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Being a nurse is among the highest-paid and most popular professions in the US. If you want a respectable job in healthcare that pays well and has excellent benefits, this is the job for you. However, finding a job is hard, and what makes things even harder is the sheer number of nursing jobs out there.
Take note that there are three types of nursing careers: advanced practice registered nurses, registered nurses, and nursing assistants and orderlies. These three branches have their own different educational requirements and lists of obligations and duties.
APRNs and registered nurses make specific medical decisions, with the former having more responsibilities than the latter. On the other hand, assistants and orderlies do a lot of menial work and usually have regular, direct contact with patients. APRNS also require higher education levels, especially when compared to orderlies.
The article below deals with various types of nursing jobs, their requirements, duties, career paths, outlooks, as well as their relevant salaries.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs): Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse-Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
What Are the Responsibilities of APRNs?
The core thing to keep in mind with APRNs (and other nursing categories) is that they include several types of jobs, no matter the nursing career path you choose. Moreover, APRNs provide both primary and specialty care to patients and coordinate patient caregiving.
The duties of these careers in nursing vary according to the specialty. Here are the responsibilities of an APR nurse:
- Order and execute diagnostic tests
- Examine and observe patients
- Record patients’ symptoms and medical histories
- Provide diagnoses
- Provide patients with medication and treatment
- Consult with other healthcare professionals
- Use medical equipment
- Observe how a patient responds to medications and treatments
An APRN can prescribe medication, order certain medical tests, and posit diagnosis. They provide both primary and preventive care. Furthermore, they can specialize in the type of patient they work with, like working almost exclusively with children, pregnant women, people with certain mental disorders, or with the elderly.
Just like any nurse, they gather information about patients, evaluate their condition, and help them manage their health. However, what makes advanced practice registered nurses specific is that they can also order and evaluate certain tests to be made, refer to specialists, as well as have just a generally greater level of autonomy.
Types of APRNs
Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs)
A nurse anesthetist job description is right there in its name. Nurses specializing in this field are also called certified registered nurse anesthetists. They provide anesthesia to patients and care related to the provision of said anesthesia to patients during, before, and after surgery.
Part of the work done by CRNAs is speaking with a patient, and seeing what kind of illness they might have, and what kind of medication they are taking. They need to have a working knowledge of exactly what kind of interaction illnesses or meds taken by a patient can have with the anesthesia they provide. They also remain with the patient for the duration of the surgery, monitoring vital signs, and keeping an eye on the anesthesia being administered.
Midwife jobs and the general work done by certified nurse-midwives centers on providing care to women in various ways. This includes gynecological exams, but also some advisory work, like family planning services. They also assist in prenatal care, deliver babies, help with lacerations that may occur, and assist surgeons during cesarean births.
Midwives will also work as primary care providers for newborns and women in certain situations. Their advisory work also includes helping patients lead healthier lives, giving advice on nutrition, disease prevention, as well as providing assistance with reproductive and sexual health.
Nurse Practitioners (NPs)
Nurse practitioner jobs vary to a great degree, depending on the state and area. However, all of them consult with physicians when needed. They are primary and specialty care providers, and the core of their work is providing advanced nursing services to patients. They can diagnose and treat acute issues, and specialize in a specific field, like psychiatric and mental health care, pediatric health, or a focus on working with the elderly.
Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs)
Clinical nurse specialist jobs are a specific type of APRN. Not only do they provide direct care to patients, but they also provide indirect care through managerial and administrative actions.
CNSs often work as educators and advisers of other nurses and as advocates for specific policies. They might also be involved in research work.
Working as an APRN is one of the better nursing career paths as far as salaries and job availability are concerned. Namely, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a rise in the number of available jobs when it comes to healthcare, and APRNs are no different. In fact, they hold a substantial number of jobs in the US. In 2018, there were over 240,000 APRN jobs in the United States.
Of this number, nurse practitioners made up 189,100 jobs, nurse anesthetists 45,000, while there were around 6,500 nurse-midwives.
