The typical career path for registered nurses depends greatly on the degree level you’ve obtained and which area of medicine you want to work in. Since the majority of RNs work in hospitals, you can expect to do some entry-level work at a hospital. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that employment of RNs in hospitals will slowly decrease over time. While there will still be a need for qualified RNs, the number of inpatients staying in the hospital for more than 24 hours is not likely to increase. Therefore, more nurses will be needed per patient, but fewer patients will be requiring overnight care. Other health care settings, such as hospital outpatient facilities, physicians’ offices and nursing care facilities, will be looking to hire RNs because more procedures are being done on an outpatient time frame. Employment of RNs is subject to change, as the health care industry and our population increases and requires more medical services.
Some RNs enter the field as licensed practical nurses or nursing aides, and decide to go back to school to obtain their LPN-to-RN degree. According to BLS, most RNs start as staff nurses in hospitals, doing an assortment of general duties. With experience and acceptable performance at your first job, RNs typically move to other medical facilities or are promoted to a higher position with more responsibilities. If RNs want to enter health care management or administration, they may need a graduate degree or advanced certificate in nursing or health care management or administration. For starters, they can take positions as assistants or head nurses to advance to more senior-level administrative roles, like director, vice president or chief nurse.
Other RNs find themselves working on the business ownership side of health care. A combination of their nursing expertise and understanding of health care management makes RNs eligible to manage ambulatory, acute, home health and chronic care. In health care business, RNs may work in hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and many more. Also, RNs may find a career path in teaching nursing or other health-related topics to undergraduate or graduate students. The career options are endless in registered nursing. To read about more registered nursing career opportunities or browse recent job postings, visit the National League for Nursing.