A profession focused on the healthcare of individuals, families, and communities so they may attain, maintain, or recover optimal health and quality of life.

Nurses develop a plan of care, working with physicians, therapists, the patient, the patient’s family and other team members, focusing on treating illness to improve quality of life.

Advanced practice nurses, such as clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners, diagnose health problems and prescribe medications and other therapies, depending on individual state regulations.

Nurses help coordinate the patient care performed by other members of a multidisciplinary health care team such as therapists, medical practitioners and dietitians.

Nurses work interdependently, and independently as nursing professionals.

Nursing encompasses care of individuals of all ages, families, groups and communities, sick or well and in all settings.

It includes the promotion of health, prevention of illness, and the care of ill, disabled and dying people.

Shaping health policy and in patient and health systems management, and education are also key nursing roles.

Nurses use of clinical judgment to enable people to improve, maintain, or recover health, to cope with health problems, and to achieve the best possible quality of life.

Nursing’s roles include the protection, promotion, and optimization of health, prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment and advocacy in health care for individuals, families, communities, and populations.

The functions of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in activities contributing to health or its recovery, or even to a peaceful death.

The authority for the practice of nursing is based upon a social contract, and is defined and governed by law, and entrance to the profession is regulated at the national or state level.

Regulatory agencies aim to ensure quality care for all, while maintaining nurses credentials, code of ethics, standards, and competencies, and continuing their education.

Educational paths to becoming a professional nurse involve extensive study of nursing theory and practice as well as training in clinical skills.

Nursing combines physical science, social science, nursing theory, and technology in caring for patients.

A licensed practical nurse (LPN) works independently or with a registered nurse (RN).

The most significant differentiation between an LPN and RN is found in the requirements for entry to practice, which determines entitlement for their scope of practice.

In the United States, multiple educational paths will qualify a candidate to sit for the licensure examination as a registered nurse.

The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is awarded to the nurse who has completed a two-year undergraduate academic degree awarded by community colleges, junior colleges, technical colleges, and bachelor’s degree-granting colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study usually lasting two years.

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) is awarded to the nurse who has earned an American four-year academic degree in the science and principles of nursing, granted by a tertiary education university or similarly accredited school.

After completing either the LPN or either RN education programs in the United States, graduates are eligible to sit for a licensing examination to become a nurse, the passing of which is required for the nursing license.

Some nurses follow the traditional role of working in a hospital setting, while options include: pediatrics, neonatal, maternity, OBGYN, geriatrics, ambulatory, and nurse anesthetists, etc.

RNs may also pursue different roles as advanced practice registered nurses.

Nurses more often are independent of physicians, caring for their patients or assisting other nurses.

Registered nurses treat patients, record their medical history, provide emotional support, and provide follow-up care, and help perform diagnostic tests.

The male-to-female ratio of nurses is approximately 1:10 in the United States, but is closing.

In providing care, nurses implement a nursing care plan using the nursing process, using both nursing theory and best practice derived from nursing research.

The nursing process is the method used to assess and diagnose needs, plan outcomes and interventions, implement interventions, and evaluate the outcomes of the care.

Assisting individuals in activities of daily living (ADL) are skills required in nursing and include: assisting in patient mobility, and promoting personal hygiene.

Nurses do not have the authority to prescribe medications, with the exception of nurse practitioners and similarly trained nursing professionals.

Administered medications by nurses must be from a medication prescription or order from a licensed physician.

Nurses are legally responsible for the drugs they administer and there may be legal implications when there is an error.

Nurses have the right to refuse any medication administration that they deem to be harmful to the patient.

It is the most diverse of all healthcare professions.

Nurses practice in a wide range of settings:

communities/public health/health advocacy

family/individual across the lifespan




women’s health

mental health

cardiac nursing

orthopedic nursing

palliative care

perioperative nursing

obstetrical nursing

oncology nursing

nursing informatics



Hospital care

Home care


Research facilities

Military facilities

Physican’s offices

Long-term care facilities


Cruise ships

Healthcare and insurance groups



Legal consultants

A particularly stressful profession, and nurses consistently stress as a major work-related concern and have among the highest levels of occupational stress when compared to other professions.

Stress puts nurses at risk for short-term and long-term health problems, including sleep disorders, depression, mortality, psychiatric disorders, stress-related illnesses, and illness in general.

Nurses have very high rates of occupational burnout and emotional exhaustion, increasing the risk for illness, medical error, and providing suboptimal care.

They are at risk for violence and abuse in the workplace.

Organizational and individual interventions are effective at reducing stress on nurses.

It is largest health care profession, with more than 3.1 million registered nurses nationwide..

Nurses comprise the largest single component of hospital staff.

Nurses are the primary providers of hospital patient care, and deliver most of the nation’s long-term care.

The primary pathway to professional nursing, as compared to technical-level practice, is the four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

Registered nurses are prepared either through a BSN program; a three-year associate degree in nursing; or a three-year hospital training program, receiving a hospital diploma.

The number of diploma programs has declined to less than 10 percent of all basic RN education programs, as nursing education has shifted to college and university systems.

The most common initial nursing education is a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing.

Advanced education in nursing is done at the master’s and doctoral levels.

Areas of advanced nursing practice include that of a nurse practitioner (NP), a certified nurse midwife (CNM), a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), or a clinical nurse specialist (CNS).

Completion of any one of the educational routes allows a graduate nurse to take the NCLEX-RN, the test for licensure as a registered nurse, and is accepted by every state as an adequate indicator of minimum competency for a new graduate.

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