Certain APRNS might treat patients in their homes, while midwives specifically might be working in birthing centers. You might also be required to travel long distances as part of your nurse job to take care of patients who are unfit to travel. However, this doesn’t happen often.
Common employers of APRNs are physicians, at 47%. Hospitals, including local, state, and private, make up 27%, while outpatient care centers make up 9%. Educational services are at 4%, and 3% are offices of other health care practitioners.
Injuries and Illnesses
This type of work is draining, both physically and emotionally. While family nurse practitioner jobs usually don’t require nurses to spend 10, 12, or 14 hours on their feet as regular nurses do, they are still exposed to sick people who might be carrying diseases.
Furthermore, the emotional drain of seeing people suffering all the time is not easy. While there is no real risk of actually getting injured, APRNs are exposed to infectious diseases on a daily basis.
Even the best nursing jobs will require odd, difficult hours. Nights, weekends, and holidays are all part of APRN practice. Round the clock care is often expected, and those involved in critical care and delivering babies might be required to be on call for long periods.
How to Become an APRN?
If you are interested in pursuing a nurse career, then you need to prepare yourself well. Good grades and a hard work ethic are important, but not all you need to have. If you want to be a good APRN, you need to possess the following qualities:
- Compassion. To be an effective APRN, you need to genuinely care about your patients’ wellbeing. You need to be understanding and sympathetic to their pain and emotional distress.
- Critical thinking skills. Thinking quickly in stressful situations, being able to figure out what is wrong with your patients, and determining the most efficient course of action are all very important.
- Detail-orientation. As a nurse, you will be providing people with medication, different types of treatment, and keep an eye on their health at all times. You must not mix things up, and you have to keep an eye on any slight changes within your patient’s health and adjust their treatment accordingly.
- Resourcefulness. As an APRN, you might not have the luxury of time or enough resources. Learning how to make do is a big part of the job.
- Strong leadership potential. A big difference between APRNs and “regular” nurses is that the former often have a position of seniority. Managing other nurses and healthcare staff is part of an APRN’s job description.
- Communication skills. You don’t have to have a nursing administration job to get a lot of administrative work on your plate. So knowing how to communicate both with patients, other doctors, and doing the right kind of paperwork is necessary for your job.
All of the nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetist jobs require a master’s degree in one of their specializations. They also need to pass the appropriate state and national exams.
Whether you are looking for government nursing jobs, jobs in education, private hospitals, or research jobs, you need to have a degree from an accredited program. These programs will most likely provide you with an education on anatomy, pharmacology, physiology, and specialized courses for your specialization.
Furthermore, working as an APRN means you need to have a registered nursing license before you actually begin working on your educational path towards the specialization needed for alternative careers for registered nurses or any of the above-mentioned roles.
It is recommended that you have a bachelor’s degree in nursing if you want to get into an APRN program. Do note that you have several options here. Certain bridge programs can help you get into this kind of work. You can also get into a graduate-level program if you don’t have a degree in nursing, but do have a field in a similar health science field.
Finally, if you choose to go with working as a nurse anesthetist, you will need one year of clinical experience to get into this kind of program.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
The relevant nursing job outlook is pretty good by itself, but getting the right certifications and licenses will make your odds of finding work much greater. In states that recognize APRN roles (most of them), you will need to have a registered nursing license, the right graduate-level program, and pass a national certification exam. To get the exact details, you will need to contact your state’s board of nursing.
Of course, different types of nursing jobs require different types of education, as well as being governed by different bodies. The National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists provide you with the National Certification Examination. Nurse Anesthetists need to recertify through their program every four years.
American Midwifery Certification Board is in charge of nurse-midwives, who have to recertify through their program every five years.
Furthermore, as the highest-paying nurse jobs, you might need even more licenses. Things like cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or licenses in basic and advanced cardiac life support (BLS and ACLS, respectively) might be needed.
