Nurse: What They Do, How to Become One, Resources

nurse career

Nurses are one of the most popular jobs in the United States. With more than 3 million jobs available annually, and a growth outlook of more than 13%. It is a vastly growing job title with high amounts of interest from job seekers.

What is a Nurse?

A Nurse is a medical practitioner who works in a private medical facility or hospital typically monitoring patients, administering medication, consulting with medical professionals, educating patients on upcoming treatments and more.

A Nurse will be one of the staff that a patient would see the most if they were to be a patient within a hospital or private medical facility. The Nurse is the staff member who is keeping a close record of all patient progress and ensures a healthy, happy stay within the medical facility.

How to Become a Nurse

To become a Nurse you will have to receive a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing as well as pass state certifications in order to start practicing. Some of these examinations include the NCLEX-RN examination (National Council Licensure Examination) as well as receive a registered nurse certification and a BLS certification.

Most universities offer a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. The average cost of becoming a nurse in the United States can range anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 depending on the institution and the university type.

This degree typically takes four years to complete. Once completed, you may have an additional year of time spent receiving your state licenses in order to start practicing as a Registered Nurse.

Available or Alternative Jobs for a Nurse

While becoming a Nurses Assistant can be a great way to get involved in the nursing duties without the need of a four-year degree, once you have a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing, these jobs become available to you.

Nurse Certifications

While your nursing certification with vary based on state as well as a focus area for the type of nursing position you’re passionate about, below are the various types of certifications available to nurses to advance themselves within their field of study.

Nurse Duties or Responsibilities

Below are the duties and responsibilities that would be expected of you as a Registered Nurse or Nurse.

What is it Like to Be a Nurse?

duckface08 • Source: Reddit • January 17, 2013

A lot will depend on what type of nursing you do (big difference between a public health nurse, an ICU nurse, a palliative nurse, LTC nurse, etc.) and where you work (i.e. different policies and whole health care systems).

My experience: Gory? Check. I’ve seen my fair share of awful wounds, including a woman who was literally covered in open sores from shoulders down to her feet. Bloody? Check, from drawing blood samples to outright GI bleeds and bloody wounds. Horrific? It depends on your definition of horrific, but I would say yes. Heart-warming stories? I’ve seen those, too.

First and foremost, nursing is difficult. It’s physically demanding - being on your feet all day, lots of heavy lifting and turning, and sometimes you get so busy you don’t have time to eat or go to the bathroom. It’s mentally demanding - you’re constantly assessing, intervening, and re-assessing, using critical thinking skills, and always learning, learning, learning new things. Any decision you make can have huge consequences. It is emotionally demanding - you have to care for some very ill people and, sometimes, admit you can’t save everyone and watch people die and provide support to their loved ones.

Another aspect of nursing is dealing with people’s perception of what nursing really is. A lot of people still have this idea that nurses act as “doctor helpers” or something. “You’re just a nurse” is actually something several people have said to either me or my colleagues. Most patients and their families treat me well, but you get a few who are rude, condescending, overly demanding, etc., and basically show nurses no respect. You sometimes get crap from management, too, because in these days of downturning economies, nurses are seen as an expense rather than people who make a difference - we are constantly fighting against attempted cutbacks.

From all this, it probably sounds like I hate my job. It’s not easy at all, but I’d quit if I hated what I do. When I can see I am making a positive difference in someone’s life, it makes all the difficulties of my job worth it. Yesterday, at the end of my shift, one patient took my hand, looked me in the eye, and told me, “Thank you”, and that’s all I needed to feel good after a chaotic day. Or when we get to send people home, particularly after a long illness, that’s always a good feeling. We once sent home this woman with medical equipment previously on seen in hospitals, which took us months to arrange. She was so happy and grateful that she threw us/herself a mini goodbye party the day she left - she and her family provided the food and drinks.

Even with patients who end up dying, it can be extremely sad, but if I can provide them with comfort in their last hours, then I still believe it’s making a positive difference. Who wants to die in pain and suffering? No one. So I come on time with their pain medications, rub lotion into their skin when I can, reposition them frequently, provide warm blankets, and anything else I can do. Even that is helping people.

Nurse FAQ’s

What types of nurses get paid the most?

The highest paying nursing jobs are Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. A General Nurse Practitioner. A Gerontological Nurse Practitioner. And a Pain Management Nurse.

What are the qualifications for being a nurse?

A Registered Nurse must have a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing, must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), have a state license for being a Registered Nurse (BLS Certification), have BLC/CPR American Heart Association certification, ACLS certification and prior experience with nursing staff.

How many jobs are available for nurses?

In 2018, the number of nursing jobs rose to roughly 3,050,800 jobs available on an annual basis. With a 12% growth outlook (the number of jobs expected to rise in coming years), this is a job in high demand.

Do nurses only work in hospitals?

No. Only 15% of nurses work in hospitals. Private care facilities, private practices, and other medical facilities can house the job of a nurse.

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur,, SparkHire, and many more.


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