A registered nurse (RN) assists doctors and other nurses in providing critical care to patients in a variety of settings. These individuals typically hold an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN.
RNs work in many settings, and their roles and responsibilities depend on their specific work environment and patient population. However, all RNs possess foundational clinical skills related to the nursing process of assessment, diagnosis, outcomes/planning, implementation and evaluation that are applicable across the spectrum of health care settings.
Traits that will help an RN in their role include:
Detail oriented and organized.
Mentally and physically strong.
Patient and resilient.
Able to manage stress.
Critical thinker who uses sound judgment.
What Does an RN Do?
A registered nurse’s responsibilities vary based on the health care setting. Some responsibilities may include conducting patient assessments, dressing wounds and incisions, reviewing and determining treatment plans, helping doctors during surgery, guiding patients in healthy habits and providing emotional support to patients and families.
The nursing staff in hospitals primarily comprises registered nurses. In this setting and others, registered nurses can also specialize in a variety of areas.
What are the roles and responsibilities of a nurse practitioner? As a specialized nursing professional, an NP can deliver primary and specialty health care to patients. Such care includes diagnostics, treatment and medical counsel. An NP is also able to prescribe medications and create comprehensive treatment plans for patients, sometimes without the supervision of a physician. Although an NP degree is not required to practice in a specialty area, those who specialize in a particular discipline must meet certain training and licensing requirements.
What are NP specializations? Nurse practitioners work in many different types of specialty areas:
Psychiatric and mental health care.
Registered Nurse and Nurse Practitioner Roles at a Glance
Although both professionals are nurses, there are distinct differences between RN and NP roles in terms of minimum and continuing educational requirements, licensing and certification, duties, specialization, salary, occupational demand and the ability to prescribe medications. The following provides an overview for each.
Licensing and certification: Registered nurses must register with the Board of Nursing in the state where they work and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. An application to take the exam must also be completed as well as payment of a fee. RNs who move to another state must register with the board in that state, although a re-examination may not be required. The Nurse Licensure Compact allows a nurse to have one multistate license, providing the ability to practice in the home state and other compact states for a limited time.
Educating patients and the public about health conditions.
Providing guidance and emotional support to patients and their families.
Assessing a patient’s signs and symptoms.
Documenting various aspects of a patient’s care.
Administering medications and treatments.
Creating care plans for patients and families.
Collaborating with other health care professionals.
Operating medical equipment.
Assisting with diagnostic testing.
Answering questions related to informed consent.
Specialization: There are many types of nursing certifications available — which often carry a requirement for a minimum of two years of clinical experience in that specialty area as part of eligibility to sit for the specialty exam.
Specialization: The AANP lists five certification boards through which NPs can obtain various types of specialty certifications:
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners National Certification Board
American Nurses Credentialing Center Certification Program
American Association of Critical-Care Nurses Certification Corporation
Pediatric Nursing Certification Board
National Certification Corporation
Duties: Some NP duties are the same as those for registered nurses, but NPs can also perform advanced functions, including ordering and evaluating test results, referring patients to specialists and diagnosing health conditions. NPs can work independently or in collaboration with physicians. In most states, they can prescribe medications, but scope of practice varies per state.
The BLS projects that registered nurse job growth will increase 12 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will occur for a number of reasons, including an increased emphasis on preventive care, growing rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity and an increased demand for health care services as the baby-boom generation lives longer and leads more active lives.