Any job on our nursing jobs list for APRNs can move towards administrative or greater managerial roles. You can also advance in a more academic direction and focus on research.
The median wage for APRN professions amounted to $113,930 in 2018. The lowest 10% of earners in these professions had wages that amounted to $80,670, while the top 10 earned more than $182,720.
Of all the nursing jobs available, nurse anesthetists seem to make the most money, with a median average salary of $167,950. Without going into whether nurse anesthetist job duties are more difficult than nurse-midwives’ work, it’s still pretty clear that there is a substantial difference in salaries. Nurse-Midwives make $103,770 per year, while nurse practitioners’ median annual wage amounts to $107,030.
Your place of work is another factor that influences your wage as an APRN. The average wage for APRNs working in hospitals is around $120,000. Outpatient care centers pay $115,720, while physician offices and offices of other health practitioners pay $111,000 to $112,000. Those providing educational services—including state, local, and private ones—make around $104,310.
According to BLS, the careers of a nurse-midwife, anesthetist, and nurse practitioner all have a promising job outlook. In fact, there is a growth of 26% being projected to occur between 2018 and 2028. This is a substantially larger increase compared to other professions. Of course, this growth will vary and change according to the actual nursing specialization.
The BLS predicts this growth in nursing (and healthcare in general) is due to the aging of the US population, which will increase demand for healthcare services. Nurses will have to deal with a number of ailments and other complex conditions that will require their attention and expertise. Simply put, nurses looking for jobs won’t have to look too much in the near future.
The data gathered by the BLS points towards pretty positive trends in nursing. For the top-paying nursing jobs involving nurse anesthetist, it is expected that there will be 7,600 new jobs by the end of 2028. There will be an extra 1,000 midwife jobs, as well as an added 53,400 jobs for nurse practitioners. This comes to a total of 62,000 new jobs, of which 302,700 are APRNs.
What Are the Responsibilities of Registered Nurses?
Just like advanced practice registered nurses, the duties of registered nurses depend on their specialization. However, there are certain obligations that they take on, no matter the field.
The standard registered nurse job description includes the coordination of patient care, education of said patients and the public on health conditions and issues, and the provision of emotional support and advice to patients and family members.
The core duties registered nurses have in their careers include:
- Recording the symptoms and histories of patients
- Explaining to patients and families how they should manage injuries and illnesses
- Using medical equipment
- Administering proper treatment and medicine
- Consulting with doctors
- Setting up new, or modifying existing patient treatment plans
As a registered nurse, you will most likely be working with a team of physicians and other specialists. With some advancement, you might be overseeing nursing assistants, aides, and licensed practical nurses.
In general, your day to day duties will vary depending on where you work, who your patients are, and your chosen field.
Types of Registered Nurses
All registered nurse careers depend on your chosen field and the type of patient you work with.
You might work as an addiction nurse—someone who specializes in working with people who wish to overcome their addiction to drugs, alcohol, and other addictive substances. This includes observing their progress, seeing how their treatment is going, and providing them with advice and encouragement.
You might also work as a rehabilitation nurse, helping people deal with temporary or permanent disabilities. If you prefer working with babies, you can become a neonatology nurse.
You can also specialize based on disease and illness. It’s totally possible to work as a cardiovascular nurse and get work with patients that suffer from heart disease. Genetics nurses work on genetic disorders, providing screening, treatment, and counseling for things like cystic fibrosis. Nephrology nurse jobs revolve around patients who have kidney issues, while oncology nurses work with cancer patients.
However, a nursing job description can also include pure advisory work. You can get a job as a public health nurse, where you work on educating the public on the possible warning signs and symptoms of disease people might have. This can include running blood drives, immunization programs, and general work that centres on the community.
You can also work as a researcher, administrator, and advisor to medical and pharmaceutical companies, or you might get a job as a writer. Conversely, some decide to work in IC units.
