RN Careers in the District of Columbia: Becoming an RN

The District of Columbia Nurses Association has launched a FUTURE RN program (http://www.dcna.org/future-rn-program). FUTURE RNs — all caps – is an acronym for Fostering Understanding, Teaching Unity, Reaching Emerging Registered Nurses. It’s part of the vision for the future of the nation’s capital. Washington DC, like other jurisdictions, is concerned with its registered nursing workforce: the dedicated professionals who staff hospitals and provide professional nursing services in settings such as clinics and nursing homes.

RN Work Settings

Hospitals are the most common setting in DC and nationwide. RNs work in diverse units such as the following:

  • Operating Room
  • Cardiac Recovery Unit
  • Hematology/ Oncology
  • Post-Partum
  • Interventional Radiology

Some registered nurses utilize specialized knowledge related to particular branches of medical care. An example would be renal care specialist. RNs in specialized areas may be responsible for not only performing technical duties but determining who’s at risk of complications – and, ultimately, improving outcomes. Well-educated RNs may also be hired into roles like clinical nurse coordinator or nurse educator.

Registering nursing is not all about hospital inpatient care. Other common settings include ambulatory settings, nursing facilities, and home health organizations.

Education for Licensing and Advancement

Individuals qualify for initial licensing by completing approved RN programs and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Programs grant degrees at different levels.

Practicing nurses may opt for academic progression to increase their employment options (for example, going from Associate Degree in Nursing to Bachelor of Science in Nursing). Data collected by the Board of Nursing during the 2012 renewal indicated an unusual high proportion of master’s educated RNs in DC (16% compared to 3% nationwide). It is becoming increasingly common for nurses who wish to act as healthcare providers to pursue clinical education as high as the doctoral level and seek additional credentialing; RN represents a higher level of practice than LPN but is not the highest credential available.

Nurses may also opt for certifications in their areas of specialty. At the RN level, these are voluntary.

Premier DC Healthcare Facilities

The District of Columbia may be small, but it boasts two hospitals that have earned magnet recognition through the American Nurses Credentialing Center: MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and Children’s National Health System.

Opportunities to begin one’s career at a premier experiences can come as early as nursing school. Children’s National Health System offers a summer externship program. Nursing students can be hired as part-time safety attendants after as little as a year of nursing school. And of course some nursing students have the opportunity to complete clinical nursing rotations there. There are also opportunities for new grads. The one-year residency helps nurses transition from student to professional level. It includes preceptorship.

Large and successful medical systems can often offer generous benefits. MedStar offers assistance in obtaining higher degrees. The organization also touts its various incentive and recognition programs as well as wellness options like opportunities for yoga, meditation, and walking.

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School Nursing

Nurses also have opportunities to work with children in community and school settings. Those who are employed in schools do far more than take children’s temperature and give them prescribed medications.

Children’s National was among those advertising recently for school health nurse; District of Columbia Public Schools has a contract with the organization to provide LPNs and RNs (https://dcps.dc.gov/service/school-nurses-dcps). Included among the job tasks of the recently posted position were conducting vision and hearing screening, carrying out individual assessments, making referrals, interpreting immunization needs, and addressing needs of student populations, including those with chronic conditions or multi-handicaps.

DC school nurses have received grant-funded training in to prevent long-standing issues from concussions (http://washingtonlife.com/2017/12/11/health-wellness-medical-innovator). Children’s National created a mobile app for kids with head injuries that can go home with them — and that can facilitate communication with school nurses.

Among the current areas of advocacy of the District of Columbia Nurses Association: providing for a full-time nurse in every school (http://www.dcna.org/). DCNA notes that 15% to 18% of U.S. students have chronic conditions that require management. The DC goal is a nurse is in each school for 40 hours (as opposed to the 20 hours on the books in 2017).

Evolving Healthcare Roles

Healthcare is constantly evolving; it’s not all about biochemistry, and it’s not just physicians doing the innovating. Providence Health System has even considered creation of a health village in DC (https://www.hhnmag.com/articles/8656-health-village-proposal-sparks-discussion-in-dc).

As the healthcare arena changes, nurses take on new roles in areas such as public health, case management, clinical leadership, and infection control. Areas of focus include better managing transitions between settings, helping patients become partners in their own healthcare, identifying the small mistakes that increase the chance of poor outcomes, and utilizing technology and research to improve care. These are all potentially within the scope of nurses.

Career Outlook and Average RN Salary in DC

DC registered nursing has been predicted to see 11% occupational growth over the course of the 2014 to 2024 decade.

Registered nurses in the District of Columbia averaged $38.70 an hour in 2016. The Bureau of Labor Statistics equates to $80,500 for a year of full-time work.


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