Nursing is a Dynamic, Rewarding Career

Nurses Week

Nurses are at the heart of the healthcare system in the United States. There are more than 4 million registered nurses, which means that 1 in every 100 Americans is a nurse. Nurses are in every community in the country, providing patients with compassionate care from birth to the end of life. Nurses Week, May 6 – May 12, 2024, is an excellent time to explore how you can make a difference in the lives of people and nurture a rewarding career.

What does a nurse do?

“Nurses serve as the cornerstone of patient care, acting as an advocate and educator for individuals, families, and entire communities,” said Heather Franci, MBHA, BSN, RN, Chief Nursing Officer, Service Line Director, Heart Center, Lung Center, Brain & Spine, Oncology Services at Penn Highlands Healthcare. “Whether administering medications, providing comfort during times of distress or conveying crucial health information, nurses are patients’ partners in the journey toward better health outcomes.”

The role of a nurse can range from direct patient care to overseeing complex nursing care systems. The exact responsibilities will depend on the specialty area and healthcare setting, but common duties include:

  • Patient intake and obtaining measurements, vitals and health histories
  • Administering medication
  • Communicating with patients about their care plans
  • Charting and working with electronic health record software
  • Relaying important information to the treating physician and other staff

Nurses can also work in roles that do not involve day-to-day patient care, such as medical consulting on legal cases, nursing research or nursing technology. Nurses with post-graduate degrees can work in a leadership role such as a nurse educator, nurse administrator or director of nursing.

What are the different types of nurses?

There are three primary types of nurses, based on education and certification: licensed practical nurses (LPN), registered nurses (RN) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRN).

LPNs provide basic care to their patients by assisting RNs and physicians in monitoring patient health, updating health records and administering treatment. An LPN must hold a high-school degree and complete an accredited practical nursing certificate program. They must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination for licensed practical nurses.

RNs perform physical exams and health histories, provide health counseling and education, administer medications and other interventions, and coordinate care in collaboration with the members of a patient’s healthcare team. RNs typically have a bachelor’s or associate degree in nursing, and they must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses. RNs must also be credentialed by the board of nursing in their state.

APRNs are RNs who have completed advanced training. APRNs include certified registered nurse practitioners (CRNP), clinical nurse specialists (CNS), nurse anesthetists (CRNA) and certified nurse midwives (CNM) among others. APRNs must hold either a master’s degree or a doctorate in nursing, and in most states they must also pass a national certification examination, such as one of the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Certifications.

What types of medicine do nurses work in?

Nurses can work in various medical specialties, departments or patient populations. Common areas of specialization for a nurse include:

  • Cardiac care
  • Emergency Room
  • Family medicine
  • Geriatric
  • Home Health
  • Hospice
  • Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
  • Labor and delivery
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
  • Neurology
  • Obstetrics (OB)
  • Oncology
  • Operating Room (OR)
  • Pediatric
  • Surgical
  • Women’s Health

Where do nurses work?

Nurses work in a variety of settings, such as a schools, hospitals, outpatient doctor’s offices, travel nursing, long-term care or occupational health settings.

In hospitals, nurses are often assigned to several patients in their unit and will monitor patients throughout their shift, administer medications and document symptoms and other information.

In a clinical setting, nurses will often conduct patient intake, which involves taking vitals and documenting health information before patients see a doctor, administering vaccinations and delivering medications.

Nurses in a laboratory setting will draw blood for a variety of tests and may gather urine or other fluid samples.

“Nurses have a wide range of opportunities, and the career outlook is strong, with employment expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations,” said Franci. “Most importantly, a career in nursing gives you the chance to make a meaningful and significant impact in the lives of others and in your community.”

Penn Highlands Healthcare provides a challenging, yet rewarding, environment for nurses, giving them an opportunity to grow on a personal and professional level. Penn Highlands’ nurses demonstrate skilled care and compassion, which impacts and changes the lives of patients within their communities. Learn more at