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Here’s a slightly more in-depth look at what RNs do in various employment settings:
RNs handle basic bedside are and administering medications. Over time, most RNs gravitate toward a particular area of the hospital and become specialized in working in the emergency room, the maternity ward, intensive care or some other treatment area. Nurses usually gain a good deal of expertise in their particular treatment area, with oncology ward nurses, for example, giving a good deal of guidance on care and to their cancer patients. Some gain expertise in managing long-term conditions like diabetes and become the patients’ main source of learning about how to deal with the disease.
Nurses have always worked in doctors private or hospital-based offices. There are now also jobs for RN in all sorts of free-standing emergency centers, outpatient surgery centers and other treatment centers. Nurses generally do a combination of basic patient care (including getting the patients ready to be examined by the doctor) and record-keeping in these types of facilities.
Nursing facilities, including basic nursing homes for the aged, are usually for people with long-term problems that need to be managed rather than cured (though hospice centers for terminal patients would also fall into this category). RNs here will develop care plans for patients, supervise LPNs and nursing aids, and do a variety of diagnostic procedures.
Some nurses do home visits to help patients who are recovering from a complex surgery, who are getting over a serious injury or illness, or who have recently given birth. RNs provide basic care and measurement of patients’ rehabilitation progress.
Public Health Nursing
RNs specialized in public health generally work in facilities that are run by government or private agencies that have a larger community-based goal. An RN in this setting may spend some time dispensing immunizations or giving tests, the job usually involves developing plans to execute health programs in the community. Childcare, nutrition and disease prevention (screening) are specialties that public health nurses focus on to help schools, clinics and even retirement communities watch out for the health of the local population.
Occupational RNs will usually be placed at the actual worksites of employers (usually larger companies) to do everything from screening programs for skin cancer prevention to evaluating the work environment for health hazards. Some occupational nurses run a company clinic which will be the employee’s first place to go if they don’t feel well on the job.
The nurse supervisor is generally someone who has risen through the ranks at a hospital to become the manager of many other RNs. While this so-called “head nurse” may do some direct patient care, he or she will more often be working to monitor what the overall nursing staff is doing to monitor patient care and execute physicians’ treatment instructions.
At the RN level, there are now a huge number of specialty certifications available, which can quality you to work on a particular ward or in a specialized facility. Some examples include perioperative, wound ostomy, nephrology, HIV/AIDS, dermatology, radiology and infusion nursing. For more on these specialties and how to get certified in one of them, see our nursing resources page. Many of these specialties, as well has nurse supervisory duties, are often handles by RNs who have taken a more advanced bachelor’s degree in nursing (learn more about “RN to BSN” degrees here.)
What Do Registered Nurses And Licensed Practical Nurses Earn?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for registered nurses is about $64,000. Hospitals generally pay nurses the highest wages, while nursing homes pay the lowest. Because of the ongoing nursing shortage, many facilities will offer “perks” to nurses like education benefits, free childcare or flexible work hours in lieu of higher wages. Wages for licensed practical nurses are lower, with a national median of about $40,000. per year. (Source: USDLA)