What Registered Nurses Do
Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.
Registered nurses work in hospitals, physicians' offices, home healthcare services, and nursing care facilities. They also work in correctional facilities, schools, summer camps, and with the military.
Work Environment About this section Registered nurses work in many settings, from schools to doctor’s offices.
As the largest healthcare occupation, registered nurses held about 2.7 million jobs in 2010. The industries that employed the most registered nurses in 2010 were as follows:
General medical and surgical hospitals; private 48%
Offices of physicians 8
General medical and surgical hospitals; local 6
Home health care services 5
Nursing care facilities 5
The remainder worked mainly in government agencies, administrative and support services, and educational services.
Most registered nurses work in well-lit, comfortable healthcare facilities. Home health and public health nurses travel to patients' homes, schools, community centers, and other sites.
Some registered nurses work in correctional facilities, schools, summer camps, and nurses often work with the military. Some move frequently, traveling in the United States and throughout the world to help care for patients in places where there are not enough healthcare workers.
Registered nurses may spend a lot of time walking, bending, stretching, and standing. They are vulnerable to back injuries because they must often lift and move patients. The work of registered nurses may put them in close contact with people who have infectious diseases, and they often come in contact with potentially harmful and hazardous drugs and other substances. Therefore, registered nurses must follow strict, standardized guidelines to guard against diseases and other dangers, such as radiation, accidental needle sticks, or the chemicals they use to sterilize instruments.
Because patients in hospitals and nursing care facilities need round-the-clock care, nurses in these settings usually work in rotating shifts, covering all 24 hours. They may work nights, weekends, and holidays. They may also be on call.
Nurses who work in offices, schools, and other places that do not provide 24-hour care are more likely to work regular business hours.
In 2012, about 20 percent of registered nurses worked part time.