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Nursing Career Paths
There are three major educational paths to registered nursing: a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree, and a diploma from an approved nursing program. Students must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass a national licensing examination, known as the NCLEX-RN, in order to obtain a nursing license.
Job duties: Registered nurses record patients’ medical histories and symptoms, help perform diagnostic tests and analyze results, operate medical machinery, administer treatment and medications, and help with patient follow-up and rehabilitation.
In addition, they can specialize to work in a variety of settings:
- Pre-operative nurses work in operating rooms assisting surgeons
- Ambulatory care nurses provide preventive care and treat patients with a variety of illnesses and injuries in physicians’ offices or in clinics
- Diabetes management nurses assist patients in managing their diabetes
- Dermatology nurses work with patients who have skin disorders
- Geriatric nurses work with the elderly
- Pediatric oncology nurses deal with children and adolescents who have cancer
Licensed Practical Nurses are required to pass a licensing examination, known as the NCLEX-PN, after completing a State-approved practical nursing program.
Job duties: Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), care for people who are sick, injured, convalescent, or disabled under the direction of physicians and registered nurses.
RNs can also choose to become advanced practice nurses, who work independently or in collaboration with physicians. These positions usually require a minimum of a BSN and in many cases a master’s degree and can include:
- Clinical Nurse Specialists
- Nurse Anesthetists
- Nurse Practitioners
Other opportunities for advancement include management, administrator, consulting, and educator roles.
Most RNs work in well-lit, clean, and comfortable healthcare facilities. Since patients in hospitals and nursing care facilities require 24-hour care, the nurses in these institutions may work nights, weekends, and holidays. They may also be on call and available to work on short notice. Nurses who work in offices, schools, and other settings are more likely to work regular business hours. About 20% of RNs worked part-time in 2008.
Most licensed practical nurses in hospitals and nursing care facilities work a 40-hour week, but because patients need round-the-clock care, some work nights, weekends, and holidays. They often stand for long periods and help patients move in bed, stand, or walk.