What Does a General Nurse Do?

You can become a general nurse through a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN) program. General nurses do not have a specialization, but still provide patient care. If this interests you, keep reading to learn more about becoming a general nurse. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

General nurses fall into two categories: RNs and LPNs. Working as an LPN, your general duties may include assisting patients with bathing and dressing, providing doctor-ordered medicine and treatments, collecting fluid samples, and overseeing the general well-being of your patients. Other common duties include recording vital signs, providing in-home care, and supervising the work of certified nurse assistants (CNAs). You may also complete clerical tasks, such as managing patient records and appointments.

The duties of an RN are similar to that of an LPN, but can include being responsible for giving patients examinations, preparing patient rooms, and providing healthcare education. Working as an RN, you may also set goals for a nursing staff and manage your unit's budget. You might also work closely with doctors during patient exams, treatments, or surgeries.

Important Facts About General Nurses

Continuing EducationRequired by some states to maintain certification
Online AvailabilitySome coursework online; clinical and some training onsite
Work EnvironmentHospital, nursing home, school, doctor's office
Similar OccupationsNursing assistant, surgical technologist, physician assistant


You can generally become an LPN through a certificate or associate's degree program. Most of your courses will cover general nursing topics, such as basic nursing fundamentals, nutrition, surgery, newborns, anatomy, and psychology.

Associate's and bachelor's degree programs can prepare you to become a RN. You will study general duties, including how to conduct management and practice policies, integrate patient care, and use technology to carry out your duties. If you want to become an RN who has a supervisory role in your workplace, a master's degree program can help you learn the management, professionalism, care practices, and assessment techniques associated with a general nurse position.

All nurses must be licensed in order to work. Licensure requirements vary from state to state, but they typically include completion of a recognized training program, clinical practical, and licensing exams.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the average salary for LPNs was $43,420 in 2014. In the same year, the BLS reported that the average salary for RNs was $69,790. The BLS also predicted that employment for LPNs would grow 25% between 2012 and 2022, while employment for RNs would grow 19% over the same time period. You may have better job prospects if you are an LPN willing to relocate to a rural area, or an RN who has a bachelor's degree.

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