Just like how there are different types of nurses, there are different work environments as well. For example, psychiatric nurse practitioner jobs will be done in a completely different setting when compared to pediatric nurse practitioner jobs. However, they can be roughly divided into several types of employers.
Of the 3.1 million jobs that registered nurses take on, 60% of these are provided by private, local, and state hospitals. Then, around 18% of jobs are within ambulatory services—i.e., work in physician’s offices, home healthcare, as well as outpatient care centers. Nursing and residential care facilities include around 7% of jobs, while government jobs (some of which are military jobs) are at 5%. Finally, around 3% of jobs are in the educational sector.
Note that your environment—besides hospitals—might include schools, community centres, or even a laboratory.
Injuries and Illnesses
Any nursing job requires a lot of standing, walking, and moving about. You might be vulnerable to knee pain, back pain, and basically anything that is caused by prolonged walking and standing.
You will also be in close contact with ill patients and people who might have infectious diseases. Furthermore, you will be in contact with special machines, needles, medical waste, etc.
Whether you work in a hospital or perform nurse jobs from home, you can expect very difficult hours and round the clock care. Nurses might also end up working nights, holidays, and weekends. However, some sectors do not require such tight schedules, including education and administration.
How to Become a Registered Nurse?
If you keep asking yourself: “Is nursing a good career for me?” you might need to think about whether you possess some of the following qualities:
- Good communication skills. As a nurse, you need to communicate with your patients, explain what they need to do and what is happening to them, as well as brief physicians and specialists on the condition of said patient.
- Being detail-oriented. You will be carrying the wellbeing and health of other people in your hands. An eye for detail is necessary to have things running smoothly and safely.
- Stoicism. You need to be emotionally stable in order to do this kind of work. Being in constant contact with sick people can be very emotionally draining.
- Be compassionate. Empathy is important. Treating other people, passing no judgment, and keeping human beings’ best interest and health at heart is a core part of being a nurse.
- Organizational skills and multitasking. You will be handling multiple bits of information, talking to many people at once, all the while providing adequate treatment to people.
No matter which of the many registered nursing career options you opt for, you will need to choose one of the three following educational paths—get an associate’s degree in nursing (an ADN), a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), or a certificate from an approved and accredited nursing program. You also need to be licensed.
Your course will most likely involve anatomy, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition, psychology, physiology, and behavioral sciences. You can get a bachelor’s degree within four years, while ADNs and nursing programs usually take between two to three years.
Medical centres and hospitals often provide these kinds of programs. However, no matter which of these programs you choose, you will still need to have some practical, clinical experience under professional supervision.
Depending on the types of nursing career options you are interested in, you will need more education. So while you can get entry-level positions in a hospital as part of the nurse staff, your potential employers might expect something more.
Nurses with ADNs or with a diploma can always go back to school, be part of a special program, and earn a bachelor’s degree in that manner. There are also accelerated learning programs if you want to transfer from one field into the nursing profession. You can also get a master’s degree, something that is required for clinical nurse specialists. And if you want to do research, you will need a Ph.D.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
No matter which state you are in the US, or whether you’re doing private or federal nursing jobs, you need to get a nursing license. In order to do this, you need to get through an approved program and pass the NCLEX-RN—the National Council Licensure Examination.
Many certificates and requirements depend on the state you want to work in. For example, some states might require you to pass a background check. You might also need to get certifications for specific areas, like a certificate from associations that are in charge of gerontology, pediatrics, ambulatory care, etc. Some are necessary, while others are simply beneficial and improve the odds of you getting hired.
Even the subjectively easiest nursing job set in the office might still require you to get a certificate in CPR and basic and advanced life support.
Most registered nurse jobs begin as a simple staff position in a hospital or other healthcare area. However, there is a great deal of advancement, both on the job and through further education.
You can advance in management from an assistant nurse manager to head nurse, and then you can go for higher and higher managerial positions. Moving forward through the business world related to nursing (like working as an adviser to a pharma company) is also very viable.
