Registered Nurse (RN)


Nursing is one of the most diverse career areas in healthcare.  Nurses not only provide direct patient care, but can also find job opportunities in numerous others settings.  Registered Nurses  treat patients, educate patients and the public about various medical conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients’ family members.  In patient care, RNs establish the patient care plan or contribute to an existing plan.  They observe, assess and record symptoms, reactions and progress.  They assist physicians during treatments and examinations, administer medications, and assist in convalescence and rehabilitation.  RNs handle the complex demands of providing professional nursing services and must be prepared in critical thinking, leadership and health promotion.

Registered nurses have many options to specialize.   They can specialize in a particular work setting or type of treatment, such as perioperative nurses who work in operating rooms and assist surgeons, or as diabetic management nurses who assist patients to manage diabetes.  RNs can specialize in a particular disease, ailment or healthcare condition such as addictions nurses or wound care specialists.  They can specialize in treatment of a particular organ or body system such as cardiovascular nurses or dertamology nurses.  They can also specialize by patient population, such as nurses who work in neonatology, pediatrics or geriatrics.


Potential Employers

  • Hospitals
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Physician offices
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Home health agencies
  • Private duty
  • Public health
  • Higher education
  • Industry
  • Government

Work Environment

The specific work environment will vary by work setting or patient population served.  RNs working in round-the-clock facilities often have unconventional work schedules, such as three 12-hour shifts per week.  The shift/work schedules in nursing can be highly varied from facility to facility.  RNs who work in physician offices, schools and in higher education are more likely to work regular daytime hours.  Because they help turn, move and lift patients, nurses are vulnerable to back injury.  Strict adherence to proper body mechanics and safety procedures will help guard against such injury.  RNs must also strictly observe infection control standards, oxygen safety guidelines, safety procedures for handling hazardous chemicals, and general employee and patient safety guidelines.

Job Outlook

Employment of registered nurses is expected to increase 22 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will come from technological advances in patient care, more people accessing the healthcare system due to healthcare reform, a growing elderly population which is more likely to need care, and an increasing emphasis on preventive care.  Employment opportunities are projected to be highest in physician offices and home healthcare services, followed by long-term care facilities and employment services, with growth in hospitals much slower than the other areas.


  • Ability to learn complex science and math and the principles of nursing
  • Skills with computers and other forms of technology
  • Good numerical and verbal skills
  • Ability to work with a variety of people
  • Ability to make decisions based on data and observations, and uphold standards of ethics and professional practice
  • Ability to remain calm in emergency situations
  • Physically fit to handle working on their feet for long periods and to lift and move patients



Educational programs range from a 2-year associate degree to a 4-5 year bachelor’s degree at colleges and universities.  Post-graduate study can lead to a master’s or doctorate degree.  There are also education programs available for people interested in switching to a career in nursing.  An accelerated BSN program can be 12-18 months in length for an individual already holding a bachelor’s degree.  MSN programs are also available for individuals who hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in another field.

All nursing education programs include classroom instruction and supervised clinical experience in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.  Coursework includes anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition, psychology and other behavioral sciences and nursing.

Nurses must be licensed to practice as a registered nurse.  Licensure requires completing an approved nursing program, passsing the national licensing exam (NCLEX-RN), and meeting all State eligibility requirements.

Programs in Nebraska

Related / Links

Because of the number of specialties for RNs and variety of responsibilities and duties, many other healthcare occupations are similar in some aspects of their job.  Careers with similar levels of responsibility that work under the direction of physicians or dentists include:

Professional Associations

Career information adapted in part from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handook, 2010-2011 Edition, Registered Nurses, on the Internet at

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