Your RN Roadmap: Everything You Need to Know About Being an RN

This RN roadmap is your go-to resource, packed with everything you need to know about becoming and thriving as an RN!

What is a Registered Nurse (RN)?

Registered nurses are the heartbeat of healthcare. They’re the ones who provide expert care and support to patients who are sick or injured. Compared to other healthcare professionals like licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or certified nursing assistants (CNAs), RNs have a broader scope of practice and a higher level of responsibility. They undergo more extensive education and training, which qualifies them to perform complex assessments, make critical decisions, and coordinate care for patients. Their expertise, compassion, and unwavering dedication make a world of difference in a patient’s healthcare journey, helping patients get back on their feet and stay well.

What do RNs do?

Whether a patient is in a hospital, clinic, or receiving care at home, RNs are there to assess condition, administer medications, educate patients and their loved ones on staying healthy, and ensure they receive top-notch care. They’re like healthcare guardians, always advocating for well-being and ensuring a patient has everything they need to recover.

An RN’s duties can vary depending on their specialty. In critical care settings, RNs may be responsible for tasks like managing ventilator support and cardiac monitoring, while in pediatrics, they might focus more on developmental assessments and administering vaccinations; in operating rooms, RNs assist surgeons during procedures, monitor vital signs, and provide post-operative care.

At its core, being a registered nurse means being there for patients every step of the way, from the beginning to the end of their healthcare journey:

  • Assessment: Evaluate patients’ physical, emotional, and mental health.
  • Care Planning: Craft personalized care plans based on patient needs.
  • Medication: Administer medications and treatments safely.
  • Patient Education: Educate patients and families on health conditions, treatment plans, and self-care.
  • Coordination: Collaborate closely with doctors, fellow nurses, and other healthcare professionals to ensure the best care.
  • Advocacy: Advocate for patients’ rights, preferences, and overall well-being.

What does RN salary and career outlook look like?

So, how much do registered nurses make? Well, it varies depending on factors like experience, specialty, and location. Fresh out of the gate, entry-level nurses might see salaries around $57,000 to $65,000 per year. As they gain more experience, that can bump up to $65,000 to $118,000 annually for mid-career RNs. And those with over a decade in the field are typically looking at $118,000 to $135,000 per year. But remember, these are just nationwide averages. Where you work and what you specialize in plays a huge role in your paycheck.

Looking ahead, the job outlook for RNs is promising! With the population aging and healthcare needs growing, there’s a projected 9% job growth from 2020 to 2030. That means plenty of opportunities for RNs to find meaningful work and make a difference in people’s lives.

As for moving up the ladder, RNs have lots of options. You could specialize in an area like telemetry or behavioral health, pursue advanced degrees like a Master of Science in Nursing, or even step into leadership roles. And if you’re eyeing those higher paychecks, becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) might be the ticket.

What Are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs)?

Advanced Practice Nurses are RNs with advanced education and training, typically at the master’s or doctoral level. They have expanded roles and responsibilities, including:

    • Prescribing medications and treatments.
    • Diagnosing and managing acute and chronic health conditions.
    • Performing advanced procedures such as suturing and diagnostic tests.
    • Providing specialized care in areas such as nurse practitioner (NP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), nurse anesthetist (CRNA), and nurse midwife (CNM).
    • Working closely with physicians and other healthcare professionals to deliver comprehensive patient care.

    Roles like Certified Registered Nurse Practitioners (CRNPs) or Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) can bring in some serious cash, with CRNAs often being among the highest-paid nursing professionals.

    Whether you’re just starting out or plotting your next career move, there’s no shortage of opportunities to grow and thrive with a career in nursing.

What are nursing specialties?

When it comes to specialties within nursing, there’s a wide range of options catering to individual interests and skill sets. From case management to orthopedics to labor & delivery, RNs can specialize in areas aligning with their passions and expertise. And each specialty demands unique skills, training, and certifications to deliver specialized care.

Explore the links below for in-depth guides on each specialty:

Where do RNs work?

