The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is the minimum requirement for getting the license of a Registered Nurse. The degree is mostly offered by community colleges as a two-year program. On successful completion of the program, the nursing students can take the national licensing exam for Registered Nurses, the NCLEX-RN, and also be employed as nurses. The ADN is designed to give students the necessary skills they need to be competent generalist nurses. The program involves patient care simulation, theoretical classroom teachings, laboratory work, work experience in hospitals and many other things. Strong communications skills are also required of those who wish to take the course, and they also get to study collaboration skills. All colleges wishing to offer the program must get approval from the state board of nursing or other suitable organization such as the National League for Nursing.
Prerequisites and Course Topics
Those who wish to enter the program must be graduates of high school or have equivalent qualifications. Some colleges also have programs that demand successful completion of biology and English courses. Students are increasingly gaining interest in this course. This means competition for places is becoming more and more difficult. In general, the course topics revolve around general medicine and healing topics apart from other related topics. Students registered for Associate Degree in nursing take courses such as the following:
- Medical and surgical nursing
- Patient care
- Decision making
- Salary Information and Career Outlook
Those who attain the Registered Nurse Status earn different salaries depending on a number of factors. Some of these factors include geographic location, experience and facility type, but the average annual salary as of May 2011 was $69,110. The median salary of registered nurses was $62,450 in the year 2008. This is besides the perks that can include educational, child care, bonuses and many other benefits. It is also interesting to note that the top 10% of the registered nurses in the United States earn at least $96,630 annually. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the opportunities for RNs will grow by at least 22% in the decade between 2008 and 2010. According to the bureau, the biggest employers of these nurses will be doctors’ offices and hospitals as well as other healthcare facilities. Employment opportunities in inner-city and rural areas are also expected to appreciate. This job growth is likely to be fuelled by several factors including the increasing understanding of the public and other healthcare stakeholders of the significance of preventive healthcare. The other factor is the advancement of technology for patient care. The expected 22% job growth is way higher than the mean employment growth.
Job Description of Registered Nurses
Registered Nurses perform a multitude of functions, which may vary from facility to facility, but the majority of their duties are common. In general, they oversee patient care and create awareness to the general public and patients about different health conditions. Nurses also offer advice to patients and those who care for them (usually family members) about their health conditions. Nurses generally work in teams with other healthcare professionals. There are even some who do not work directly with patients. Some of the duties they perform include but are not limited to the following:
- Giving medicine to patients
- Keeping patients’ health records
- Carrying out minor operations
- Setting up or modifying patient care plans
- Observing progress of patients
- Teaching patients on healthcare management
- Offering advice on policy issues
- Writing medical reports
- Distribution and Work Environment
Those who graduate with Associate Degrees in Nursing and attain RN status enter the largest healthcare occupation in the United States. In 2010, there were approximately 2.7 million nurses in the country distributed in different work environments. Those who worked in surgical, general medical and private hospitals formed the highest proportion with 48%. This was followed by physicians’ offices at 8%, local general hospitals at 6% with home healthcare and care facilities each taking 5%. The rest were distributed in administrative services, educational works, government agencies and other places. The majority of these nurses enjoy good work places and some often travel to the field for their duties.
Nurses’ vulnerabilities include back injuries due to frequent bending and infectious ailments they may contract from their patients. They also work with potentially dangerous substances. In view of all these threats, they are required to wear safety clothes and follow very strict safety routines. Nurses do not follow the normal workday in most workplaces because patients require round the clock attendance. Since individual nurses cannot work round the clock, they often work in rotating shifts. Only those who work in non-hospital/healthcare facility settings may enjoy regular working hours.
After completing the Associate Degree in Nursing program and getting the RN license, nurses are required to have continuing education to maintain their license. Further education that leads to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is also available. Many nursing jobs pay according to the level of education, and that is why some nurses go on to get a BSN and even do postgraduate studies. Further education also helps those with Associate Degrees to specialize in particular areas. Examples of specialized nurses include cardiovascular nurses, genetic nurses, rehabilitation nurses, neonatology nurses and many others.