what is a registered nurse?

As a registered nurse (RN), you provide clinical care to patients in nursing homes, hospitals, schools and other medical facilities. You provide support to doctors and medical professionals by performing various health functions. Some of your clinical care duties include monitoring vital signs, examining health records and dressing wounds for patients. As a registered nurse, you are the first point of contact for patients, and you assess their health and address minor issues that don’t require the immediate attention of a doctor.

Since registered nurses work in diverse environments, their duties depend on the patients they handle. For instance, in schools, you help students with health conditions. In assisted living facilities, you assist people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. As a registered nurse, you can work as a general nurse or specialize in geriatrics, pediatrics, cardiac care and emergency nursing.

You require a well-rounded balance of technical and personal attributes to discharge your duties. You also need care, emotional intelligence, critical thinking and compassion.

Would working as a registered nurse suit your interest in medicine and helping people? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a registered nurse role.

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average registered nurse salary

According to Job Bank, the average salary of a registered nurse in Canada is $80,881 per year. The average hourly rate in the role is $41.48. When you have minimal experience or are new to the role, you start with a salary of $68,144 yearly. Registered nurses with substantial experience and additional qualifications take home over $107,336 annually.

what factors affect the salary of a registered nurse?

As a registered nurse, your earnings depend on where you work and your skills. When you have a few years of experience, as well as additional skills and competencies, you can negotiate a higher salary. However, registered nurses without experience have minimal skills and may require further training and supervision, which reduces the salary potential. Specializing in a particular field also increases your earnings. For instance, cardiac care or working in intensive care is demanding, and you receive higher hourly rates.

Registered nurses earn a different salary based on the healthcare facility they work for. For instance, when you work in assisted living facilities, you receive a different salary from a nurse in an emergency or hospital unit. The diversity of the roles and the hours you work influence your earnings.

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types of registered nurses

Registered nurses can specialize in diverse care areas, including:

  • cardiac registered nurse: as a registered nurse in cardiac care, you handle patients with heart problems. You check vitals and assist doctors in administering treatment plans. You also care for patients after surgery to speed up the recovery process.
  • intensive care registered nurse: you care for patients in intensive care units (ICUs) or critical conditions. As a registered nurse, you conduct regular medical assessments and develop recovery plans for patients with serious wounds or injuries. You also record the vitals and changes in patients on life support.
  • emergency registered nurse: in an emergency room (ER), you focus on stabilizing patient conditions before the treatment begins. Emergency rooms are fast-paced and require quick thinking on your feet.
  • geriatric registered nurse: as a registered nurse, you provide basic care to older adults. That means you work in care homes or assisted living facilities for older adults. Your duties include administering medications, helping patients eat, and personal grooming.
  • pediatric registered nurse: you work with children and teenagers in health facilities to ensure they receive the best care. Your duties include explaining the treatment plan to kids and administering medication.
nurse caring for patient
nurse caring for patient

working as a registered nurse

If you are compassionate and enjoy helping people, a career as a registered nurse is suitable for you. Here are the specific duties and tasks of registered nurses:


registered nurse skills and education

If you want to become a registered nurse, you should meet the following requirements:

  • bachelor’s degree: to become a registered nurse, complete a university degree in nursing. When choosing a nursing school, make sure it has accreditation from the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing. To access leadership positions, you require a master's or doctoral degree in nursing.
  • professional certification and licensing: register in the province you want to work in to obtain a licence. For instance, in Alberta, registered nurses require certification from the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta.

competencies and characteristics of registered nurses

Registered nurses require the following skills and personal attributes:

  • communication skills: as a registered nurse, you are likely the first person a patient meets in a hospital. You are expected to listen to patients’ concerns and communicate instructions on the hospital processes. Since you share sensitive information, you require good communication skills to avoid misunderstanding.
  • critical thinking skills: as a registered nurse, you are a first responder during an emergency. It helps to have critical thinking skills to solve problems quickly. Your critical thinking skills also help you brainstorm ways to stabilize patients in critical conditions when you work in intensive care units.
  • organization skills: as a registered nurse, you store and organize patient files. Since you tend to many patients, you require organizational skills to keep track of individual files. You should also be meticulous and well-organized to prevent mishaps in the workplace and ensure cleaning is done on time to prevent infections.
  • physical stamina: you work long shifts of 8 to 12 hours and spend most of the day on your feet. You work in a fast-paced environment during emergencies, and you need to move quickly. Having physical stamina helps you remain focused and meet the demand in the hospital.


Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a registered nurse.


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