You can find different types of nurses everywhere; in acute hospitals, clinics, or even right in your own home. RNs are there, making sure you’re well taken care of and on the path to good health.

Take a look at some of the most common settings you’ll find nurses working:

  • Hospitals are common workplaces, where RNs work in emergency rooms, surgical units, and other departments.
  • In specialty clinics or primary care settings, RNs focus on specific medical conditions or patient populations.
  • Home care is becoming increasingly important. In this setting, RNs provide personalized care to patients in their own homes, addressing their medical needs and ensuring their well-being.
  • In long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, RNs care for elderly or disabled individuals who require assistance with daily activities and medical supervision.
  • Ambulatory care settings, including outpatient clinics and urgent care centers, also rely on RNs to deliver preventive care, manage chronic conditions, and address acute healthcare needs in the community.
  • Some RNs work in schools or educational settings, providing healthcare services to students and promoting health and wellness within the school community.
  • RNs may work in correctional facilities, like prisons or jails, providing healthcare services to incarcerated individuals.
  • In the military, RNs provide care to service members and their families.
  • RNs can also work in research settings, contributing to clinical trials, data collection, and healthcare research initiatives.

What is travel nursing?

Travel nursing is a unique career path where nurses take short-term assignments in various healthcare facilities across the country. These assignments can last from a few weeks to several months, allowing nurses to explore new places, meet new people, and gain diverse clinical experiences. Travel nurses often enjoy perks like competitive pay, free housing or housing stipends, travel reimbursements, and flexibility in their work schedules. It’s an exciting way for nurses to combine their passion for healthcare with a love for adventure and exploration.

For more information on what travel nursing is and how to get started, check out this handy Travel Nursing Guide!

Or let’s get your show on the road! Quick apply to travel with Medical Solutions and start searching for jobs today!

How do I become an RN?

To become a registered nurse there are typically two educational pathways:

Associate’s Degree (ADN):

This route takes around 2 to 3 years to complete. You’ll learn the essentials of nursing practice and get hands-on experience in clinical settings. Plus, once you’re done, you’ll be eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, which is your gateway to becoming licensed.

Bachelor’s Degree (BSN):

If you’re up for a bit more schooling, you might consider going for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). This takes about four years to finish and gives you a broader education in areas like liberal arts and sciences, along with your nursing courses. This route can open more doors in your career down the line and set you up for leadership roles.

After completing either program, you must then pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to obtain RN licensure. This exam assesses competency to practice safely and effectively as an entry-level nurse. Passing the NCLEX-RN is a crucial step in becoming a licensed RN and is required by all state boards of nursing in the United States.

Then, once licensed, you may choose to pursue further specialization or advanced degrees to advance your career. Advanced degrees, like a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), can lead to advanced practice roles like Nurse Practitioner (NP) or Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).

How much of an impact do RNs make?

Being an RN isn’t always easy. They face challenges like staffing shortages, heavy workloads, and long hours. But RNs truly make a huge impact on patient care every single day. They’re always there when you need them, administering medications, monitoring your condition, and making sure you’re as comfortable as possible. And they bring a whole lot of heart to the table too, with empathy, integrity, and respect—core values that guide everything they do.

Big on ethical principles, RNs make sure that every decision they make is in the best interest of their patients. They’re not afraid to speak up, whether it’s fighting for better pain management or ensuring informed consent, RNs are always looking out for their patients’ rights and well-being.

At the end of the day, RNs are making a real difference in people’s lives, and that’s something to celebrate. They’re the ones who help us heal, both physically and emotionally, and we’re lucky to always have them when we need them most!

Nurse resources

Overall, registered nurses are indispensable. With their expertise, compassion, and commitment, they advocate for their patients and ensure only the very best quality of care. Despite the challenges, RNs continue to make a huge impact on patient outcomes and well-being.

If you’re interested in learning more about the role of RNs in healthcare or exploring nursing specialties further, check out these resources:

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Travel Nursing