed for a successful nursing career. Join us today!