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How to Become a Registered Nurse

Updated on September 30, 2021
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Nyamweya is a global researcher with many years of experience on practical research on a diversity of topics

A nurse in her attire
A nurse in her attire

Job Description

The main job description for a registered nurse is to conduct an evaluation on the healthcare issues and needs of patients. They are also mandated to design and implement health care plans alongside maintaining medical records. Registered nurses are accountable for providing care to injured patients, disabled or convalescent, including those who are the ill. They also offer advice and counseling to their clients on issues pertaining provision of healthcare case management, disease prevention as well as health promotion. Job duties for RN include maintenance of detailed and accurate records and reports, reporting and monitoring disease symptoms as well as changes pertaining to the health condition of the patient. Additionally, registered nurses are also mandated to design and make specific modifications in regard to patient’s treatment plans as shown by the patient’s responses and conditions. More functions include making orders, interpretation and evaluating diagnosis tests for the purpose of identifying and assessing the health condition of the client. Registered nurses are also mandated to recommend or prescribe medical treatments, drugs and other type of therapy including inhalation therapy, physical activities and other related therapeutic processes.

Similar to other professions, the duties and responsibilities of registered nurses have also limitations. For instance, RN can only administer or dispense drugs upon an order by a licensed physician. In other words, they do not have authority to dispense drugs on their own accord. Registered nurses are also not allowed to open shop, retail drugs or poisons. Further, registered nurse is only to work under her or his jurisdiction and areas of competency.

Registered nurses are also expected to adhere to the established code of ethics in the profession. Among these is the requirement to address a wide aspect of social justice in relation to the wellbeing and health of clients. Further, nurses are mandated to offer a competent, safe and compassionate care to their clients. In this respect, they are expected to conduct themselves in accord to the responsibilities bestowed on them and the adherence to the best practice standards in the industry.

Education and Certification

In an effort to become a registered nurse, an individual has first to possess a high school education certificate and must have gone through post-secondary program, which could either be a degree or a diploma. In the post-secondary education, those individuals who desire to become nurses are taken through such topics as anatomy and human development while gaining widespread supervised clinical knowledge and experience. Before commencing the practice, nurses are supposed to be licensed in their states as they also need to undertake and pass a specific exam.

Students of nursing could choose from different education options in becoming registered nurse. Some teaching hospitals provide a diploma program, which runs for three years, though such programs are quiet rare. Majority of RNs have a bachelor or an associated degree in nursing. Associate Degree Programs in nursing are available at vocational and community colleges and runs for 2 to 3 years. These programs combine classroom instruction with practical training in clinics, hospitals and other healthcare settings. A bachelor’s degree on the other hand, is a more comprehensive training for nurses, which is offered in colleges and universities. Registered nurses with diplomas may opt to purse bachelors or associate degrees later in life.

In order to work in the profession, a RN must be issued with a license. In American perspective, each state has its own licensure requirement. However, the main factor in this requirement is the passage of training programs that are state approved, as well as the National Council for Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. The main element included in these tests includes health promotion, physiological and psychosocial integrity and infection control. Depending on a particular state, registered nurses may need to meet more licensure requirements .

Example of schools and colleges that offer RN program in U.S include

The Kaplan University of Nursing and

Georgetown Nursing University which offer undergraduate nursing programs

The typical cost of completing the program at such institutions depends on various factors. In particular, supplies, books and tuition fees at Kaplan and other state approved colleges may cost approximately $5,000-$25,000 at a public institution and $20,000-$40,000 or more at a private center. For associate degrees, tuition fees may cost $6,000-$40,000 or more at a public institution and $30,000-$100,000 or more at a private institution.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014), reports that for the profession of registered nurses, the growth of jobs was anticipated to be 19% in the years 2012 to 2022. In practical sense, this is one of the fasted job growths among all the occupations. This points out that as a profession; there are many job opportunities for registered nurse. The faster growth of employment for registered nurses is attributed to a number of factors. Among these include the increased need for enhanced healthcare services, an emphasis on preventative care, and emergency of high rate of chronic ailments including diabetes, obesity and high demand of healthcare from increased number of baby boomer generation. The current average salary for registered nurses is $67,220.

Generally, job prospects for registered nurses are anticipated to be favorable. Specifically, those with at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) have better opportunities comparing to those with diplomas. There is a trend for employers to prefer candidates who have some level of work experience when compared with those with no experience. Job opportunities for registered nurses are good because of the necessity of replacing workers with those who retire and increased access to healthcare services. As of today, 2nd July 2015, there are six vacancies advertised in the Sunday Herald for RNs. On average, the media outlet publishes an average of 50 vacancies per month.

Professional Activities

Professional nursing organizations both at the state and national level offer nurse practitioners an opportunity to connect with their colleagues in the specialty. They also enable them to share practices, learn new technical and educational advances and new trends in the field. The various nurse associations are also helpful in advancing one’s career alongside providing opportunities for networking, whether one is a student, a graduate or seasoned profession. Among these organizations include:

  • Trans-cultural Nursing Society (TNS)
  • National Association of Catholic Nurses (NACN)
  • American Nurses Association (ANA)
  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
  • Rural Nurse Organization (RNO)
  • National Black Nurses Association (NBNA)
  • National Association of School Nurses (NASN)
  • American Association of Nurse Midwives (AANM)
  • National Nursing Staff Development Organization (NSDO)
  • National League for Nursing (NLN)
  • Nurses Christian Fellowship (NCF)

For most of these organizations include the American nurse Association, undergraduate students may be allowed to become members for free. However, some organizations require students to join at a relatively discounted rate.

According to the law registered nurses are supposed to embark on at least 30 hours of continuing education after every two years in an effort to retain an active license. Courses in continuing education are supposed to be fulfilled at the time of the preceding period of renewal or when shifting from an inactive role to an active role. These courses taken during the continuing education are supposed to be approved by a recognized board of RN. Such programs are expected enhance the knowledge of registered nurses at a level required for licensure.


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