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The Best Places to Work as a Registered Nurse

| NurseJournal Staff

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With so many options available, it can be difficult to identify the best places to work as a nurse. Thanks to a versatile skill set, RNs enjoy diverse opportunities in a variety of settings and locations. RNs can work in virtually any healthcare environment, from fast-paced environments like emergency rooms (ERs) to in-home care.

To determine the best places for RNs to work, we evaluated hours per week, average salary, job security, and available employment options, to identify the 11 best work settings to pursue as a nurse.

RNs can obtain certifications to specialize in certain fields and work settings. For example, certified pediatric nurses care for children in hospitals, schools, and family practices. However, all RNs share some common traits and skills:

  • Empathy and compassion
  • Strong cooperative, math, and analytic skills
  • Proficiency in operating medical equipment
  • Adept at coordinating patient treatment plans

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1. Hospitals

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 60% of RNs work in hospitals. Hospital RNs work different schedules and perform slightly different tasks every day. An RN might care for multiple individuals on one night and monitor postsurgery patients the next. While most shifts are 12-16 hours long, hospital RNs enjoy more days off than those who work a 9-5 schedule. Hospitals often prefer RNs with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).

Salary: $65,890

Key Responsibilities:

  • Maintain a flexible schedule
  • Manage multiple patients throughout a day
  • Communicate with staff and medical teams

2. ER

Typically located in hospitals, trauma units, or disaster areas, ERs house patients in life-threatening situations. ER nurses work in interdisciplinary teams to assess and treat critically ill and injured patients. ER nurses must hold authoritative experience in the field, and candidates might consider taking the Certified Emergency Nurse Exam to increase their earning potential. However, exam takers must complete an additional two years of work experience after obtaining RN licensure.

Salary: $69,080

Key Responsibilities:

  • Cooperate with medical teams to provide care
  • Remain calm in tense situations
  • Keep up in a fast-paced environment

3. Law Offices

Legal nurses use their expertise to help attorneys in medical malpractice or personal injury cases. These RNs review medical records, offer testimonials, and arrange care cost documents. The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants suggests that prospective legal nurses hold five years of professional experience before applying for certification.

Salary: $78,070

Key Responsibilities:

  • Review legal and medical documents
  • Offer testimony in court
  • Apply extensive legal knowledge to cases

4. Remote Settings

With the rise of telecommunicating, many RNs help patients from the comfort of home. There are various job opportunities for nurses seeking remote work, including advising for insurance companies or freelance writing for medical journals. Others offer telehealth consultations. These jobs require an RN to hold at least an associate degree in nursing and an active nurse's license.

Salary: $64,220

Key Responsibilities:

  • Create and manage schedules
  • Communicate remotely with clients and patients

5. Physicians' Offices

Nurses who work in physicians' offices enjoy more structured schedules than their counterparts in other healthcare settings. Physicians treat regular patients who make appointments ahead of time. These nurses do not typically care for patients in life-threatening or stressful situations. Instead, they answer phone calls, schedule appointments, perform physical assessments, and assist physicians with their daily tasks.

Salary: $57,940

Key Responsibilities:

  • Schedule and coordinate appointments
  • Assist physicians with exams
  • Take patients' vital signs

6. Home Healthcare Services

Home healthcare nurses improve or maintain patients' health within the client's own home. Some work lengthy hours, stationed close to the patient for extended amounts of time. This subset of nurses makes up a large portion of RNs, with around 12% providing in-home healthcare services. Some RNs who provide in-home care choose to hold additional certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Salary: $66,710

Key Responsibilities:

  • Check patients' vital signs
  • Administer medication
  • Provide patients with assistance and companionship

7. Nursing Care Facilities

RNs who work in nursing facilities generally hold more training and education than licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants, and many take on supervisory roles and responsibilities. These nurses can take the ANCC's Gerontological Nursing Certification Exam though it is not required. Most healthcare providers do require nurses to have basic life support and advanced cardiovascular life support certification. Daily tasks in a nursing care facility include implementing treatments, organizing medical records, and reporting to patients' families. They may work night or weekend shifts.

Salary: $65,960

Key Responsibilities:

  • Care for elderly and chronically ill patients
  • Administer medication
  • Communicate with patients' families
  • Manage other nurses

8. Outpatient Services

The term "outpatient services" refers to any healthcare center that admits patients on a short-term basis. Outpatient centers are typically connected to a larger facility. Nurses in medical outpatient facilities access patients' symptoms and determine if they should see a specialist for further care. Some outpatient clinics employ mental health nurses to care for patients who are facing mental illness or emotional distress. Prospective mental health nurses have the option to hold a psychiatric mental health nursing certification.

Salary: $67,040

Key Responsibilities:

  • Assess and treat patients quickly, often in stressful situations
  • Maintain familiarity with mental illnesses
  • Create treatment plans

9. Secondary Schools

School nurses follow the same basic schedule as teachers, including a summer break. Their role differs from those of other nurses because they are tasked with teaching young students the importance of good health. School nurses also treat children who become ill or injured during the school day. Aspiring school nurses can be certified in their specialty, though it is not required, and RNs who hold a BSN or master of science in nursing typically enjoy higher salaries in their subfield.

Salary: $48,510

Key Responsibilities:

  • Teach students about illness prevention
  • Promote good health habits
  • Assess students who are sick or injured
  • Communicate with parents regarding their children's condition

10. Surgical

Also known as perioperative nurses, surgical nurses assist doctors before and after surgery. They clean surgical tools, prepare patients, and tend to wounds after procedures. These nurses, who hold a significant amount of professional experience, typically spend most of their time in the operating room and often treat back-to-back patients. Some surgical nurses pass an additional certification exam administered by the Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board, but it is not required.

Salary: $58,510

Key Responsibilities:

  • Coordinate with surgeons before procedures
  • Assist during surgeries
  • Communicate clearly with patients
  • Sterilize surgical equipment and tools

11. Correctional Facilities

Some RNs care for sick or injured inmates at correctional facilities. While each state maintains its own requirements for these RNs, most seek nurses with 1-2 years of experience, and some RNs earn certification from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care to gain a more competitive edge though it is not mandatory. Nurses in correctional facilities must stay calm in difficult situations and boast a thick skin. A correctional nurse's daily duties include caring for inmates with chronic illnesses, keeping track of medical records, and performing drug screenings.

Salary: $54,000

Key Responsibilities:

  • Treat injured or sick inmates
  • Collect samples from patients
  • Perform drug screenings
  • Maintain medical records for their facility

Reviewed by:

Elizabeth Clarke (Poon) is a board-certified family nurse practitioner who provides primary and urgent care to pediatric populations. She earned a BSN and MSN from the University of Miami.

Clarke is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.


Featured Image: Maskot / Maskot / Getty Images

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