Through extra education, you can move forward and take the position of advanced practice registered nurse, becoming more autonomous and specialized.
The nursing career salary for registered nurses amounted to an annual average of $71,730 in 2018. The lowest ten percent of registered nurse salaries amounted to $50,800, while the highest was at $106,530.
Pay varies based on the type of nursing work you are doing, as well as your workplace. The median annual salary of a nurse employed by the government is $78,390 while working for hospitals (state, local, or private) amounts to 73,650. Nursing and residential care facilities pay around $63,990 as an annual median salary, while educational services (also state, local, and private) have the lowest annual median pay of $61,850.
The registered nurse job outlook is pretty good, just like most healthcare jobs. Namely, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a 12% growth in the next 10 years, until 2028. The most likely reason the BLS expects such growth is due to the aging of the US population, with older people simply having more conditions that need to be treated when compared to younger folks. Incidences of arthritis, dementia, diabetes, and obesity will most likely rise.
The industry might see growth, especially in facilities that work with Alzheimer’s diseases, stroke, and head injuries. Residential care facilities might also see an increase in open job spaces, so a registered nurse’s career prospects are pretty good.
Whatever nursing career goals you may have, you’ll get a chance to achieve them. Namely, there are currently 3,059,800 registered nurses in the US. This number is expected to rise by 12%, with 371,500 new jobs to be opened up in 2028.
Of course, while the availability of jobs is only going to grow, getting extra accredited training and education will only help you increase your chances of getting work.
Nursing Assistants and Orderlies
What Are the Responsibilities of Assistants and Orderlies?
A nursing assistant (also known as a nursing aide) provides basic care to patients and residents in hospitals and in long-term care facilities (nursing homes, for example). Orderlies, however, usually transport patients and clean areas for treatment.
Nursing assistant jobs include the following tasks:
- Helping patients and residents use the restroom
- Assisting patients and residents in getting dressed
- Assisting patients and residents with eating
- Recording and reporting concerns and issues claimed by patients and residents
- Bathing patients and residents, and assisting them with their personal hygiene
Furthermore, some nursing assistants might be trained enough to dispense medication.
Orderlies do simpler, perhaps more menial jobs, such as:
- Change linens and bedsheets
- Clean equipment and healthcare areas
- Keep an eye on supplies
- Assist patients in moving through the facility
Both orderlies and assistants are under the supervision of registered or licensed nurses.
In 2018, there have been 1.5 million jobs for nursing assistants. Of this number, the greatest employers of nursing assistants are nursing care facilities, at 38% of all nursing assistant jobs. Hospitals take on 27%, while care retirement communities are at 11%. Home healthcare services are at 5%, while the government is at 4%.
Orderlies accounted for around 51,000 jobs in 2018. The largest employers were hospitals (state, local, private), which were at 79%. Nursing care facilities were at 6%, just like ambulatory healthcare services. The government employed 2% of all orderlies, while retirement communities and assisted living facilities accounted for 1% of all jobs.
Both certified nursing assistant jobs and orderly jobs can be difficult because both careers involve spending a lot of time on your feet. You will most likely be working in teams under the supervision of senior medical staff.
Injuries and Illnesses
You might get a lot of offers to perform nursing jobs from a patient’s home. Being on call and visiting their homes is all a very viable, real option. However, even in the best circumstances, the job of assistants and orderlies is difficult. You will need to know how to properly lift people, do lots of menial work, and just be on your feet a lot. Furthermore, you will be in common contact with people suffering from diseases and illnesses.
Most nursing homes and hospitals work full time, nights, holidays, and weekends. This means you will also need to do a couple of shifts in the same way.
How to Become a Nursing Assistant or an Orderly?
A big part of a nursing assistant job description and of an orderly’s work is being in contact with people at all times, in a much closer manner than you would expect. You will need the following traits if you want to be good at this type of career:
- Communication skills. Both orderlies and nursing assistants need to communicate with patients. They need to record the concerns and issues patients have and effectively communicate them to their supervisors.
