Registered nurses play a critical role in new healthcare models that focus on preventative care and management of chronic illness. This model reduces costly hospital admissions and improves the quality of care patients receive when they move from one to another.
Registered nurses function in a wide range of healthcare roles, including direct care, patient advocacy, research, and nursing education.
When providing direct care, registered nurses:
- Treat patients by administering medications, taking vital signs, operating medical equipment, and performing a variety of procedures
- Evaluate patients and create care plans by taking medical histories, ordering and interpreting tests, and conferring with others in the care team, including physicians and specialists
- Increase health care quality by helping patients manage chronic conditions so that they are less likely to need expensive or lengthy acute care at a hospital
Nurses also play a key role in:
- Educating patients and their families on treatment options, illness and disease management, and general healthcare, such as nutrition
- Promoting public health by running health screening and immunization clinics as well as assisting with blood drives and public health awareness forums
Employment opportunities can be found in:
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Doctors’ offices
- Surgical centers
- Home care and hospice
- Community-based organizations
- Health plan insurers
Registered nurses work in many different settings and new nurses hired into acute care settings (hospitals) is expected to decrease as a result.
Education and training requirements:
Nursing is a career path that provides a number of options, each with its own requirements.
A college degree is always required, with two paths to becoming an RN:
- An associate’s degree nursing program (ADN), which usually takes 2-3 years, and has strict requirements for prerequisites in science, math, and other core courses
- A four-year bachelor’s degree nursing program (BSN), which can be earned in a BSN program, or an ADN-to-BSN program
Whether you have an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree, you will need to complete both classroom instruction and clinical experience, as well as pass a licensing exam.
Employers, schools and other organizations in Western Massachusetts have made it a priority to create new educational programs that allow nurses to advance their careers more efficiently, moving from an LPN to RN, and from an ADN degree to a BSN degree.
Once you are a registered nurse, you have a variety of career paths open to you that all require experience and ongoing education. Learn more about Advanced Practice Nursing.
If you are considering nursing, it is particularly important to understand:
- Admissions to nursing programs is extremely competitive, and will require long hours without much schedule flexibility
- All nurses requires excellent communication skills, patience and the ability to multitask
- Many of the growing opportunities in nursing are in geriatric care, which is excellent for people who want to work with the elderly
- Nursing requires a commitment to lifelong learning in order to stay up-to-date with new requirements, technologies, and care techniques
- You will need excellent STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and math)