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Registered Nurses One of the greatest aspects of nursing as a profession is the ability to work in many types of environments and in many different roles. It is a field that is constantly evolving.

Registered Nurses (RNs) can work at the bedside with the sickest patients or opt to care for those who are mostly well. They can work directly with patients or indirectly by collaborating with the interdisciplinary team or others involved in healthcare to help patients.

For every individual temperament and personality exists a nursing specialty. The pace of a working environment can be fast and full of adrenaline, or a slower pace with lots of time to spend bonding with patients and families, or somewhere in between. RNs can have a great amount of pressure to do everything perfectly and quickly with extremely high stakes, or they may work in an environment that is more relaxed with basically “well” patients who want to chit-chat while they wait for their physician’s appointment. Registered Nurses (RNs) can work with every age and population from very sick premature newborns to the elderly at the end of life, from school children needing check-ups to adults who are undergoing elective plastic surgery. The options are nearly endless. Learn how to become an RN.

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RNs have the option of working in hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics, physician’s offices, prisons, from home, as traveling nurses in hospitals across the country, and in many other specialty roles. Read more to see if a nursing career is right for you.

And, as the political healthcare environment continues to grow and evolve, Registered Nurses (RNs) are finding that the options are growing quickly. There are specialties and niches for nurses of all education levels, from ADN and BSN educated RNs, to graduate degree-level nurses and nurse practitioners, and beyond. The nursing specialty options for RNs are bountiful, and they just keep growing! See our glossary of nursing abbreviations and terms and entry-level nursing careers.

Nursing is not for everyone. It takes a very strong, intelligent, and compassionate person to take on the ills of the world with passion and purpose and work to maintain the health and well-being of the planet.

Where Do RNs Work?

Nurses work in many different areas of healthcare and the roles often vary within each environment. All of them can basically be differentiated by either direct or indirect patient care areas.

Direct Patient Care RN

The Registered Nurses (RNs) works “at the bedside” in collaboration with the interdisciplinary team and his/her primary role is to work “hands-on” with a patient. This RN works directly with patients, performing various tasks.

Indirect Patient Care RN

The RN works in collaboration with the Bedside Nurse and interdisciplinary team to support the care of patients. This RN may not be as “hands-on” as a direct patient care RN and may work in more management or administrative capacities.

RNs can work in a variety of healthcare settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Outpatient Settings
  • Physician Offices
  • Clinics
  • Insurance Companies
  • Government
  • Community Health
  • Elementary or High Schools
  • Universities
  • Correctional Healthcare Facilities

Advanced Practice Registered Nursing (APRN) Careers

For nurses with big career aspirations, advanced practice registered nursing (APRN) is a rewarding pathway. These nursing careers require graduate-level degrees, such as a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. APRNs bridge the gap between nurses and physicians, performing high-level duties and often overseeing nursing staff. APRNs are also often a primary source of medical care for many patients and therefore can enjoy long-lasting relationships. Advanced practice RNs can hold a number of highly coveted specialty nursing positions, including:

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Anesthetist


Experience in nursing is irreplaceable. Usually, the most widely accepted experience for employers is as direct patient care Registered Nurses (RNs), or Bedside RN, at least at the beginning of the RN’s career. It is essential that the new-graduate RN get at least 1 year of bedside experience. The caveat to this statement is that there are always some exceptions! But, for the most part, this is true even for RNs who wish to work in indirect patient care roles. Therefore, finishing school and getting that first Bedside RN job as fast as possible is the best way to improve lifetime earning potential. Besides, working closely with patients in a Bedside RN capacity is why most nurses chose the profession!

Nursing Specialty

Specialties with the highest need and skill set tend to pay more and be in higher demand. Certain industries have a higher demand for RNs of all types and may pay nurses in niche areas at the top of the pay grade.

The top 5 industries with the highest levels of RN employment in 2019 were:

  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
  • Offices of Physicians
  • Home Health Care
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Outpatient Care


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