Meet a Registered Nurse
Have you thought about nursing as a career? Each day nurses protect the health and well-being of their patients, caring for those who are sick and unable to protect themselves. Armed with education and training, they assess the needs of their patients, monitor their health status, and record pertinent information.
Yet, these tasks are just a small part of how registered nurses (RNs) impact people's lives every day. In a few short years of education, students become multitasking caregivers who are masters at communication. The career can offer stability and a sense of personal fulfillment.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates that the field will grow by 9% from 2020 to 2030, more than the average occupation. Keep reading to discover more about what nurses do each day on the job, how to become an RN, and what salary you can expect.
But first, check out the Q&A below to learn how one nurse switched careers from business to nursing to advance her career.
Q&A With a Registered Nurse
Jency Philipose, MSN, RN, has been the clinical quality improvement specialist for the trauma department at Cohen Children's Medical Center (CCMC) since July 2020. Philipose earned her bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) from The College of New Rochelle in New York in 2007 and her master of science in nursing leadership (MSN) from Stony Brook University in 2020. Philipose was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing in 2020.
Philipose first worked as a staff RN in the pediatric emergency department at CCMC. She became assistant nurse manager in 2012 and remained in that position for eight and half years. She has worked on multiple quality improvement projects while in the emergency department. She was part of the pediatric trauma simulation team which focused on running level 1 trauma simulations with a multidisciplinary team. She is also an active member of the Pediatric Trauma Society.
Q: Why did you choose to become a nurse?
Nursing wasn't always my first choice. In fact, when I was younger, the sight of blood would make me dizzy! I graduated with a bachelor of science in math and business in 2002, but I wasn't happy with what I was doing and knew that I wanted to do something where I could make a difference in people's lives.
My mom worked as a nursing assistant, and I used to hear her stories from work, and I wanted to help people the way that she did. I loved working with children, so I debated between going back to school for nursing or education, but my husband guided me into nursing. Ultimately, I decided to go into nursing to the surprise of my entire family. As soon as I started doing clinicals, I knew I was in the right place! I really loved my OB, psych, and pediatric rotations. I quickly learned that it is totally an honor and a privilege to be a nurse!!
Q: What led you to pursue nursing in the emergency and trauma department, specifically?
When I first applied to my hospital, I didn't realize that I had applied to the emergency department (ED). My recruiter gave me an opportunity to shadow in the ED, and after spending a few hours with the ED nurses, I realized I enjoyed the flow and was excited to work there. I was part of a new-grad fellowship program in the ED which prepared me to work in a fast-paced environment. It was exciting and nerve-racking, but somehow, I was able to make sense of the organized chaos that is the ED.
ED and trauma pretty much go hand in hand. Working at a level I trauma center, I always had an interest in trauma and working with the trauma team to bring positive changes to our unit and trauma program.
As a clinical quality improvement specialist, I am part of a team that brings in-situ simulations to the ED, which involves a multidisciplinary team. I work on quality projects that help improve and identify efficiencies in our trauma program. Recently, one of the organizational projects I worked on in the trauma bay received an award, and I'm in the process of writing a manuscript for a nursing journal.
Q: What is it like working in such an intense environment?
It is intense and challenging working in the ED. I don't think I realized the intensity of working in an ED, let alone a pediatric level I trauma center, until my first trauma/code.
It's fast-paced, and you never know what's coming in through the doors. You could be having a mellow night, and suddenly, the red phone rings to let us know about an incoming trauma or code, and your calm night quickly changes. With the right team in place, you can pretty much get through anything with the help and support of your team.
Q: What does self-care look like for you as a nurse working in a trauma department?
Most nurses neglect self-care, but it's crucial to your well-being, or you will get burnt out quickly. It's so important to take time to care for yourself, whether it's to get a massage or go for a walk or whatever you find calming. I enjoy spending time with my coworkers outside of work where we provide "therapy" sessions for each other because, let's face it, nobody will understand you the way your colleagues will!
Q: What are some of the greatest challenges and rewards to being a nurse?
The greatest challenge of being a nurse is losing a patient — regardless of whether it's your first or your last. It doesn't get any easier. It's very difficult to console a family who just lost their loved one. Unfortunately, there is no training that makes this part of the job any easier. There are still patients and families that I will never forget. Being a mom and working at a trauma center is emotionally rough, but it teaches you to appreciate every second with your loved ones and to not take anything for granted.
The greatest reward of being a pediatric nurse is having a patient smile or hug you. Sometimes they even draw us pictures to show how much they appreciated the care we provided them. When your patient runs over to you and gives you a hug and says, "thank you," it is an amazing feeling!
