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Registered Nurse Overview

Overview

Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of modern nursing, lived more than a century ago, but her legacy lives on in hospitals, clinics and schools. Nightingale’s concern for patients stretched beyond administering medication to caring for the whole person – physical as well as emotional, intellectual and spiritual. And she backed up her nursing philosophies with research. Today, nursing research is just one of the exciting changes in the field, says Kathy McCauley, associate dean of academic programs at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing. Increasingly, evidence-based science is confirming the contributions nurses make to patient care.

So, who are the people making these contributions? A registered nurse is the professional you’ll likely have the most contact with during a hospital stay. They’re responsible for monitoring a patient’s condition, performing medical procedures and administering medicine. They are also responsible for charting a patient’s progress. These professionals work with a range of patients, from those who are healthy (and are proactively trying to stay that way), to those who are pregnant and bringing new life, to those who are nearing the end of life and hoping for a peaceful death. “Nurses have a very holistic view of health and well-being, and I really appreciated that perspective,” Erin Whitehouse, an RN and Ph.D. student at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, writes in an email. “[They] look at an entire person and their situation, not just what medical concern they have.”

Many nurses also specialize and work with patients who have a certain health condition like cancer or diabetes. They can also specialize by body part. For instance, there are dermatology nurses and cardiovascular nurses, among others. RNs can also specialize by people group (like newborn babies) or by environment (like a school or hospital emergency room).

Registered nurses will be in high demand in the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the profession to grow 16 percent by 2024, opening up 439,300 new jobs.

Quick Stats

$67,490 Median Salary

1.5% Unemployment Rate

439300 Number of Jobs

Rankings

Registered Nurses rank #17 in Best Health Care Jobs. Jobs are ranked according to their ability to offer an elusive mix of factors. Read more about how we rank the best jobs.

Registered Nurses are ranked: