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Registered Nurse Job Description

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Nursing Major Careers

Nursing Career Information




Staff Nursing

  • Specialties by:
  • Work Setting or Type of Treatment, such as:
    • Perioperative (operating rooms)
    • Emergency/Trauma
    • Critical Care
    • Ambulatory Care
    • Home Health Care
    • Hospice and Palliative Care
    • Occupational Health
    • Radiology
    • Psychiatric-Mental Health
  • Specific Health Conditions, such as:
    • Oncology
    • Diabetes Management
    • Addictions Treatment
    • HIV/AIDS Care
  • Organ or Body Systems, such as:
    • Cardiovascular
    • Gastroenterology
    • Gynecology
    • Dermatology
    • Orthopedic
    • Urology
    • Respiratory
  • Well-defined Populations, such as:
    • Neonatology
    • Pediatrics
    • Adults
    • Geriatrics
  • Advanced Practice Nursing, such as:
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist
    • Nurse Anesthesiology
    • Nurse Midwifery
  • Nurse Practitioner, including:
    • Family, Adult, Women’s Health, Pediatric, Neonatal, Geriatric, Mental Health
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics and medical centers
  • Physicians’ offices and medical groups
  • Outpatient surgery centers
  • Ambulatory care centers
  • Home health agencies
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Hospices
  • Dialysis centers
  • Diabetes care clinics
  • Birth centers
  • Psychiatric hospitals and mental health agencies
  • Health maintenance organizations
  • Educational institutions
  • Summer camps
  • Large corporations
  • Correctional facilities
  • Work or volunteer in healthcare and medical settings during summers and breaks.
  • Shadow nurses in different settings to learn which ones hold the most appeal.
  • Gain experience through externship or internship programs.
  • Take electives in areas such as wellness, holistic health, medical ethics, and death and dying.
  • Get involved in student organizations and seek leadership roles.
  • Learn to be organized and to manage stress well.
  • Develop patience, the ability to work with both patients and families for long periods, and good listening skills. Learn to work effectively with people from different cultures, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Prepare to work nights, weekends, and holidays in a hospital setting.
  • Cultivate managerial skills for head nurse or other supervisory positions.
  • Many specialties exist and some nurses combine specialties, e.g. pediatric oncology.
  • Obtain a master’s or doctoral degree for advanced practice nursing. Some specialties may also require certification.
  • Join relevant professional associations and plan to attend continuing education programs.

Community and Public Health

  • Home Health
  • Rural Nursing
  • Health Education and Promotion
  • State and local health departments
  • Home healthcare agencies
  • Public schools
  • Daycare centers
  • Mental health facilities
  • Senior centers
  • Nurse-run clinics
  • Religious organizations
  • Social service agencies
  • Wellness centers
  • Community education programs
  • Develop knowledge and skills in management, decision-making, motivating, teaching, counseling, speaking, and writing.
  • Gain experience with handling emergencies, working independently, and demonstrating flexibility.
  • Expand knowledge of health issues related to age, cultures, religions, ethics, and government policies.
  • Learn to relate well with people from a variety of backgrounds.
  • Some positions may require a master’s degree in nursing, public health, or a related field.
  • Take continuing education courses in topics such as smoking cessation, nutrition and fitness, and stress management.

Independent Practice

  • Temporary Staffing
  • Travel Nursing
  • Personal Services Contracting
  • Private Duty
  • Healthcare staffing agencies
  • Travel companies
  • Businesses and organizations with temporary needs
  • Private households
  • Gain years of experience in a hospital or other healthcare setting.
  • Learn to work autonomously and make decisions independently.
  • Be prepared to move frequently to various locations either locally or abroad.
  • Become flexible and adaptable.

Government Service

  • Staff Nursing
  • Administration
  • Policy Development
  • Research
  • Government health agencies including:
    • Public Health Service
    • Indian Health Service
    • Veterans Affairs
    • Peace Corps
    • VISTA
  • Armed services
  • Prisons
  • Define an area of interest since government work offers a variety of practices.
  • Earn a master’s or doctoral degree for positions involving research, policy development, or administration.
  • Become familiar with other cultures, languages, health systems, and beliefs.
  • Be prepared for combat nursing in armed services.


