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Registered Nurse

A registered nurse (RN) is a patient advocate and health care professional who works to ensure recovery of the sick and the promotion of health in everyone.  In collaboration with other health care workers, a nurse can assess patients, implement nursing care and evaluate such care in a patient population.

A nurse’s scope of practice in the United States is determined by a set of laws called the Nursing Practice Act of the licensing state or territory the nurse is working in.  Each state or territory can have different laws and regulations regarding what constitutes nursing care and the limits of such care.  Usually a state nursing board decides these rules.

Registered nurses work in settings as diverse as hospitals to corporate environments, from schools to ambulatory surgery centers, fire departments, small medical clinics and private industry.  Some nurses work as consultants within the health care industry, for manufacturers or bioscience companies.  A research nurse may conduct or assist in research and evaluation of therapies or basic sciences such as biology, psychology, human development and health care delivery.

Registered nurses constitute the largest group of health care workers in the United States, numbering over 2.6 million.  It is widely agreed that there is a growing shortage of nurses, that will not be sufficiently offset by the number of new graduates and foreign-trained nurses starting practice.  

Most nurses pursue one of three options to licensure in the United States.  The most common, and shortest, path to becoming a nurse is a two-year Associate of Science in Nursing.  Another method is to attend a hospital diploma program, which often takes about three years, but may allow a person to actively work while training.  The third option is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, which takes four years and prepares the student for graduate education in nursing.


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