A registered nurse (RN) works alongside doctors and other nurses to deliver critical care to patients. The variety of roles you can choose from already once you have a registered nurse qualification are extensive, whether you’re in a hospital, school, or private setting. And the opportunities for career progression are seemingly endless – whether you want to stay or even study further to become a nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, or more.
An RN’s job role is, unsurprisingly, varied from day to day. And beyond a few core tasks, the location of your role will play a huge part in what you’ll be doing. To give you a taste of what being an RN can involve, typical responsibilities include:
When you earn your advanced practice degree and go from RN to nurse practitioner, you can choose to work as an NP, a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), or a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).
CNMs specialize in women’s gynecology, prenatal care, and postnatal care. As a CNM, you’ll deliver babies, assist patients in family planning, offer gynecological checkups and care, and supply prenatal care. CNMs are very similar to OB/GYN doctors, but they often take a different, more natural approach to labor and birth.
CRNAs typically work in operating rooms, intensive care units, and other surgical facilities. You might work completely unsupervised, or you might find yourself reporting to an anesthesiologist, surgeon, or other physician. CRNAs deliver careful dosages of anesthesia, calculate how their patients respond to it, identify risks like allergy or overdose, and inform patients before and after anesthesia is administered.
NPs fall into a more general category of advanced practice, but they still choose a specialization. They’re still a main part of the direct care that patients receive, but they have a more fine-tuned skillset.
NPs are given more responsibility and authority than RNs but still fall under physicians in the hierarchy of the healthcare system. You’ll be subject to the State Board of Nursing policy of the state you live in, so you may be able to practice without being supervised by a physician.
Currently, 20 states allow NPs full practice authority while the other 30 require that a medical doctor signs off on particular patient care decisions. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that NPs can perform 80-90% of the care duties that primary physicians do.
As an NP, you could find yourself doing any of the following on a normal day:
Training nursing students
Creating care plans and counseling patients on how to avoid disease, implement lifestyle changes, and better their health
Performing minor medical procedures
Supporting families as they make tough medical choices
Ordering diagnostic tests and reading lab results
Diagnosing and treating both pressing illnesses chronic conditions
Working in harmony with physicians, physical therapists, pharmacists, and social workers
Educating interested parties on relevant public health issues
Pursuing independent research and campaigning for patients’ best interests
Choosing a Focus Area
When you’re looking at RN to NP programs online, pay attention to what specializations are offered. You’re free to specialize by choosing a program that allows you to learn about a specific nursing niche, establish clinical expertise, and become certified.
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