Nursing: Do You Have What it Takes? Part 3

Spotlight RN
(Registered Nurse)

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. Ability to assess changes in the health state of patients, including when to take corrective action and when to make referrals.

Compassion. It’s valuable for a nurse to be caring and sympathetic, a trait that is critical when treating patients.

Detail oriented. RNs must make sure that patients get the correct treatments and medicines at the right time.

Emotionally stable. RNs will be constantly exposed to a variety of stresses, and must possess the emotional strength and stability to cope with human suffering and medical emergencies.

Organizational skills. Nurses often work with multiple patients with various health needs, and organizational skills are critical to ensure that each patient is given proper care.

Patience. RNs will be expected to provide quality care under stressful or hectic circumstances.

Communication Skills. RNs must be able to talk and listen effectively with patients and their families to correctly assess health conditions. Nurses need to clearly explain how to take medication or give other instructions. RNs also must be able to work in teams with other health professionals, including doctors and administrators, and to communicate patients’ needs.7

Typical Duties

Registered Nurses typically:

  • Record patients' medical histories and symptoms
  • Give patients medicines and treatments
  • Set up plans for patients’ care or contribute to existing plans
  • Observe patients and record observations
  • Consult with doctors and other healthcare professionals
  • Operate and monitor medical equipment
  • Help perform diagnostic tests and analyze results
  • Teach patients and their families how to manage their illnesses or injuries
  • Explain what to do at home after treatment8

Additionally, some registered nurses oversee licensed practical nurses, nursing aides, and home care aides. Some RNs go on to become hospital administrators and fill other management positions.

Education Required

To become a registered nurse, you can take one of three education paths: a bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), or a diploma from an approved nursing program. All three will require you to take a variety of science courses . Classes can be taken through online colleges and universities or on-campus programs. Licensing is also required.

BSN programs typically take four years to complete; ADN and diploma programs usually take two to three years to complete.

All programs also include supervised clinical experience in hospital departments such as pediatrics, psychiatry, maternity, and surgery. A number of programs include clinical experience in extended and long-term care facilities, public health departments, home health agencies, or ambulatory (walk-in) clinics.

Your Nursing Checklist

As you contemplate whether or not a career in nursing is right for you, run yourself through this quick check list.

  1. Do you have good communications skills? Both speaking and listening?
  2. Are you emotionally stable and strong?
  3. Are you empathetic?
  4. Are you patient?
  5. Are you able to work well with a variety of people?
  6. Do you pay attention to detail?
  7. Do you have good physical endurance?
  8. Are you good in stressful situations?

If you answer yes to most of these questions, there’s a good chance that nursing will be an excellent fit – and that you do indeed have what it takes to become a nurse.

7 Bureau of Labor Statistics, How to Become a Registered Nurse, 2012, p1.

8 Bureau of Labor Statistics, What Registered Nurses Do, 2012, p1.

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