Should I Be A Nurse? What Do Nurses Do?

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Should I be a nurse? A question I remember asking myself when I was switching from engineering school to nursing school.

I asked myself: Why do I want to be a nurse? Is nursing a good career field? What do nurses do everyday? Little did I know, I would find out the answers to my questions shortly.

What is a Registered Nurse?

A registered nurse (RN) is an individual who has graduated from an accredited nursing program and has passed their state licensure exam. Accreditation and licensing varies from state to state, but is very similar overall.

Nursing students study for the NCLEX for several months prior to taking the exam. Once you have passed the NCLEX, you are able to legally work as a registered nurse in the state for which you applied.

What is the Difference Between a Nurse and a RN?

All RNs are nurses, but not all nurses are RNs. Some nurses are Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and are not Registered Nurses (RN). All RNs have passed their boards and are able to fully practice in the state which they are licensed.

What is the Difference Between a LPN and a RN?

LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurse) is different from an RN (Registered Nurse) in a few ways. LPNs typically handle more patient care responsibilities while RNs handle more medication and procedural responsibilities.

Different hospitals and states might use LPNs differently, but typically if they take a patient assignment, it will not involve certain medications or diagnoses. For example, an LPN most likely won’t receive a patient if they are on an insulin drip who had just had a myocardial infarction (heart attack).

Where Can Nurses (RNs) Work?

Registered nurses can work in a wide range of fields ranging from bedside to informatics. However, there are some basic types of nurses that I will outline. You can read more about personal experiences from nurses who have gone on to complete their advanced education (MSN, DNP, PhD).

Advanced Practice Nurses

Nurse Anesthetists

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced practice nurses that provide anesthesia during surgical procedures. In addition, they can assist in epidurals and conscious sedation procedures. CRNAs typically require a masters degree (MSN), but some programs require a doctoral degree (either DNP or PhD).

Nurse Midwife

Certified nurse-midwifes (CNM) are advanced practice nurses who provide special care to women during pregnancy. They assist in counseling and care during pre-conception, pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

Nurse Practitioner

Certified nurse practitioners (NP) are nurses that have similar responsibilities to physicians assistants (PA). Nurse practitioners differ from physicians assistants because NPs are more specialized while PAs provide generalized care. NPs can work virtually any area of medicine or nursing that a BSN RN can work.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Clinical nurse specialists (CNS) are experts in a very specialized area of nursing. They have advanced education in a particular area of nursing or medicine such as populations (pediatrics, geriatrics) or setting (critical care or emergency department).

Bedside Nurses

Med-surg (medical surgical)

Medical-surgical (med-surg) floors are the most common nursing floors in hospitals. They serve the widest range of patient populations and can vary in the intensity of patients.

ICU (intensive care unit)

Intensive care units (ICU) are specialized areas of care for the most critically injured or ill patients. ICUs vary based on specialty (such as cardiac, surgical, or neurological), but all involve very sick patients. My first job was in the ICU and I learned a lot about disease processes, medications and nursing as a whole.


Telemetry units are typically reserved for patients who require telemetry monitoring. Tele floors are similar to med-surg floors, but they can have a slightly more critical patient base.

Emergency Department

The emergency department (ER, ED, emergency room) is an area of critical emergent patient care. ED patients can range from having a scrapped knee, to detoxing from alcoholism, to a full-blown trauma team code. ED nurses have to be quick thinking and ready-to-go.

Operating Room and PeriAnesthesia (PACU, Pre-Op)

Operating room nurses are RNs who work in the surgical area of the hospital. OR nurses can have varying responsibilities depending on which position you have, but typically are very different from regular nursing floors.

PeriAnesthesia nurses typically work in areas such as pre-op, the post anesthesia care unit (PACU) or a second recovery room. These RNs also have a range of responsibilities that can vary from assisting with pre-op instructions, to caring for a critical patient after surgery.

Other Areas That Nurses Can Work In

  • Family Practice
  • Private Surgery Centers
  • Mental Health Facilities
  • Chart/Clinical Review
  • Informatics
  • Telehealth
  • Marketing
  • Medical Sales
  • Pharmaceutical Sales
  • Education

As you can see, there is a plethora of different specialities and areas nurses can practice in (I have probably forgotten some as well). There is a “stigma” of the typical nurses that you will see on TV. But, in reality most nurses work in other fields other than the bedside.

How Much Money Do Nurses Make?

What is a typical nurses (RN) salary? The average nursing salary from 2019 was between $27-37 per hour, with the median average income of $71,730. This can vary state to state, but will be the case for most. However, advanced practice nurses, such as CRNAs, made on average $167,950 per year. In addition, other areas of nursing paid upwards of $107,000 per year.

This all sounds great, but in reality, most nurses don’t do their job for the money, they do it because they love it.

What Do Nurses (RNs) Do?

Should I become a nurse? That is a question I’m sure a lot of you have asked yourself. Well, you can’t answer it without knowing what nurses do on a daily basis!

The Responsibilities of a RN (Registered Nurse)

Nursing responsibilities:

  • Medication administration
  • IV starts, stops
  • Insertion of IV (intravascular catheters)
  • Insertion of Foley (indwelling urinary) catheters
  • Patient care (bathing, range of motion)
  • Wound care (burns, abrasions, surgical)
  • Procedure assistance (insertion of triple lumen catheters, scans, etc.)
  • Code team member
  • Assisting other nurses
  • Assist in administration of chemotherapy
  • Administer blood transfusions
  • Monitor and administer CRRT (continuous renal therapy)
  • Assist with dialysis

As you can see, there is a wide range of responsibilities that nurses have. Many responsibilities will differ depending on what specialty you work in. For example, RN’s in the ER or Operating Room will have vastly different responsibilities than a RN on a med-surg floor.

A nurse’s typical day will look different, but most floor nurses have a similar schedule. A day will normally start with getting nursing report. Then, most nurses will figure out their plans for the day. Execute those plans. And finally, report off at the end of shift nursing report.

While this might sound simple, it can very challenging to say the least. Figuring out your plan can be difficult because each patient is unique. You have to prioritize patients based on individual need, physician’s orders, diagnosis, procedures scheduled and other patients.

Why You Should Be a Nurse

Should I be a nurse? Why should you be a nurse? Are you thinking about applying for nursing school?

Well, if you are, you totally should! Nursing is one of those degrees that you can literally do anything with! Once you are a nurse, you have the ability to go into various fields or further your education. Additionally, as a nurse, you part of a family.

There are some things in nursing that only other nurses will understand. As you go through nursing school and start transitioning to becoming a new nurse, you start to learn just that. Nurses are a symbol of healing, kindness, heart and care. You can give someone hope or help them heal with just a conversation.

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Full Time Nurse

Striving to help nurses and nursing students succeed.

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