Nursing: What can I expect if I choose this profession?

Nurses are one of the most trusted groups of professionals in the United States, according to results of an annual survey published by the American Nurses Association.

They represent almost 3 million of the workforce, while there are also more than 700 thousand licensed practical nurses (LPN’s) in addition to this.

After receiving the required education, nurses must become licensed in their practicing state and are required to complete continuing education courses to maintain their licensure, depending on their state’s regulations.

Fast facts about nursing:

Here are some key points about nursing. More detail is in the main article.

Nursing is one of the most trusted professions in the U.S., polls show.

Nurses can choose from a wide range of specialties.

Qualifications range from a 1-year certificate to a PhD, depending on the role. Most nurses begin with a science degree.

Training can take from 1 to 4 years, depending on the desired entry level.

There is an ongoing need for nurses, resulting in good job security, a competitive salary, and a range of professional opportunities.

What do nurses do?

Nursing is a varied and respected profession.
Nursing is a varied and respected profession.

Nurses work in a variety of settings and specialties. They may choose to practice in hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices, ambulatory care, occupational health, and community health centers, schools, clinics, camps, and shelters.


Nurses perform many professional tasks which may differ based on where they work or what area they specialize in. The American Nurses Association (ANA) lists nursing responsibilities to include tasks such as:

performing physical exams

obtaining medical/health histories

providing patients with health promotion, counseling and education

administering medications, wound care, and other health interventions

coordinating patient care collectively with other members of the healthcare team

supervising staff such as LPN’s and nursing assistants

taking part in critical decision making

research responsibilities

The degree they hold may also dictate which are of specialty they are competent in practicing in. There are over 100 nursing specialties, including:


Burn care

Camp or school

Diabetes care

Emergency nursing


Forensic nursing


Home health


Labor and delivery

Medical surgical care

Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)



Obstetrics and gynecology


Psychiatric care






Wound, ostomy and continence care

Some specialties and practice settings require certain educational criteria such as an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN or ASN), Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN), Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN), ), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP,), Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD), or for legal nursing specialties, a Juris Doctor (JD) may be required. A registered nurse can also earn a specialty certification.

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Advanced practice nurses

Some nurses may choose to extend their career by earning a graduate degree to advance their clinical training by going on to receive a master’s or doctorate. These nurses are called Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN’s). Some APRN specialties include:

Nurse practitioner (NP): These advanced practitioners work in a variety of specialties and provide comprehensive care to patients. Depending on their state licensing boards, they are able to provide primary and preventative care, diagnose and treat certain conditions, and prescribe certain medications.

Nurse practitioner specialties may include acute care, adult health, family health, gerontology, neonatal health, oncology, pediatric or child health, psychiatric or mental health, and women’s health. Nurse practitioners provide care to patients in settings like hospitals, nursing homes, clinics,and private practices.

Certified nurse-midwife (CNM): These advanced practice nurses are able to provide healthy and non-high risk women with obstetric and gynecologic care. They may practice in settings such as hospitals, birthing centers and patient homes.

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA): These advanced practice nurses provide anesthesia to patients for surgery or certain procedures.

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