Q: Tell us about your experience moving into more managerial roles as a nurse. What was this process like for you?
Early on in my nursing career, I was asked to be a charge registered nurse in the ED, and I really enjoyed making sense of the chaos that was the ED. I was able to handle multiple stressful situations at the same time and somehow stay calm. My nursing director was the one who insisted that I apply for the assistant nurse manager (ANM) position, and after some persuasion, I finally applied.
Less than four years of being a nurse, I became the assistant nurse manager in a very busy pediatric emergency department. I stayed as an ANM for eight and a half years before I moved over to the trauma department.
Q: How does being an assistant nurse manager differ from bedside nursing?
Being an ANM is different from being a bedside nurse because you are not only responsible for your patients but the whole unit, which includes all the staff, patients, and their families. You are the hub that all information goes through, and you must be aware of what's happening throughout the unit.
You wear many hats being an ANM — you are the resource nurse, therapist, scheduler, nurse/patient advocate, and even housekeeping at times. There is no role that is above or beneath you. As an ANM, you do everything you can to keep the unit flowing like a well-oiled machine.
Q: What advice would you give to RNs looking to pursue management positions?
My advice would be to go into a leadership position with confidence. If you have a true passion for what you are doing, aren't afraid to work hard, and want to make positive changes, then don't doubt yourself and pursue a management position!
Middle management roles are challenging, and it's hard work. You need to be detail-oriented and highly motivated. You are in a unique position to be an advocate for your staff and your patients. Find yourself a mentor or be a mentor! Work hard, be smart, and don't ever forget what it's like to be a bedside nurse!
What Does a Registered Nurse Do?
"If you have a true passion for what you are doing, aren't afraid to work hard, and want to make positive changes, then don't doubt yourself and pursue a management position!" — Jency Philipose, MSN, RN
Not all RNs have the same responsibilities. Many times the functions depend on the nursing specialty, work environment, and experience. For example, a new nurse must be trained and checked off on central line dressing changes before doing them independently. Home health nurses assess and diagnose their patients outside a formal healthcare setting.
An RN can work in a variety of settings. Although most work in a hospital, clinic, or doctor's office, others are employed in the military, correctional facilities, schools, or large corporations. RNs can also pursue management positions, such as charge nurses, RN case managers, or quality control nurses. While some tasks are specific to the environment, some are universal for every RN.
Common duties of RNs include:
How to Become a Registered Nurse
The path to becoming a registered nurse begins with education, followed by licensure and potential certification.
There are two main paths to nursing as a career. You may complete either:
- A two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN)
- A four-year BSN degree
There are significant benefits to completing a BSN degree for your career advancement and patient outcomes. Data has repeatedly shown that hospitals with high numbers of BSN nurses have lower mortality rates, reduced length of patient stay, fewer hospital-acquired infections, and better patient outcomes.
Additionally, nurses with a BSN degree can advance in management or continue their education with an MSN degree. Higher education broadens career options in administration or clinical roles.
After completing a degree from an accredited program, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs to become licensed to practice in your state.
All states use the examination. However, each state may have additional requirements, so it's necessary to check with the state board of registered nursing to meet those requirements.
Additional certifications are optional, but they demonstrate further education in your specialty and your commitment to excellence in your field. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses and the American Nurses Credentialing Center are organizations where you can find different types of advanced nursing certifications.
How Much Do Registered Nurses Make?
The BLS cites the median annual salary for an RN in 2020 as $75,330. But the base registered nurse salary depends on several factors. Hospitals consider your education (ADN or BSN), experience, and advanced certifications.
For example, the average median annual salary for nurses with a master's degree is $42,340 higher than for an RN, according to the BLS. Nursing salaries are also dependent on geographical location and cost of living. For instance, the average annual salary for a nurse in California is $120,560, while the same nurse would make $60,960 in South Dakota.
Lowest 10% of RNs' Salary
Highest 10% of RNs' Salary
It's important to note that while the base salary is the largest part of your compensation, it is not the only part of your earnings. Other registered nurse benefits may include child care, paid family leave, wellness programs, life insurance, and retirement.
Although salary is an essential factor in deciding your career choice, it may not be the most important factor. There are many reasons to choose a career in nursing. Many nurses are drawn to the profession because it is a chance to make a difference in other people's lives. The profession offers stability, the option for career growth, flexibility, and respect. It is difficult to place a monetary value on the fulfillment and joy you get when you help improve someone else's life.
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