Excellent answer by Satin...
Just thought I'd add a couple paragraphs from the Occupational Outlook Handbook....
"Most RNs work as staff nurses, providing critical health care services along with physicians, surgeons, and other health care practitioners. However, some RNs choose to become advanced practice nurses, who often are considered primary health care practitioners and work independently or in collaboration with physicians. For example, clinical nurse specialists provide direct patient care and expert consultations in one of many of the nursing specialties listed above. Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia, monitor patient’s vital signs during surgery, and provide post-anesthesia care. Nurse midwives provide primary care to women, including gynecological exams, family planning advice, prenatal care, assistance in labor and delivery, and neonatal care. Nurse practitioners provide basic preventive health care to patients, and increasingly serve as primary and specialty care providers in mainly medically underserved areas. The most common areas of specialty for nurse practitioners are family practice, adult practice, women’s health, pediatrics, acute care, and gerontology; however, there are many other specialties. In most States, advanced practice nurses can prescribe medications.
Some nurses have jobs that require little or no direct patient contact. Most of these positions still require an active RN license. Case managers ensure that all of the medical needs of patients with severe injuries and illnesses are met, including the type, location, and duration of treatment. Forensics nurses combine nursing with law enforcement by treating and investigating victims of sexual assault, child abuse, or accidental death. Infection control nurses identify, track, and control infectious outbreaks in health care facilities; develop methods of outbreak prevention and biological terrorism responses; and staff immunization clinics. Legal nurse consultants assist lawyers in medical cases by interviewing patients and witnesses, organizing medical records, determining damages and costs, locating evidence, and educating lawyers about medical issues. Nurse administrators supervise nursing staff, establish work schedules and budgets, and maintain medical supply inventories. Nurse educators teach student nurses and also provide continuing education for RNs. Nurse informaticists collect, store, and analyze nursing data in order to improve efficiency, reduce risk, and improve patient care. RNs also may work as health care consultants, public policy advisors, pharmaceutical and medical supply researchers and salespersons, and medical writers and editors."
This page goes on to describe education, training, salary ranges, etc.
My sister graduated with her master's in nursing this past Saturday...she'll take the nurse practioner state booards next spring..and then (OK, I am bragging)she'll have both the degree and certificate to practice as a nurse practitioner.
Satin is right, do some exploring (volunteering, talking with nurses, etc). This is great advice. Perhaps contacting a local hospital or nursing college would be a good start...or start talking with one nurse you know..and ask her or him for others to talk to.
I wish you well!
Answered By: jmflahiff - 12/19/2006