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Nursing 101

What do Nurses Do?

Nurses promote health, prevent disease and help patients cope with illness. They have a unique scope of practice and can practice independently, although they also collaborate with all members of the health care team to provide the care needed by each patient as an individual. Nurses advocate for their patients and patients’ families. They develop and manage nursing care plans and instruct patients and their families in proper care. As educators, they help whole communities by teaching individuals and groups how to take steps to improve or maintain their health.

Registered Nurses (RNs) comprise the largest group of health professionals with approximately 3.1 million licensed providers. RNs offer essential care to patients in a variety of settings, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, community or public health areas, schools, workplaces, and home care. Nurses with graduate degrees may practice autonomously as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) – including certified nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and certified registered nurse anesthetists – nurse faculty, nurse researchers, nurse administrators, and public health nurses.

The services they provide are linked directly to the availability, cost, and quality of healthcare services. The contributions made by the practice and science of nursing are significant, and help to improve the quality of America’s healthcare system.

The Demand for Nurses

The Department of Labor projects that the number of RNs will grow from 2.71 million in 2012 to 3.24 million in 2022, an increase of 526,000 or 19%, a much greater increase than for other occupations. With almost 525,000 RNs expected to retire within the next 10 years, the total number of job openings for nurses due to growth and replacements is 1.05 million by 2022. This shortage will likely be exacerbated as the Baby Boomer generation ages and the need for health care grows. Find out more about the nursing shortage.

A More Educated Workforce

In addition to the increased demand for RNs in general, many employers have indicated a desire for a more highly educated workforce. Currently 54% of employers require the BSN, and 98% prefer new RNs with the BSN. Contributing to this trend is a large body of research stating that nurses with baccalaureate level education are linked with improved patient outcomes. As the demand for nurses increases it is likely that the demand for baccalaureate educated nurses will keep pace.


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