Registered Nurses (RNs) are considered the backbone of health care, caring for patients in almost all health care settings. They are often responsible for the total care of patients, in preventing and detecting illness, managing care for acute illnesses, assisting patients and families in recovery and rehabilitation, and assisting patients and families manage chronic illness and death. RNs work with patients at the beginning and end of life, and at many stages in between. RNs have close contact with patients and their families and can make an enormous impact on their lives. RNs may work independently or in collaboration with other health care professionals such as physicians to manage the care of patients. RNs implement the physicians' orders, as well as implementing nursing care plans to assist patients to prevent illness, manage illness and restore them to their highest possible levels.
The entry-level hospital position for a RN is staff nurse. Staff nurses assess patient conditions throughout their hospital stay, around the clock. RNs monitor patients' progress, provide emergency treatment when needed, and give medications and treatments. RNs also educate patients and their families on how to manage acute and chronic illness and help them to plan for their discharge to home. RNs often supervise licensed vocational nurses, nurse aides and other assistive personnel. RNs work in all areas of the hospital including medical/surgical units, critical care, emergency room, obstetrics and pediatrics.
Registered nurses who work in nursing homes provide direct patient care and act as supervisors or team leaders within their facility, managing the care provided by other nursing personnel. They evaluate the care given to the patient, assess the patient's progress, chart observations, treatments, medications and food intake, and report changes to supervisors or doctors. RNs supervise certified nurse assistants and licensed vocational nurses.
More than 60% of RNs work for hospitals. Others work in physicians' offices, nursing homes, home health agencies, clinics, schools, government agencies, universities and the military. Hospitals and nursing homes need nurses around the clock, so nurses may work eight, ten or twelve-hour shifts, weekends and holidays.
Registered nurses must be highly trained, organized and caring individuals who want to work with people. RNs must be licensed to practice in California by the State Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). To take the licensing examination, an applicant must have completed an Associate (2 year) or Bachelor's (4 year) degree in nursing.
The LVN to RN training consists of a current Licensed Vocation Nurse enrolling in a 12-18 month advanced placement nursing program. This is usually the second year of the regular nursing program.
Applicants for registered nursing programs must be high school graduates or have a GED. Community colleges offer two-year programs leading to an Associate degree. The prerequisites to take a registered nurse program at a community college or university include, Anatomy, Physiology, Chemistry, Microbiology, English, Beginning Algebra, Basic Nutrition, Psychology, Sociology and Speech. All nursing programs include supervised clinical experience. Four-year colleges and universities grant Bachelor's degrees in nursing.
Links to Additional Career Information