What is a Registered Nurse?

A registered nurse (RN) is a healthcare professional who has completed a nursing program and passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to obtain a nursing license. RNs are responsible for providing and coordinating patient care, performing diagnostic tests, administering medication, and educating patients and their families on health conditions and treatment options. They work in a variety of healthcare settings such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, schools, and community health centers.

RNs must adhere to the standards of practice and ethical guidelines set by the American Nurses Association (ANA) and state nursing boards. They collaborate with physicians and other healthcare professionals to develop and implement treatment plans, monitor patients' progress, and provide emotional support to patients and their families. RNs also play a critical role in promoting and maintaining patient safety by identifying and addressing potential health risks and by advocating for patients' rights and well-being.

What does a Registered Nurse do?

A registered nurse listening to a patient's heartbeat in a hospital bed.

Registered nurses play a critical role in our society, providing essential healthcare services to individuals and communities. They are highly trained professionals who possess the skills and knowledge necessary to deliver quality care to patients in a variety of settings, from hospitals and clinics to schools and long-term care facilities. Without registered nurses, the quality of healthcare in our society would be greatly diminished, making their role vital to the well-being of individuals and the overall health of our communities.

Duties and Responsibilities
Some of the common duties and responsibilities of a registered nurse include:

  • Patient care: Registered nurses are responsible for providing direct patient care in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home health agencies. They assess patient health by taking medical histories, performing physical exams, and reviewing medical records. Based on this information, they develop care plans and administer treatments, medications, and other interventions as needed. They also monitor patients' vital signs and symptoms, and communicate any changes or concerns to other healthcare professionals.
  • Health education: Registered nurses are often responsible for providing education to patients and their families about their health conditions, medications, and treatment options. They may provide information on nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle changes to improve overall health, as well as specific instructions on managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.
  • Patient advocacy: Registered nurses act as advocates for their patients, ensuring that they receive appropriate care and are treated with dignity and respect. They may help patients navigate the healthcare system, provide emotional support, and help patients and families understand their rights and responsibilities.
  • Record-keeping: Registered nurses must maintain accurate and up-to-date medical records for their patients. This includes documenting patient assessments, treatments, and medications, as well as communicating with other healthcare professionals as needed.
  • Collaborating with other healthcare professionals: Registered nurses work closely with physicians, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare professionals to ensure that their patients receive comprehensive care. They may participate in interdisciplinary care teams to develop care plans, review patient progress, and adjust treatment as needed.
  • Administration of treatments and procedures: Registered nurses are trained to administer a variety of treatments and procedures, such as intravenous therapy, wound care, and catheterization. They must follow strict protocols to ensure that these procedures are performed safely and effectively.
  • Monitoring and reporting: Registered nurses are responsible for monitoring their patients' health status and reporting any changes or concerns to other healthcare professionals. They may use electronic monitoring equipment to track vital signs, and they must be able to recognize and respond to signs of deterioration in patient health.
  • Managing medical equipment: Registered nurses are responsible for managing and maintaining medical equipment, such as ventilators, heart monitors, and feeding tubes. They must ensure that this equipment is functioning properly and that patients receive the care they need.
  • Ensuring patient safety: Registered nurses must follow strict protocols to ensure patient safety and prevent the spread of infection. They must use proper hand hygiene and follow other infection control procedures to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Continuing education: Registered nurses must participate in ongoing training and continuing education to stay up-to-date on new developments in the field of healthcare. This may include attending conferences, taking courses, and participating in professional organizations. They must also renew their nursing licenses periodically to ensure that they meet the standards for practice in their state.

Types of Registered Nurses
There are several types of registered nurses, each with its own area of specialization and scope of practice. Here are some of the most common types of registered nurses and what they do:

  • Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (MSRN): Medical-surgical registered nurses work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. They are responsible for providing care to patients who are acutely ill, injured, or recovering from surgery.
  • Public Health Nurse: Public health nurses are registered nurses who specialize in promoting and protecting the health of individuals, families, and communities. They work to control the spread of infectious diseases, conduct screenings and immunizations, and collaborate help to develop policies and practices that promote health and wellbeing.
  • ER Nurse (Emergency Room Nurse): Emergency room nurses work in hospital emergency departments, providing care to patients with a wide range of medical conditions, including trauma, heart attacks, and strokes. They are responsible for assessing patients, administering medications, and performing lifesaving procedures.
  • OR Nurse (Operating Room Nurse): Operating room nurses are specialized registered nurses who work in the surgical department of a hospital or other medical facility, and provide critical care before, during, and after surgical procedures.
  • Trauma Nurse: Trauma nurses work specifically with patients who have experienced a traumatic injury, such as a gunshot wound, motor vehicle accident, or fall. They stabilize the patient, assess and treat the injury, and coordinate with other medical professionals.
  • Critical Care Nurse: Critical care nurses work in intensive care units (ICUs), providing care to patients who are critically ill or injured. They are responsible for monitoring vital signs, administering medications, and performing procedures such as intubation and ventilation.
  • Pediatric Nurse: Pediatric nurses specialize in caring for infants, children, and adolescents. They work in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings, providing care to young patients with a wide range of medical conditions.
  • Obstetric Nurse: Obstetric nurses work in maternity wards and other settings where women receive prenatal care, give birth, and receive postpartum care. They are responsible for monitoring the health of both the mother and baby, administering medications, and providing support during childbirth.
  • Oncology Nurse: Oncology nurses specialize in caring for patients with cancer. They provide emotional and physical support to patients, administer chemotherapy and other treatments, and monitor patients' progress. They also educate patients and their families about cancer treatment options, managing symptoms, and coping with the disease.
  • Psychiatric Nurse: Psychiatric nurses specialize in caring for patients with mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. They work in hospitals, clinics, and other mental health facilities, providing therapy, medication management, and other forms of support.
  • Geriatric Nurse: Geriatric nurses specialize in caring for older adults, particularly those with chronic illnesses or disabilities. They work in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other settings where older adults receive long-term care.
  • Rehabilitation Nurse: Rehabilitation nurses work with patients who are recovering from injuries, illnesses, or surgeries. They help patients regain strength and mobility, manage pain, and adjust to any physical limitations.
  • Home Health Nurse: Home health nurses provide medical care and support to patients in the comfort of their own homes. They may perform tasks such as administering medication, checking vital signs, wound care, and teaching patients and their families about managing their conditions.
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN): An advanced practice registered nurse has completed graduate-level education in nursing. APRNs have advanced knowledge and skills in a specific area of nursing practice, such as nurse practitioner, acute care nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse midwife, or certified registered nurse anesthetist.
  • Informatics Nurse Specialist: Informatics nurse specialists are registered nurses who specialize in the integration of nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, and knowledge in nursing practice. They use their expertise in healthcare information technology to improve patient care and outcomes.
  • Nurse Educator: Nurse educators are registered nurses who have advanced education and training in teaching and training other nurses. They may work in colleges or universities, teaching nursing students, or in healthcare facilities.
  • Nurse Researcher: Nurse researchers are registered nurses who conduct research studies to improve patient care and advance the nursing profession. They may work in academic or healthcare settings, designing and conducting studies to evaluate nursing interventions, improve patient outcomes, or address health policy issues.

Are you suited to be a registered nurse?

Registered nurses have distinct personalities. They tend to be social individuals, which means they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly. They excel at socializing, helping others, and teaching. Some of them are also investigative, meaning they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive.

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What is the workplace of a Registered Nurse like?

The workplace of a registered nurse can vary greatly depending on their specific role and setting. RNs can work in a variety of healthcare environments including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, schools, and even patients' homes. Regardless of the setting, the work of an RN is fast-paced, demanding, and requires a high level of skill and expertise.

In a hospital setting, RNs can be found working in a wide range of departments such as emergency, intensive care, pediatrics, and surgery. They are responsible for providing direct patient care, administering medications, monitoring vital signs, and collaborating with other healthcare professionals to develop and implement patient care plans. Hospital RNs must be prepared to work long hours, including nights, weekends, and holidays, as hospitals operate 24/7.

Clinic nurses work in outpatient settings, such as doctor's offices and community health centers. They typically see patients for routine check-ups, vaccinations, and minor procedures. Clinic RNs may also be responsible for managing patient records and scheduling appointments. Unlike hospital RNs, clinic nurses generally work regular business hours.

Nursing home RNs care for elderly or disabled patients who require long-term medical care. They are responsible for overseeing patient care plans, administering medications, and monitoring patients' health conditions. Nursing home RNs must also have strong communication skills to work closely with family members, other healthcare professionals, and social workers to ensure that patients receive the care they need.

In addition to these settings, RNs can also work in non-traditional settings such as schools, correctional facilities, and home health care. School nurses may be responsible for administering medications, providing first aid, and coordinating care for students with chronic illnesses or disabilities. Correctional facility nurses care for inmates in prisons and jails, while home health care RNs provide medical care to patients in their own homes.

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Corresponding Degree - Nursing

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Pros and Cons of Being a Registered Nurse

Becoming a registered nurse is a popular career choice, and it comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.


  • Job Security: Registered nursing is a rapidly growing profession with an increasing demand for qualified professionals. As such, RNs enjoy a high level of job security.
  • Competitive Salary: The average salary of an RN is above the national average, making it a well-paying career.
  • Opportunities for Advancement: RNs have many opportunities for advancement, including pursuing specialty areas or management roles.
  • Flexibility: RNs have a range of work settings to choose from and can work in different shifts to suit their lifestyle.
  • Personal Fulfillment: Being a registered nurse provides opportunities to make a difference in people's lives and contribute to the greater good.


  • High Stress: RNs work in a fast-paced and demanding environment, which can be stressful and emotionally challenging.
  • Long Working Hours: Many RNs work long hours, including overnight shifts, which can lead to fatigue and burnout.
  • Physical Demands: RNs may have to lift and move patients, which can cause physical strain and injury.
  • High Responsibility: RNs have a high level of responsibility for their patients' well-being and can face serious consequences if they make a mistake.
  • Emotionally Draining: Working with sick and dying patients can be emotionally draining, and RNs may need to develop coping mechanisms to manage their emotions.

Registered Nurses are also known as:
Registered General Nurse RN