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Registered Nurse RN

Career Overview: Registered Nurse

Registered nurses (RNs) are the mainstay of any medical services facility. They perform triage, record patients' medical histories and symptoms, perform diagnostic tests such as EKGs, analyze results, administer treatment and medications, and generally manage the healthcare for patients in many settings.

RNs also work with families of ill or injured patients, explaining the health issues and suggesting methods of patient support. For outgoing patients they may suggest diet or nutritional programs, and exercise choices. If a patient will be involved in self-medication or physical therapy the RN will explain procedures in detail. There are many specialties for RNs today, including neonatal care, surgical nursing, geriatric nursing and pediatrics.

Required Education

Most nurses complete a four year bachelors program. There are also associate degrees available for nursing training that take about three years. A small number of nurses go through a certification or diploma program, administered in a hospital. All nurses must successfully complete a national licensing exam. Higher levels of education broaden the number of specialty options available to RNs.


There were 2.5 million nurses in the U.S. in 2007. Nearly 60% of them worked in hospitals and a large number worked in other industries as health care staff. Eight percent of RNs were employed in doctor's offices. 21% worked in a part time role.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for nurses is excellent and has been for many years. There is a perennial shortage of nurses and there will be several hundred thousand new jobs created over the coming decade.

Salary Range

Lowest 10%  $20.20  $42,020
Median Salary  $28.85  $60,010
Highest 10%  $41.97  $87,310

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

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