Registered Nurse (RN)
Registered nurses, or RNs, are licensed nurses who have completed coursework in the field of nursing as well as a set number of required clinical hours of instruction. These nurses can provide technical care to a patient as well as multifaceted evaluations to create plans for care and treatment.
RNs are responsible for the welfare of patients in hospitals, nursing homes, private clinics and doctors' offices. As a trained nursing professional, an RN assists physicians and works to implement and evaluate treatments needed to heal or ease symptoms when caring for patients.
An RN uses various diagnostic tools and medical equipment to assess a patient's health. RNs also manage the hygiene of patients, including changing dressings and catheterization. RNs may work at a private clinic or doctor's office or in a hospital setting where they spend time performing duties such as taking vital signs, monitoring intravenous therapy and operating diagnostic equipment like x-ray machines. RNs also monitor patients who are on ventilators, assist with surgery and provide bedside care.
Registered nurses work long hours, including nights, weekends and holidays. RNs are required to have an RN license before practicing in the United States. RN licenses are regulated by the NLC (National League for Nursing), which is responsible for setting RN standards and requirements for RN licensure.
Schooling for registered nurses consists of several phases, including prerequisites such as college courses in physics, chemistry and biology, as well as coursework in anatomy and physiology. RN programs can be found at community colleges or technical schools. Courses may include pharmacology, health assessment, medical-surgical nursing, maternal-newborn nursing, psychiatric nursing and pediatric nursing.
Some RNs complete additional specialized training in areas such as intensive care, gerontological care or oncology. A licensed Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) is a registered nurse with additional advanced education and training to manage patients with complex medical issues, such as family practice, gerontology, neonatal, pediatrics, women's health, and mental health.
After graduation, RNs must pass a certification exam to be recognized by the NLC as Board Certified Registered Nurses (BCRN). Study material is available through the NLC, and the RN must pass a computer-based test. RNs may choose to continue their education and even specialize in certain areas. Specialty certification is available for RNs who have successfully completed additional training requirements. RNs can be recertified every seven years by continuing their education or completing a specialty exam from an approved testing organization. RNs must also complete continuing education courses to stay up-to-date on current patient care procedures and medical equipment.