Registered nurses (RNs) provide nursing care to patients in a variety
of settings. They may specialize in surgery, neurology, emergency, intensive
care, obstetrics, gerontology or other areas of health care.
RNs engage in a wide range of health promotion activities. Their duties
are diverse and their services are in great demand, especially due to the
baby boomers. Those are people born between 1946 and 1964. The number of Americans
age 65 and older will double over the next 30 years.
"There tends to be a very strong demand in all the health-care sectors,
and nursing is no different," says RN Kathie Swindell. "There's a big demand...
We have an aging population, so they certainly are a generation that is requiring
a lot of support."
RNs have many duties, including assisting in surgery, giving out medications,
observing and monitoring patients, helping with rehabilitation, and comforting
or counseling patients.
"While the general public puts nurses as the number one most trusted profession,
they really do not have a clear understanding of what the nurse actually does,"
says RN Dianne Moore. "It is a great deal more than just hand holding, medication
giving or bed making."
You'll find most registered nurses working in hospitals and nursing homes.
However, there are also opportunities for registered nurses in doctors' offices,
clinics, public health-care agencies, government offices, schools and industrial
Nurses usually work in clean, well-lit environments. Their work involves
being on their feet for much of their workday, which can be as long as 12
hours. Work hours for nurses vary considerably. They can expect to work a
lot of weekends, evenings and holidays.
Nurses have to keep on their toes at all times, even when fatigue strikes.
Nursing can be physically strenuous and risky. There are heavy patients to
be moved and complex equipment to use. They also deal with patients who have
life-threatening illnesses such as hepatitis or AIDS.
"Nursing is demanding," says RN Dennis Sherrod. He's a nursing professor
with more than 30 years of nursing experience. "One of the things I've always
loved about nursing care [is that] when you're on a unit, it requires every
bit of you that day. It requires you to focus on exactly where you are. When
you walk into a patient's room you need to prioritize what that patient's
needs are as you move from patient to patient."
"The registered nurse demand continues to be strong, and promises to be
strong through 2015," says Sherrod. "Some places still have a shortage, though
the decline in the economy has kind of reframed that shortage...
"We know that a large part of our nursing workforce right now are baby
boomers, and they're beginning to retire, so as they begin to retire that
adds additional... growth for positions in nursing," says Sherrod.
"There is an acute shortage of professional nurses and it will get worse
in the next 10 years as nurses retire and the baby boomers age and need more
care," says Moore. She's the director of nursing education for the American
Nurses Association of California.
"We need more nurses who are smart, caring and ethical, who are lifelong
learners and see nursing as a profession, not just a good paycheck," Moore
adds. "I see many who are entering nursing programs because they can make
a good steady salary (average $80,000 per year in L.A. area) but who cannot
sustain the work because it is complex and demanding."
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Provide nursing care to patients
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