  • Provide care and advice through electronic communications media (phone, internet).
  • Call centers
  • Private offices
  • Clinics
  • Health maintenance organizations
  • Hospitals
  • Work in other practices for five to ten years to gain the necessary experience.
  • Develop good communication skills and the ability to make important decisions quickly.
  • Earn the Telehealth Nurse Certification.

Nursing Research

  • Large hospitals and medical centers
  • Colleges and universities
  • Centers for nursing research
  • National Institute for Nursing
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Gain experience with research through supervised independent study or class projects.
  • Develop curiosity, analytical thinking, attention to detail, persistence, good writing skills, and an understanding of statistics.
  • Maintain a high grade point average and secure strong faculty recommendations.
  • Obtain a doctoral degree in nursing.

International Health

  • Clinical Nursing
  • Emergency Relief
  • Policy Development
  • Embassies
  • Military bases
  • National or international government agencies
  • Non-governmental organizations
  • Humanitarian organizations
  • Private voluntary organizations
  • Church-related mission services
  • World Health Organization
  • Consider advanced education as a clinical nurse specialist or nurse practitioner to be more marketable.
  • Learn a foreign language and an appreciation for other cultures. Study or volunteer abroad.
  • Participate in medical mission trips.
  • Inquire about the need for additional preparation in religious studies or similar courses.
  • Research nursing requirements in other countries.


  • Teaching
  • Educational Administration
  • Teaching hospitals
  • Colleges and universities
  • Schools of nursing
  • Develop patience, sensitivity to the needs of young adults as well as patients, and the ability to accept responsibility for the actions of others.
  • Take courses in the principles and practices of teaching.
  • Earn an advanced degree to teach at the college or university level.
  • Gain experience in public speaking.

Other Areas

  • Insurance:
    • Underwriting and Claims
  • Sales
  • Product Management
  • Quality Assurance
  • Writing
  • Law
  • Forensic Nursing
  • Healthcare Administration
  • Information Management
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Case Management
  • Insurance companies
  • Hospitals
  • Health maintenance organizations
  • Business and industry:
    • Pharmaceutical companies
    • Medical equipment and supplies manufacturers
    • Medical marketing firms
  • Law firms
  • Medical and health publications
  • Healthcare websites
  • Healthcare advertising agencies
  • Public relations firms
  • Professional associations
  • Combine interest in nursing and healthcare with another field by earning appropriate graduate degrees or gaining relevant experience.
  • Minor in business or communications as an undergraduate.
  • Develop strong computer skills and an understanding of business practices.
  • Gain experience as a staff nurse before taking expertise in another direction.
  • Demonstrate initiative and effective leadership.
  • Get involved with relevant professional associations.

General Information and Strategies

  • Nursing is the largest healthcare field. Three out of five nurses work in hospitals. Many nurses work part-time.
  • Nursing combines science and technology with the desire to help people. One must enjoy helping people of all types and backgrounds.
  • Nursing requires both physical stamina and emotional stability. Nurses must be able to follow orders and direct others.
  • Other qualities important to the field include orientation to detail, sympathy and concern, responsibility, and the ability to handle stress and emergency situations.
  • There are multiple educational paths to acquire the Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) degree and the Registered Nurse (RN) designation. Research alternatives such as accelerated BSN programs or Master’s Entry programs.
  • All states regulate nursing by requiring licensure. Investigate individual state requirements if planning to relocate.
  • Earn a master’s degree to prepare for advanced practice nursing including: clinical nurse specialist, nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, and administration. Earn a doctoral degree for research or teaching at a university.
  • Many opportunities outside of traditional nursing exist for RN’s who want to work in non-clinical roles. Research the skills, experiences, and degrees necessary to attain these positions.


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