- Physical endurance. This type of work requires you to spend a lot of time on your feet, transporting patients from one area to the next and moving patients around in their beds.
- Patience. Both orderlies and assistants will be doing daily routine tasks that might be made difficult by impatience. In general, you need to be patient in order to do this kind of work.
- Compassion. This is a vital trait of any healthcare professional.
Nursing assistants and orderlies have the lowest educational requirements out of all the types of nurse careers you might be interested in. In order to become a nursing assistant, you need to pass an appropriate state-accredited program. There you will be taught the basic principles of nursing, as well as get some practical clinical practice. You will need to complete an on-the-job training program, the nature of which will depend on your employer’s policies and procedures.
Orderlies need to have a high school diploma and will receive on-the-job training.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Once you’re done with your state education program, the next step in your nursing assistant career is taking the competency exam. Once you’re done with this exam, you’re placed in a state registry. While these rules do vary from state to state, you will most likely need to pass an exam like this to work in a nursing home.
Orderlies don’t need a license. However, both jobs might require criminal background checks, life support certifications, working knowledge of CPR, and many more certificates, depending on the workplace.
In 2018, nursing assistants had a median annual wage of $28,540, where the top 10% of earners made more than $39,560, while the lowest 10% earned $21,290. Orderlies made a median annual wage of $28,060. The top 10% of earners made $41,460, while the lowest made $21,010.
These jobs were the most lucrative when employed by the government, with a median average salary of $33,800. Nursing assistants also make $30,050 in hospitals, $27,840 in nursing care facilities, and $27,290 in home healthcare.
Orderlies are at $29,780 when working in ambulatory healthcare service fields, $29,490 when working for the government, $28,430 for hospitals, and $23,830 in nursing care facilities.
While not the highest-paid nursing jobs around, these two careers are projected to grow substantially in terms of open employment places. Nursing assistant employment is projected to grow by nine percent in the next 10 years, while orderlies might grow by five percent.
Just like any other nurse job, this growth is expected to occur mostly because of the aging of the US population. Namely, a large part of an orderly or assistant nurse job description revolves around helping those that need assistance with daily activities. This includes people with disabilities and the elderly.
Orderly and assistant nursing careers are difficult and have relatively low pay. Couple that with the increase in demand due to an aging population, and you won’t have much trouble getting work in this field. By 2028, around 2,400 new orderly jobs are expected to arise, along with 135,400 nursing assistant jobs.
What is the highest-paid nursing job?
The highest-paying nursing jobs are advanced practice registered nurses, which have a median annual wage of $113,930. These jobs include nurse practitioners, anesthetists, and midwives, who make an average of $107,030, $167,950, and $103,770, respectively.
What are the least stressful nursing jobs?
Nursing jobs are stressful. People’s health is in your hands, to a lesser or greater degree. So on one level, an orderly’s job might not require much deliberation on the medication and treatment a patient needs, while a head nurse in a high administrative position might need to manage an entire hospital’s staff of nurses.
Still, research work, occupational health nurse jobs, and corporate jobs might be a bit less stressful compared to those of intensive care unit nurses.
Where can RNs work besides hospitals?
Besides hospital work, RNs have many other options. Namely, a registered nurse can get more education and can get a job working as a researcher. You can also get into corporate consulting work, advising pharmacological and insurance companies. Furthermore, public health nurse jobs are an option as well, where you work towards the prevention, advocacy, and general improvement of public health and assist the community at large.
What are the different types of nursing jobs?
Different kinds of nursing jobs include nurse practitioners, advanced practice registered nurses, and assistants and orderlies. However, the duties of these professions might vary depending on your chosen field of specialization (oncology nurses or anesthetists), place of work (nursing home and working with the elderly), employment sector (advising pharma companies or working as a researcher or education), and a myriad of other factors.
These nursing jobs also vary depending on the amount of autonomy and control you have over patient care and treatment, with APRNs having much more than orderlies.