Registered nurses (RNs) remain some of the most in-demand, highly respected medical professionals in the country. They enjoy high average salaries, job stability, and solid employee benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that registered nurses earned an annual median salary of $70,000 in 2017 — well above national salary averages.
Registered nurses perform job duties that put them in the forefront of the medical field. They not only provide patient care, but also help educate patients and their families about healthcare, specific situations, and medical conditions. In many cases, they provide a kind of emotional support to patients and family members that other medical professionals cannot or will not provide.
Common tasks handled by an RN include:
- Administering medications or treatments
- Recording patient medical histories
- Recording symptoms
- Observing patients and assisting in examinations
- Operating medical equipment
- Performing tests
- Explaining how patients need to care for themselves after leaving a medical facility
- Overseeing CNAs and other lower-level nursing professionals
Additionally, many RNs choose to specialize in particular areas of study in order to provide even deeper levels of care to patients. Specializations enhance pay and employment opportunities.
Training to become an RN requires at least an associate degree in nursing (ADN), but in many cases, nurses secure better opportunities by earning a bachelor's degree. An ADN takes about two to three years to complete, while a BSN takes four years. Coursework includes studies in nursing, physiology, anatomy, and nutrition. Programs also require clinical hours that allow students to gain hands-on experience. Specializations could increase program length, depending on the focus, and may also require further clinical training.
The RN degree often serves as a stepping stone to an advanced degree, but in many cases it provides enough education for nursing professionals to achieve their goals. The field boasts numerous high-paying RN nursing jobs and careers, so you should be able to find one that matches your interests and goals. The section below outlines six of today’s best options.
1. Dialysis Registered Nurse
Dialysis RNs assist patients dealing with kidney disease and failure by administering medication, monitoring progress, and implementing physician-directed treatment plans. They typically serve in hospitals, clinics, or private practices, and help patients improve their health through a better diet and other lifestyle habits. Dialysis nurses also consult with doctors to modify treatment plans based on patients’ status.
Registered Nurse Salary: $66,542
2. Oncology Registered Nurse
These RNs work with cancer patients. They monitor progress, administer chemotherapy, and consult with physicians to execute the best possible treatment strategies. These nurses may focus on a specific area of oncology, such as breast cancer, lung cancer, or pediatric care. Oncology nurses must maintain emotional stability, as they must interact with individuals and families dealing with some of the most difficult periods of their lives. These professionals tend to bring in high registered nurse salaries.
Registered Nurse Salary: $68,160
3. Post-Anesthetic Care Unit Registered Nurse
PACU nurses assist patients as they regain consciousness after surgical procedures. During this critical time, patients may suffer from considerable pain, nausea, and confusion — and they may not be able to communicate what they are experiencing. PACU nurses must monitor vital signs and react quickly to any complications. They also must have knowledge of the variety of anesthesia-related side effects.
Registered Nurse Salary: $65,434
4. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Registered Nurse
NICU nurses care for and treat newborns, including premature and ill babies. In addition to delivering constant life-sustaining care to newborns, these RNs must communicate with and provide emotional support to parents. They know how to monitor newborns status and administer the right medications and treatment based on physicians guidance.
Registered Nurse Salary: $61,252
5. Travel Registered Nurse
Traveling RNs visit patients in their homes, hospitals, and other settings. They conduct routine tests, monitor patient progress, prepare meals, and administer medication. They may assist homebound patients or help hospitals and clinics dealing with nurse shortages. In some cases, they may perform basic procedures. Traveling RNs usually work as independent contractors or with health service organizations. In some areas, they may earn higher RN pay due to greater demand for their services.
Registered Nurse Salary: $65,995
6. Intensive Care Unit Registered Nursing
ICU registered nurses deliver treatment in both general and specialized critical care settings. They must work quickly to help patients of all ages dealing with a variety of illnesses and conditions. These nurses often provide life-saving care. Due in part to this intense work environment, these professionals must be able to handle high amounts of stress.
Registered Nurse Salary: $62,688