What is a Registered Nurse (RN)?

Among the different denominations for nurses, you’ve probably heard the title Registered Nurse or RN a couple of times. In this article, we will explain what this role is all about, and provide additional information for those who want to pursue a career in nursing, but still need more information to make an informed decision.

According to the Canadian Nurses Association, nurses are the largest group of healthcare providers in the country, who “lead the way in innovating and optimizing health-care for all Canadians.” Apart from registered nurses, the group is integrated by registered practical nurses (RPN) and nurse practitioners (NP), but RNs are the biggest segment. In fact, they account for 300,000 of the 440,000 regulated nurses with an active license in the country (statistics from 2019 provided by the Canadian Nurses Association).

Registered nurses are essential for the health care system due to their contributions to the field. They provide nursing and clinical care to patients in hospitals, long-term care centres, and health care facilities, but many of them also offer health education to their communities, take care of administrative tasks, and get involved in policy and research

Responsibilities of a Registered Nurse

Registered nurses usually share similar general duties, but depending on their specific areas of expertise, like psychiatry, surgery, critical care, oncology, or cardiology, they might have other responsibilities.

The general duties and responsibilities of registered nurses often include assessing the status of patients to determine appropriate nursing care, administering medications and treatments, according to their physician’s prescription; monitoring and documenting symptoms and changes in patients, assisting in surgeries and general medical procedures; and supervising registered practical nurses (RPN) and other members of the nursing team.

Specialized registered nurses, on the other hand, provide care for patients in their specific fields. For instance, psychiatric RNs care for patients in psychiatric hospitals or mental health clinics, as well as patients with psychiatric illnesses in long-term care facilities. The same happens with oncology RNs, who provide care to cancer patients going through chemotherapy and other treatments.

Another group of registered nurses works as consultants and researchers. They help organizations like associations and academic institutions, and even the government, understand the nursing profession better. They also advocate for their peers, help to create policies, and conduct research that can change the future of the nursing practice.

Added to this, registered nurses often perform administrative duties, such as coordinating nursing care, supervising nursing staff, and managing their budget. Plus, they play an important role in health education, since part of their job is acting as educators for patients and their families, teaching them how to achieve optimal health.

Workplaces and Salaries of a Registered Nurse

Registered nurses work in diverse health care settings, offering their services in facilities specialized in general care, primary health care, critical care, chronic disease management, and even disease prevention. All these different RN work environments provide them with ample opportunities for growth and progress in their careers.

Some of the places where registered nurses can work are hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, home care agencies, rehabilitation centres, private practices, clinics, public, and private health care organizations. Some nurses are self-employed, providing services to patients in their houses or filling in for agencies when they need staff.

We are sure many readers would be interested in knowing the average hours worked by registered nurses per shift, however, it is hard to tell. Most RNs work in 12-hour or 24-hour shifts, but this is not always the case since other work 8, 10, or 16-hour shifts and in rotation. What is easier to tell is that most RN'work schedules range between 36 to 40 hours a week, and the number of days they work varies from one work setting to the next. For instance, RNs that work 12-hour shifts usually work 3 days a week, but those who work 8-hour shifts work 5 days a week.

In terms of salaries, these tend to vary as well. According to Indeed.ca, the average hourly wage of a registered nurse in Canada is $37.79. Meanwhile, payscale.com says it is $34.75, depending on the province, city, and work setting.

How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN)?

To become a registered nurse, candidates must go through specific studies and training. After graduation, they are usually ready to provide general care in a safe and competent matter, but they need to take several steps before starting to practice as registered nurses.

It should be noted that in all of Canada (except for Quebec) nurses need to enroll in an accredited university to pursue a bachelor’s degree in this field. The most common programs are Bachelor’s in Nursing (BN) and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN), and they usually take 4 years to complete, but some nurses have completed them in just two years in accelerated formats. This usually happens when nursing students have previously acquired a degree in another discipline related to health care.

During their years of study, nursing students are taught medical theory and supervised clinical practice, as well as psychology, anatomy, pathology, physiology, human development, ethics, and other disciplines. Some academic programs also additional studies in health education, research, leadership, and more.

To qualify for an RN academic program, candidates must have completed high school with senior-level English or French, mathematics, chemistry, physics, and biology. However, there are many additional entrance requirements depending on the university and the province.

Once they have completed their academic programs, nurses must follow their province’s regulations to get registered as such. In Ontario, for instance, they need to apply to the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), otherwise, they will not be able to practice nursing in the province.

To become a member of the CNO and obtain a valid certificate of registration, nurses need to demonstrate the successful completion of a nursing education program, provide evidence of recent experience practicing as a nurse (the CNO say that most applicants automatically meet this requirement by completing an approved nursing program within the past three years before their application), and approve the registration examination and the RN jurisprudence examination.

Furthermore, candidates must provide evidence of fluency in written and spoken English or French, of authorization to work (proof of your citizenship, residency status, or authorization to practice nursing in Ontario or the province where they intend to work). Candidates also need to truthfully state whether they have ever been found guilty of an offense, or suffer from any physical or mental condition or disorder that could affect their ability to practice nursing in a safe manner. Once these documents are approved, candidates will be able to become registered nurses and officially start their careers.

Finally, nursing students and people interested in becoming registered nurses need to know that nursing is an essential practice in Canada’s healthcare system, and an honorable profession that changes people’s lives for the better, especially now, when the world is going through a historic health crisis. Needless to say, this is a great time to enter the nursing field due to the career opportunities that are available now, and the possibility of making a positive difference in society as a whole.

Do you want to become a registered nurse? Are you currently in training? Let us know your comments on this subject.

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