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While the general tasks of a registered nurse are similar to those of an LPN/LVN and may be common across most nursing specialties, the specifics are really dependent on the specialty itself. Below, you will find an overview of a typical RN job description, as well as categories of jobs and RN specialties within those categories. If you are interesting in pursuing a career as an RN, or in advancing your career, it is wise to start thinking about what specialties might be right for you, as well educating yourself on the expected salary and outlook of future RN jobs.
RN job description: common tasks
Typical work duties can vary depending upon specialty, however in most cases, the nurse will be responsible for the daily care of an admitted patient. This can include administering medication, setting IVs, giving shots, updating patient records, providing emotional support, patient education, basic diagnostics, and other patient procedures.
Physically, nursing can be a taxing career. It typically requires quite a bit of physical activity such as walking, lifting patients, stretching and bending, and may require longer work days and varied schedules. Nurses employed by hospitals or exteded-hours facilities frequently work 12 hour shifts or have call duty. They may have to work nights, weekends or even over the holidays.
Additionally, individuals in this career must be very careful to protect themselves from possible work-related hazards. They may be exposed to infectious diseases, radiation, chemicals, etc., all during the course of patient care.
For individuals considering travel RN jobs, there are also other tasks related to managing the career, such as more frequent communication with placement agencies.
Job categories and specialties
While some people choose to pursue registered nurse jobs that cover basic patient care, others may decide to pursue a specialty. Pursuing a specialty typically requires further training and is likely to have a positive impact on RN salary.
Patient-care RN specialties can be broken down into four main categories. They can be grouped by work setting, health condition, body system or by population managed.
Work setting specialties include the following:
- transport nursing
- ambulatory care
- medical-surgical nursing
- home healthcare
- perioperative nursing
- psychiatric-mental health
- critical care
- hospice and palliative care
- long-term care
- holistic nursing
- occupational health
- emergency or trauma nursing
Specialties by health condition include:
- intellectual and developmental disabilities
- diabetes management
- wound, ostomy and incontinence
Specialties by organ or body system include:
Specialties by population:
Jobs requiring little or no patient care
You may decide that floor or patient-care nursing isn't for you, or if you have had an injury, you may no longer be able to perform some of the physically taxing duties required of a floor nurse. Whatever the reason, there are a number of job options available to RNs that require little or no direct patient care. One of the following options may be right for you:
- nurse educators
- medical writers or editors
- infection control nursing
- forensic nursing
- public policy advisors
- health insurance case management
- nurse paralegal
- nurse informaticists
- pharmaceutical and medical supply research
- pharmaceutical and medical supply sales
- home health care case management
- healthcare consultants
- occupational health nursing
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