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Registered Nurse Job Description

A registered nurse is a medical professional whose primary role is to provide patient care. In addition to caring for patients and their immediate medical needs, on a daily basis, registered nurses often assist patients with preventative measures and offer emotional support to patients and their loved ones during difficult times.
In order to work in the nursing field, one must possess compassion for others, enjoy working with the public, and have the ability to remain calm in stressful situations. Problem-solving abilities and excellent communication skills are also a necessity. Good physical health is another requirement of nurses since they often lift and move patients and spend many long hours on their feet.
Registered nurses work alongside doctors, other nurses, and various other medical professionals such as respiratory therapists, ultrasound technicians, and physician assistants. Nurses can choose to specialize in different areas of nursing such as pediatrics or geriatrics and can find employment in an array of settings including hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, long-term care facilities and private homes. Since many nurses are employed in hospitals, the schedule of a registered nurse is often varied and may consist of 12-hour shifts, including nights, weekends, and holidays.

Registered Nurse Duties

On a daily basis, registered nurses might perform the following duties:

  • Administering medication and performing medical procedures
  • Monitoring and observing patients
  • Explaining aftercare instructions to patients

How To Become A Registered Nurse

Becoming a registered nurse involves attending an accredited nursing program, completing coursework and clinical hours, passing a state exam, and becoming state licensed.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Registered Nurse?

Depending on the college program chosen, it can take anywhere from 2-4 years to become a registered nurse. There are associate of science programs available that can be completed in as little as two years, and bachelor’s degree programs can take four years or more. After the completion of a nursing program, it generally takes most graduates several more months to study for and take the state nursing exam.

Education Requirements

Registered nurses must possess a degree from an accredited college or university. Nursing programs are offered at community or state colleges, career colleges, or universities. There are two degrees available to potential registered nurses. The first option is an Associate of Science in Nursing degree which only takes 2-3 years to complete. Such programs are offered at state or community colleges and career colleges. The requirements for the degree involve the completion of general coursework, and then required courses in anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and biology. Nursing classes must also be completed, and there is always a clinical component of the AS degree involving many hours spent in a practical capacity in a medical facility.
The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree usually takes about four years to complete. The requirements are similar to the associate of science degree, but the first two years of the program are spent taking general education classes and science, biology, and chemistry prerequisites. The second two years of the program are spent in nursing courses and completing a clinical component. Both the AS and the BS provide graduates with the opportunity to apply for state licensure as a registered nurse. However, some employers prefer that graduates hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and if a registered nurse would like to eventually pursue a career in nursing administration or consulting, a bachelor’s degree is almost always necessary. In addition, a registered nurse’s salary is generally higher whenhe or she possesses a bachelor’s degree.


There is no mandatory certification for nurses, but registered nurses who wish to specialize in a particular field can become certified in various nursing areas such a cardiology, neonatal, or critical care. Becoming certified can provide nurses with more opportunities in the nursing field and potentially increase their salary.


It is mandatory in all fifty states that registered nurses be state licensed in order to become employed. Licensing rules and requirements vary by state, so it is best to check with your state’s regulations. Commonly, graduates must be fingerprinted and pass a background check, apply for a state license and then pass a state board exam consisting of questions related to the nursing field. Registered nurses are also required to renew their licenses periodically and take continuing education classes.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for registered nurses is excellent. From 2012-2012, the demand for registered nurses is expected to increase by 19% which is a much faster rate than other careers. The reasons for the acceleration in employment opportunities are due to the expanding availability of healthcare as Nurse a result of recent legislation and the increase in numbers of the older population in the United States who will need more healthcare services in the form of long-term care facilities and home health care. Detailed Registered Nurse salary data is available here.

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