Nurse: Job Duties, Occupational Outlook, and Education Requirements

Learn about the typical job duties of registered nurses. Find out the average salary, job outlook and educational requirements for becoming a licensed nurse. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are the Daily Job Duties of Nurses?

Although your exact responsibilities may vary depending upon your specific job title, you will typically have consistent, daily duties once you become a nurse. These may include dispensing medications, giving blood and fluids through intravenous lines, interpreting diagnostic tests, and monitoring patients' physical activities and nutrition. You may record vital signs, give immunizations, conduct health screenings, teach health education and maintain patients' medical records.

Once you have become a nurse, you might also work your way up to a unit supervisor position and oversee other nursing staff. You'll confer with physicians and other health care professionals regarding patient care and treatment plans. Within the field of nursing you can specialize in particular areas of patient care, focusing on specific medical conditions, body systems or patient populations.

What is the Occupational Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the nursing profession would expand by approximately 22% between 2008 and 2018, and that job opportunities would be very good during that time (www.bls.gov). In fact, as many as 581,500 new nursing jobs are expected to arise during that decade. The rapid growth of the nursing field is partially fueled by new advances in medical technology and a growing commitment to preventive care.

The demand for nursing professionals is also predicted to rise due to the increasing elderly population who will need healthcare, according to the BLS. Nurse specialists are also estimated to be in high demand, particularly in rural communities and inner city areas. Registered nurses who worked in medical and surgical hospitals earned average annual salaries of $67,740 in 2009.

What Education Requirements Must I Fulfill?

To become a nurse, you must earn either an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in nursing. Associate's degree-level nursing programs can be found in community colleges, and they take between two and three years to complete. A bachelor's degree program in nursing can be completed in four years. Alternatively, you can earn a 3-year nursing diploma. Diplomas are granted by approved hospital programs, but these are few in number. Associate's degree programs in nursing offer courses such as general microbiology, anatomy and physiology, English composition, chemistry and developmental psychology.

Bachelor's degree programs in nursing might include courses such as community health, nursing management, science and technology, clinical science, human genetics and pharmacology. Be aware that individuals who complete bachelor's degree programs from accredited educational institutions often have greater opportunities for career advancement. You might choose to continue your education with a master's degree and go on to work in research, teaching or administrative positions.

All 50 states require registered nurses to be graduates of accredited nursing programs. In order to become a registered nurse, you must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Your particular state may have additional licensing requirements. It's best to check with the nursing board in your state for its licensing eligibility requirements.

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