There are many roles of a registered nurse, depending on nursing specialty. Over the years, the nursing profession has evolved to create many different types of nurses. For example, oncology nurses provide both healthcare and compassionate emotional support, while nurse educators are peer-to-peer instructors.
The decision to become a registered nurse (RN) is one that can change your life in many meaningful ways. It can give you the opportunity to help other people while enjoying career versatility. There are many possible roles of a registered nurse, such as patient advocate, educator, and compassionate listener. The specific roles you might step into depend largely on your choice of nursing specialty.
Here, you can explore the types of nurses and nursing specialties that you might pursue after you complete a nursing track, such as the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track at Concordia University Texas.
How the Roles of a Registered Nurse Have Changed Throughout History
Nurses have provided care for centuries, but modern nursing dates back to the 19th century. The Nurse Society of Philadelphia, which trained nurses in maternity care starting in 1839, was one of the first examples of nursing education in the U.S.
Nurses had historically provided care to wounded soldiers during times of war, but gradually their role began to expand. In 1893, for example, nurse Lillian Ward founded the Henry Street Settlement House in New York City to provide care to the city’s indigent, thereby fueling a rise in public health nursing.
Nursing has continued to evolve over time to better meet the diverse needs of patients. Today, you’ll find a wide range of nursing specialties (from pediatric care to hospice care) and you’ll find nurses in diverse settings (from summer camps to cruise ships). You’ll also find nurses conducting research to expand the body of knowledge in the field.
Nursing has evolved beyond the previous boundaries of the hospital, touching almost every realm of society where people need healthcare, and Concordia University Texas’s Accelerated BSN represents part of that innovation.
Types of Nurses: Which of These RN Careers Is Right for You?
There are many possible roles of a registered nurse that vary by specialty. For example, you could decide to specialize in providing urgent care to patients in medical distress or you might support patients undergoing cancer care as an oncology nurse. Below are some of the different types of nurses.
Urgent Care Nurse
Urgent care centers are usually freestanding facilities (not attached to a larger hospital) that see patients who have urgent or serious acute medical conditions or acute complications of chronic conditions.
However, urgent care facilities do not see patients with life-threatening emergencies, such as a heart attack or stroke. If you decide to pursue work as an urgent care nurse, you can expect a fast-paced environment and an unpredictable routine. The types of cases you’ll see vary on a day-to-day basis, although you’ll likely see lots of similar cases, such as skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and sprains.
Critical Care Nurse
When considering the different types of nurses and which career suits you best, it’s helpful to think about the work environment. If the idea of working in a close-knit unit on challenging cases appeals to you, you might consider pursuing a career as a critical care nurse.
Critical care nurses are also known as ICU nurses because they work in intensive care units (ICUs). ICU nurses care for patients who are recovering from life-threatening conditions, ranging from cardiopulmonary events to organ transplant surgeries and traumatic burn injuries.
An oncology nurse provides care to patients who have cancer. Some oncology nurses choose a subspecialty, such as pediatric oncology. Oncology nurses may contribute to and implement treatment plans, coordinate care among specialists, and administer medications.
Although it’s important for all nurses to be excellent communicators who respond empathetically to their patients, these attributes are particularly crucial for oncology nurses. Their patients are facing significant challenges, so a compassionate ear is a must-have.
Health Coach & Care Planner
You can use your Concordia University Texas BSN degree to help patients far beyond the bedside. Some BSN-prepared nurses who want to move out of the clinical setting can start their own businesses as health coaches or care planners or combine them into one business.
After education and certification, health coaches and care planners may be hired by insurers and companies to help their workers and customers minimize their need for medical intervention and lower healthcare costs. They can also assist patients with chronic illnesses as they plan for their long-term care needs.
Like a care planner, a nurse navigator helps patients with long-term illnesses sort through their insurance eligibility to find the best, most affordable care for patients.
You may only work for a few hours per patient, but your insider knowledge of the hospital industry and insurance may help save your clients hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on what their care needs and insurance options are. If you love delving into paperwork and helping others navigate through their insurance options, this is the job for you.
Academic Nurse Writer
Not all types of nurses work in healthcare settings. In fact, some might decide to become writers. Technical writing is a highly marketable skill in the healthcare industry for people who have professional degrees in the field. As you might expect, just as education programs for nurses grow, so does the need for regularly updated textbooks and educational materials.
