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Registered nurses are in great demand

(ran Tampa edition)

If you're looking for an occupation that is going to be in great demand for at least the next couple of decades, consider a career as a registered nurse.

Considered by most Americans as the most trusted occupation in America, RNs constitute approximately 2.5-million jobs in the United States. It is the biggest employee group in health care, and it is going to get bigger.

More jobs are projected to be available for RNs than any other occupation in the nation during the next decade. Some employment experts anticipate a shortage bordering on a crisis, as large numbers of baby boomers grow older and their need for medical attention increases. And what many Americans don't know is that a huge number of the RNs are themselves boomers about to retire.

Already significant sign-on bonuses are being offered to new hires nationwide because of the growing shortage.

As an RN you can find a job pretty much anywhere you want to find one, whether inner city, suburban, small town or rural. Hiring is found in both the private sector and government sector.

These medical professionals have opportunities about anywhere that heath care is practiced. They most often are employed by hospitals. But, all types of outpatient surgery centers and clinics also need them. There are plenty of positions found in nursing homes, specialized medical centers and in-home care. Managed care companies use them for telephone assistance to chronic care patients. Research facilities, pharmaceutical and medical related insurance companies need them. All branches of the military utilize their expertise.

An interested candidate can pursue a career in one of three ways. The majority receive associate degrees at a local college. Approximately 25 percent earn bachelor of sciences degree from a university. A smaller group completes a diploma program at a qualified teaching hospital. An exam must be passed to become licensed. All states require regular renewal of licenses.

Because of the expanding opportunities for RNs, job duties have become quite diverse. Those who earn a master's degree have even more possibilities, including teaching.

Generally, RNs' duties are directly or indirectly involved with patient care. Floor nurses provide care to patients needing attention in a health care facility. They may observe, assess, record or treat patients. In other situations they can prepare patients for surgery or examinations, administer injections and medications, dress wounds, monitor patient conditions and supervise other medical staffers.

If involved with research, they may administer potential breakthrough treatment or medications and keep detailed records. Duties can vary depending on needs of the facility.

Disciplines are becoming more and more diverse. There are pediatrics, emergency room care, maternity, orthopedics, neurology, heart, intensive care and all types of surgery. There is a need for RNs to know how to use the latest equipment, including robotics and lasers.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an RN can expect to earn on average about $50,000 annually. In some parts of the country, new graduates can expect to start with a salary of more than $70,000. In those areas, the average income for RNs is more than $100,000.

If you are looking for a demanding career with literal life-saving potential, take a look at becoming an RN. And one of the great things about the job is that you won't have to worry about job security for a very long time.