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What is this job like?

Nurses, also called registered nurses or RNs, take care of sick and injured people. They give people medicine. They treat wounds. And they give emotional support to patients and their families.

Nurses ask patients about their symptoms and keep detailed records. They watch for signs that people are sick. Then, nurses help doctors examine and treat patients.

Some nurses help to give tests to find out why people are sick. Some also do lab work to get test results.

Nurses also teach people how to take care of themselves and their families. Some nurses teach people about diet and exercise and how to follow doctors' instructions. Some nurses run clinics and immunization centers.

Nurses can focus on treating one type of patient, such as babies or children. They can also focus on one type of problem. Some focus on helping doctors during surgery. Others work in emergency rooms or intensive care units.

Many nurses work in doctors' offices. They help with medical tests, give medicines, and dress wounds. Some also do lab and office work.

Home health nurses go to people's homes to help them. Flight nurses fly in helicopters to get to sick people in emergencies.

Some nurses have special training and can do more advanced work. Nurse practitioners can prescribe medicine. Nurse midwives can help women give birth.

Helping sick people and dealing with medical emergencies can be stressful. Nurses in hospitals often have to help many patients at once.

Many nurses spend a lot of time walking and standing. Nurses also need to be careful in order to stay safe. Nurses care for people who have diseases that they can catch. Nurses can get hurt while helping to move patients. Nurses also need to guard against radiation from x-rays and chemicals in medicine.

Because patients need 24-hour care, hospital nurses often work nights, weekends, and holidays. Office nurses are more likely to work regular hours. Many nurses work part time.

How do you get ready?

Nurses must graduate from a nursing program. It takes about 2 years of college to attain an associate degree in nursing. It takes about 4 years to finish a bachelor's degree in nursing. And a nursing diploma program usually takes about 3 years.

Deciding what kind of training to get is important. Some career paths are open only to nurses who have a bachelor's degree.

Nursing education includes taking classes and hands-on learning with experienced nurses in hospitals and other places. This is called clinical training.

Nurses study anatomy, chemistry, nutrition, psychology, and nursing theory.

After graduating, nurses need to pass a test to get a nursing license. They have to take classes every few years to keep their skills current.

Nurses need to be caring and kind. They also need to be good at recognizing problems and remembering details.

Nurses need to work well with doctors and patients. Many nurses also supervise assistants and other workers.

Nurses can become head nurses or directors of nursing. Some nurses move into the business side of health care. Some get jobs in big health care firms planning, marketing, and making sure people get good care.

How many jobs are there?

Registered nurses is the largest health care occupation. They held about 2.6 million jobs in 2008. About 3 out of 5 worked in hospitals.What about the future?

Very good job opportunities are expected for registered nurses. Jobs for registered nurses will grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2018.

Many new jobs will be available for people who want to be nurses. New ways of helping people will let nurses treat more problems. The number of older people who need more health care will grow very rapidly. They will need nurses to treat them when they get sick.

Hospitals will need nurses, but many new nurses will also work in home health, clinics, doctors' offices, and nursing homes.

How much does this job pay?

In May 2008, nurses had average yearly wages of $65,130.

Are there other jobs like this?

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics

Physical therapists

Physician assistants

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