Explore A Career As A Registered Nurse

Learn about how registered nurses can make a difference in the lives of their patients, and discover the many advantages of becoming a registered nurse.

Working as a registered nurse (RN) can be a very rewarding career where people make a meaningful difference in the lives of others while still earning a good living. Typically, RNs interact with patients more often than almost any other member of the health care team, and the care that they provide their patients has a lasting impact. RN careers are in high demand, and the demand for these positions is expected to grow

A career as an RN is ideal for someone willing to work hard in their education but wants to work in clinical practice after three to four years. A position as an RN is best suited for someone with the mental aptitude to complete a complex bachelor’s level degree and a caring and empathetic personality.

What Is an RN?

An RN is a licensed health care provider who provides patient care by assessing and monitoring patients. They also provide medications or treatments ordered by a physician, nurse practitioner (NP) or physician assistant (PA). RNs are also responsible for managing patients’ care and help to supervise licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and certified nursing assistants (CNAs).

RNs often work in hospitals, but they may also work in a variety of other environments, such as addiction rehab centers, nursing homes, home care organizations and doctor’s offices. In addition to clinical work, RNs may work for insurance companies, work as clinical case workers or help lawyers with medical cases.

Areas of Nursing for RNs

There are many areas of health care that RNs can find good careers in. Some of the more common areas of nursing may include:

  • Critical care nursing 
  • Addiction rehab nursing
  • Emergency nursing
  • Medical/surgical nursing
  • Cardiac nursing
  • Surgical nursing
  • Pediatric nursing
  • Labor and delivery nursing
  • Geriatric nursing

There are many other areas that RNs may specialize in, and the scope of RN roles continues to expand.

A Registered Nurse’s Role in Substance Rehabilitation

RNs are a vital part of the team in a substance abuse rehab center. RNs will constantly be monitoring each patient, especially during the initial phases of withdrawal. The rest of the team will rely on the RN’s assessment for understanding how patients are doing throughout the day. RNs will also provide medications and other treatments as ordered by the doctor, and they may need to ask the providers to write new orders based on their assessments.

What Distinguishes RNs From Other Health Care Providers?

The main distinctions of an RN that separate their scope from other providers is that they are permitted to independently assess a patient and provide treatments ordered by a provider; however, they are not permitted to diagnose and order tests or medications. This creates several differences compared to other health care providers:

  • LPNs: LPNs are not formally allowed to assess patients and determine the significance of clinical data. LPNs are also required to provide treatments and administer medications under the supervision of an RN. There are also some more complicated tasks that LPNs are not permitted to do.
  • PAs and NPs: PAs and NPs are allowed to diagnose patients and order tests and medications — things that RNs are not permitted to do. While NPs and PAs may rely heavily on an RN’s assessments, the RN will only be able to perform treatments and administer medications that are ordered by these providers.
  • Physicians: From an RN’s perspective, there is not a significant difference between PAs, NPs and the physicians who supervise them. RNs will need physicians to order medications and tests, and they will only be able to perform the treatments that physicians order.

How to Become a Registered Nurse

Becoming an RN can be hard but rewarding work. The important role that RNs play and the life-and-death decisions that they have to make on a regular basis require a high level of training and experience.

Examination and Licensure 

There are three different paths of education that someone can take to become an RN. These include:

  • An associate’s degree
  • A diploma program
  • A bachelor’s degree

The associate’s or diploma programs will typically take about three years, including the prerequisite, and a bachelor’s degree will take four years. RNs with a bachelor’s degree will typically have better opportunities available to them than those without one, and they will be better positioned to pursue ongoing education.

Examination and Licensure 

Once a person has completed their education to become an RN, they will still need to pass the nationally recognized NCLEX-RN exam. Passing this exam is required in every state before licensure as an RN is granted. The computer-based test is an adaptive test that contains 75–265 questions and lasts six hours. 

Once the person has passed their NCLEX-RN exam, they will need to obtain licensure from the state they wish to practice in. Many times, people will apply for licensure prior to passing the NCLEX-RN, and the state will approve their application as soon as they have received the passing results.


After someone has successfully completed the education, exam and licensure process of becoming an RN, they will need to find employment. The area that an RN practices in can determine what their specialty is and how their career can continue to develop. Finding a job in the RN’s desired specialty will be important for their career development. Some positions, such as critical care nursing, will often not be immediately available, and new RNs typically have to work their way up to the more advanced nursing positions.

Nursing staff make a difference!

“I owe the nurses the world! I am very grateful and will never forget my experience here.”

“The staff, nurses and doctors are awesome!”

“The nursing staff is phenomenal. Tom is absolutely the best.”

*Actual reviews from recent alumni

Available RN Positions at The Recovery Village

At The Recovery Village facilities nationwide, registered nurses play an integral part in the lifelong recovery of our patients. Opportunities are available to become a part of our team of addiction specialists, especially for nurses with specializations in substance abuse and mental health. Find open positions on our Advanced Recovery Systems job portal and apply to change the lives of your patients for the better.

Other Questions About RNs

How long does it take to become a registered nurse?

The time it takes to become an RN depends on the course of education pursued, but it typically takes three to four years. In rare circumstances, it may be possible to become an RN in as little as two years; however, it requires taking a large course load or having a number of completed prerequisites. It may also be possible for those who already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject to enroll in a one-year RN program.

What is an average salary for RNs?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for an RN in 2019 was $73,300 per year, or $35.24 per hour.

Where can nurses work besides hospitals?

There is an increasingly large variety of places where RNs can work. This includes addiction rehab centers, doctor’s offices, insurance offices, nursing homes, in-home care or even cruise ships.

What degrees do you need to be a registered nurse?

To become an RN, you must complete either a diploma program, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree.

What is the difference between an RN and LPN?

An RN can assess and monitor patients, while an LPN cannot. RNs must also supervise LPNs who are administering medications or providing other treatments for patients. Some of the more complicated tasks in nursing can only be performed by an RN.

What’s the difference between an RN and NP?

An NP must first become an RN and pursue additional education and certification. NPs can diagnose patients, prescribe medications and order treatments. RNs can only perform treatments and administer medications that have already been ordered by a doctor, NP or PA.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Registered Nurses.” September 1, 2020. Accessed September 24, 2020.

Nurse Journal. “How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN).” June 3, 2020. Accessed September 24, 2020.

McKay, Dawn. “What Does a Registered Nurse (RN) Do?” The Balance Careers, June 18, 2019. Accessed September 24, 2020.

Nurse.org. “ Registered Nurse Guide.” September 2, 2020. Accessed September 24, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.