Nursing is a healthcare profession focused on the care of individuals, families, and communities so they may attain, maintain, or recover optimal health and quality of life from conception to death.
Nurses work in a large variety of specialties where they work independently and as part of a team to assess, plan, implement and evaluate care. Nursing Science is a field of knowledge based on the contributions of nursing scientists through peer reviewed scholarly journals and evidenced based practice.
The scope of practice of registered nurses is the extent to and limits of which an RN may practice. In the US, these limits are determined by a set of laws known as the Nurse Practice Act of the State in which an RN is licensed. Each state has its own laws, rules, and regulations governing nursing care. Usually the making of such rules and regulations is delegated to a state Board of Nursing, which performs day-to-day administration of these rules, qualifies candidates for licensure, licenses nurses and nursing assistants, and makes decisions on nursing issues. It should be noted that in some states the terms "nurse" or "nursing" may only be used in conjunction with the practice of a Registered Nurse (RN) or licensed practical or vocational nurse (LPN/LVN).
In the hospital setting, registered nurses are often assigned a role in which they delegate tasks to LPNs.
RNs are not limited to employment as bedside nurses. Registered nurses are employed by physicians, attorneys, insurance companies, governmental agencies, community/public health agencies, private industry, school districts, ambulatory surgery centers, among others. Some registered nurses are independent consultants who work for themselves, while others work for large manufacturers or chemical companies. Research Nurses conduct or assist in the conduct of research or evaluation (outcome and process) in many areas such as biology, psychology, human development, and health care systems.
Educational and licensure requirements
Diploma in Nursing
The oldest method of nursing education is the hospital-based diploma program, which lasts approximately three years. Students take between 30 and 60 credit hours in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, nutition, chemistry and other subjects at a college or university, then move on to intensive nursing classes. Until 1996, most RNs in the US were initially educated in nursing by diploma programs. According to the Health Services Resources Administration's 2000 Survey of Nurses only six percent of nurses who graduated from nursing programs in the United States received their education at a Diploma School of Nursing.
Associate Degree in Nursing
The most common initial nursing education is a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing Associate of Applied Science in Nursing, Associate of Science in Nursing, Associate Degree in Nursing), a two year college degree degree referred to as an ADN. Some four-year colleges and universities also offer the ADN. Associate degree nursing programs have many prerequisite and co-requisite courses which ultimately stretch out the degree-acquiring process to about 3 years or greater.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
The third method is to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), a four-year degree that also prepares nurses for graduate-level education. For the first two years in a BSN program, students usually obtain general education requirements and spend the remaining time in nursing courses. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees have many courses which stretches out the degree-acquiring process to over 4 years. Advocates for the ADN and diploma programs state that such programs have a on the job training approach to educating students, while the BSN is an academic degree that emphasizes research and nursing theory. However the BSN graduate has both more classroom and clinical hours of study in nursing than the ADN graduate. The BSN graduate is professionally degreed; and as such is called a professional nurse. However, some states require a specific amount of clinical experience that is the same for both BSN and ADN students. Nursing schools may or may not be accredited by either the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).