How to Become a Registered Nurse - RN Career

How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN): Career Path Guide

If you want to become a registered nurse, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a registered nurse:


Those who become registered nurses are caring and compassionate people who are also highly emotionally stable. They are responsible and detail oriented individuals, which is important because they must make sure that patients get the correct treatments and medicines at the right time.


It is critical for registered nurses to be highly organized individuals, as they often must treat multiple patients at one time, and organizational skills are needed to ensure patients receive proper care.


Registered nurses must also be physically fit, as they are constantly moving, and must be on their feet for long periods of time. They must be able to deal effectively with stress, and provide excellent care to patients under while experiencing stressful situations.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a registered nurse. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Registered Nurse

To become a registered nurse, you must complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BN, or BScN). This is true for all Canadian provinces and territories, with the exception of Quebec.


Bachelor of nursing programs can typically be completed in two to four years; there are accelerated and advanced entry programs available in all Canadian jurisdictions. Many prospective registered nurses enter nursing programs after completing degree programs in other fields, such as science.


Nursing programs typically include background coursework in areas such as psychology, child development, sociology, anatomy and physiology. The nursing aspect of these programs includes coursework in nursing theory and clinical practice. Students are supervised while undertaking the clinical element of their programs, in order to ensure their safety and the safety of their patients. 




Registered Nurse Job Description

Registered nurses (RNs) are responsible for providing professional nursing services, as well as providing consultative nursing services in order to promote, maintain and restore patient health. They may also be involved in delivering health education programs to patients, students and the community. 



Registered Nurse Job Duties

• Provide direct nursing care to patients

• Plan, implement, evaluate and document nursing care

• Coordinate patient care and facilitate case management

• Liaise with doctors and other healthcare professionals regarding examinations and treatments

• Provide health counseling and education to patients, families and the members of the community

• Administer medications, injections and intravenous therapy

• Prepare patients and assist surgeons during operations

• Participate in research activities

• Observe, assess and monitor patient symptoms, and evaluate reactions and progress

• Treat injuries or illness, and manage chronic diseases

• Assist in childbirth, manage labour and care for newborns and their families



Who Hires Registered Nurses? Where Do They Work?

There are many employers, primarily within the field of healthcare, that utilize the skills, knowledge and competencies of registered nurses in order to help people become healthy, or to keep them healthy.


Registered nurses may be employed to apply their abilities to areas such as direct care, education, administration, research and policy. Some employers also need registered nurses for jobs in health planning and development, marketing, consulting, policy development, and quality assurance. Employers that hire registered nurses include:


• Regional health authorities

• Hospitals

• Primary care facilities

• Nursing homes

• Home care agencies

• Clinics (such as ambulatory, medical, dental and community)

• Colleges and universities

• Government departments, such as the armed forces

• Wellness programs in the workplace

• Rehabilitation centres

• Pharmaceutical companies

• Insurance companies



Registered Nurse Salary: How Much Do Registered Nurses Earn?

The salary level of registered nurses can vary depending on factors such as their level of experience, their level of education, where they work, their specific job responsibilities, and many more.


Registered Nurse Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Registered Nurses occupational group earn an average wage of between $33.54 and $44.34 per hour. The mean wage for this group is $40.20 per hour.


Registered Nurse Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average annual employment income of workers in the Registered Nurses occupational group is $51,038 per year.


Registered Nurse Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of workers in the Registered Nurses occupational group is $64,690 per year. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $44,190 and the top 10 percent earn more than $95,130 per year.





Skills Needed to Become a Registered Nurse

In order to be effective an effective nursing practitioner, registered nurses need a certain set of skills, knowledge and competencies. These attributes are often the combination of the registered nurse’s natural abilities, as well as abilities they acquire as a result of education and training.


Cognitive Skills: Registered nurses must be able to recall information from past experience, and be able to use logic and reason in order to formulate professional opinions. They must also be able to utilize mathematics to calculate ratios and percentages in time sensitive situations.


Communication Skills: Registered nurses in Canada must be able to read, write, speak and understand English or French well enough to avoid miscommunication. They must also be able to communicate important information to, and receive important information from, individuals with various ailments and injuries.


Behavioural Skills: Registered nurses must be able to manage their own behvaiour well enough to allow them to provide safe, competent and ethical nursing care to patients. They must also be able to react appropriately to stressful situations as well as those that involve conflict.


Interpersonal Skills: Registered nurses must be able to develop relationships and rapport with patients and colleagues, as well as recognize their needs.


Physical Abilities: In order to provide effective nursing care, registered nurses must be able to:


• Stand for long periods of time

• Possess manual dexterity

• Push and pull

• Move within small spaces

• Perform repetitive movements

• Bend, reach, lift and walk


Sensory Perceptual Skills: Registered nurses must be able to see, hear and feel well enough to provide effective nursing care, or participate in administrative or educational activities.


Environmental Abilities: Registered nurses must be able to do their jobs effectively in the presence of certain commonly encountered workplace hazards, including:


• Disease agents

• Noxious smells

• Noise

• Erratic behaviour of patients



Career Advancement for Registered Nurses

Many registered nurses begin their careers as staff nurses in hospitals or community health settings. As they gain more experience, training and continuous education, they can move into positions with more responsibility.


Registered nurses can also advance within the area of healthcare administration. They may advance from assistant unit manager or head nurse to more senior-level administrative roles, such as assistant director, director, vice president, or chief of nursing. Transitioning into some of these roles may require an advanced degree in nursing, business administration, or health services administration.


Registered nurses may also choose to utilize their experience and expertise in healthcare related businesses; their experience makes for a fitting transition into managing ambulatory, acute, home-based, and chronic care businesses.



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Careers Similar to Registered Nurse

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to that of registered nurse, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Elder Care Worker

Long Term Care Nurse

Managed Care Nurse

Operating Room Nurse

Psychiatric Nurse



References: How to Become a Registered Nurse

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a registered nurse.


Occupations in Alberta:Registered Nurse.” (April 11, 2014). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 12, 2020.

Healthcare:Registered Nurses.” (December 4, 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 12, 2020.

Nursing Practice:Becoming an RN.” (n.d.). Canadian Nurses Association website. Retrieved January 12, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Registered Nurse

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Registered Nurse can be found on the following pages:


Biology Scholarships

Exercise Science Scholarships

Nursing Scholarships

Nutrition Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Registered Nurse: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a registered nurse. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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