Writing nursing textbooks requires the kind of specialized knowledge built upon your baccalaureate degree. Textbook authors usually have a minimum requirement of a master’s degree in nursing. This is a viable option for nurses with graduate degrees who want to move away from the clinical environment.
Legal Nurse Consultant & Forensic Nurse Consultant
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys need experts to help them sift through medical records and help them decipher the meaning and purpose of various tests and procedures. You may be asked to testify in criminal or civil court on the findings of the medical records.
This profession may require you to obtain extensive legal training and certification. During your ABSN track at Concordia Texas, you will take classes about the legal issues surrounding the healthcare industry. If you find these courses particularly compelling, you may want to consider employment as a legal nurse consultant.
Similarly, you can use your BSN degree to move into the world of forensics, by helping investigators or defense attorneys understand the medical issues of potential crime victims. As someone with experience searching out complex solutions to healthcare problems, you may be able to offer a unique facet of knowledge missed by the state’s investigators. This profession also requires some education and a certification exam.
Sometimes, the roles of a registered nurse do not involve working toward curative patient care. In some cases, comfort care or palliative care is all that nurses can offer. This is particularly true for nurses who choose to specialize in hospice care.
Hospice nurses work for services that specialize in end-of-life care, either in hospice facilities or in the home. Your primary work will be alleviating pain and discomfort for the patient in your care, but a large part of your job will also be providing emotional and spiritual support for the family of your patient. Hospice nursing may also require some travel if you choose to do in-home care.
Public Health Nurse
Public health nurses (PHNs) are usually employed by the state, public, or government entities and focus on the health of the community at large. As a PHN, you may work on everything from immunization campaigns to public relations and education.
You could work in a variety of settings, from a completely internal job within government organizations or schools, to doing community outreach with campaigns about community health improvements. Community healthcare is one way you can impact many lives just by giving the public great information, while maintaining the core philosophy of nursing.
Occupational nurses are usually employed by businesses to be in-house nurses for their employees, especially in manufacturing jobs where workers encounter dangerous machinery on a regular basis.
Unlike many of these other jobs, taking a job as an occupational nurse will not likely require you to get much outside training besides your BSN degree, though each place of employment may have different requirements.
Take a deeper dive into career possibilities by checking out these 21 nursing specialties.
If you want to provide high-quality bedside care, but you’d like to live in a more seasonal climate, you might find success working as a concierge nurse. This nursing job has its roots in the origins of the nursing profession, when medical professionals were “on call” and solely conducted home visits.
As you might expect, regulations will vary according to the state and city you decide to set up your business, so be sure to consult your state board of nursing, obtain the proper business and nurse liability insurance, and consult the required experts such as attorneys and tax and accounting professionals.
Dialysis is a life-sustaining treatment for patients with severe kidney disease. Dialysis is often provided in clinical locations but may sometimes also be available in the patient’s home. Dialysis nurses administer medications, oversee the dialysis treatment, and educate patients about their condition.
A certified nurse midwife (CNM) is a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). A CNM has received advanced training and completed certification that enables them to provide quality care to prenatal and postnatal patients, as well as laboring mothers.
A CNM may provide care inside the hospital or in the patient’s home. You will get experience in delivery and mother-baby care during your Labor and Delivery rotation, and you can use this experience to determine whether becoming a CNM is right for you.
Do you want to advance your career as a registered nurse? Learn more about becoming an advanced practice registered nurse.
All nurses are educators to some degree, but some decide to take it a step further by becoming nurse educators. A nurse educator is an instructor at a nursing school. These professionals may teach at community colleges, universities, teaching hospitals, and other types of nursing schools.
A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and/or a nurse educator certification are the minimum requirements to teach nursing students, although you may need a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree for advanced positions.
Are You Ready to Pursue RN Careers?
Nursing is a highly diverse field that offers a world of possibilities. The Concordia University Texas ABSN track can serve as a passport to so many opportunities in healthcare. Through comprehensive coursework, nursing simulation labs, and clinical rotations, students can earn their BSN in as few as 16 months and become licensed, skilled nurses.
Contact an admissions counselor today and get started pursuing a meaningful career in nursing!