RN Career Paths in Kansas

Kansas needs professional nurses to carry out many roles in the hospital and the greater community. One very common image of the RN is the person in the hospital room who checks on patients, inserts tubes and needles, and offers some words of comfort. This is indeed part of the picture. However, direct care roles can look very different from hospital to hospital and unit to unit. Registered nurses do many things besides provide direct care in hospitals, as the state’s healthcare organizations know well.

Kansas Registered Nursing Roles

Kansas conducted an RN workforce survey in late 2013 and early 2014. The results provided a nuanced portrait of registered nursing settings and job roles.

Not quite half (49.4%) identified their role as staff nurse. Another 6% identified their role as community or public health nurse. A little over 10% were nurse managers. 7% considered themselves nurse coordinators and 2.2%, case managers. Other roles included practice setting educator, nurse executive, and consultant. Less common roles (identified by less than 1% each) included informatics specialist, occupational health nurse, nurse researcher, and quality safety specialist. The list also includes some roles that would normally be carried by a nurse with graduate level education: faculty and advanced practice nursing. Advanced practice nurses hold a higher state-issued credential.

Hospital (including long-term acute care and inpatient rehabilitation) accounted for nearly half of primary work settings: 48.1%. The next most common were ambulatory care settings. Long-term care and public and community health settings each accounted for 5.7%.

Many of the most common specialties reported were ones that are commonly seen in hospital settings. They are as follows:

  • Medical/Surgical, Progressive Care, Telemetry
  • Pediatric
  • Intensive Care/Critical Care (including surgical, neurosurgical, medical, and burn victim)
  • Perioperative (including pre-op and post-op)

The unit can makes a big difference in the hospital experience.

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Small Kansas Facilities

Kansas is a land of small hospitals. The state has fully 85 critical access hospitals (CAHs).These are small facilities with, at most, 25 acute care beds.They play a crucial role in the health and safety of remote communities. One key service: emergency care.

Kansas CAHs made a very nice showing in 2017. Smith County Memorial Hospital and Phillips County Health Systems were both on the iVantage Health Analytics ‘top 20 list’ for CAHs nationwide. Community Healthcare System, Onaga & St. Mary’s made the top 20 list for ‘best practices- quality’. Comanche County Hospital, meanwhile, made the top 20 for ‘best practices-patient satisfaction’.

A visit to the Community Health website reveals that the Onaga site is far more than 25 hospital beds and some staffing. There are a number of specialty ambulatory clinics, including pulmonology and podiatry. Like many CAHs, Community Health-Onaga shares a campus with a nursing facility; there is an also an assisted living community. Of course some acutely ill and injured patients need care beyond what the hospital can provide — this is the nature of small, rural hospitals. And this is where air transfer comes in. Patients and medical staff can be in the air quickly, on their way to large hospitals that are better equipped to provide the specialty care they need.

Magnet Hospitals

Kansas has two magnet hospitals, Stormont Vail Health in Topeka and The University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City. These facilities are large: 586 beds for Stormont Vail, 773 for the University of Kansas Health System. It is easier for a large facility to go through the magnet qualification process than it is for a small one. Still, it takes self-examination and exemplary nursing practices.

This type of facility provides invaluable opportunities for the nurse with the right set of skills and ambitions. “The promise of academic medicine is endless,” proclaims the recruitment section of the University of Kansas Health System website (http://www.kansashealthsystem.com/careers). The recruitment team goes on to state that the collaboration between professionals, including doctors, nurses, and other professionals, leads to breakthroughs. Buzz words include ‘cutting edge’ and ‘complex cases’. People with complex cases sometimes travel to facilities like these, making them destination hospitals.

Magnet hospitals appeal to nurses whose vision of making a difference includes working as part of specialized team to achieve specific measurable goals. Stormont Vail notes the presence of seven shared governance councils, among them, performance improvement, research, communications, and coordinating. Among the research projects noted in the most recent annual report were palliative care and pediatric asthmatic ‘super-users’ (https://www.stormontvail.org/shared-governance). Among the successes noted was a reduction in emergency room recidivism among people with substance use disorders. Two of the organization’s nurses (a BSN and an MSN) made a presentation at an annual quality summit on this topic.

Of course premier facilities also tend to offer good benefits. Education is among them. Facilities may assist employees in obtaining specialty certifications as well as higher degrees.

Overview of Scope and Requirements

RNs have a greater scope of practice than LPNs. This doesn’t just mean that they can carry out more procedures. It means that they exercise more judgment in carrying out tasks and overseeing them. There are some tasks that an LPN can do but only under supervision. The Kansas Board, like other regulatory bodies, periodically issues advisory statements. The Board has provided some detail about the role of RNs and other staff in school settings.

Would-be Kansas RNs typically qualify for examination on the basis of associate’s degrees (ADN) or bachelor’s degrees (BSN) (See: RN programs in Kansas). Both types of graduate sit for the same examination, the NCLEX-RN. Successful examinees have met a minimum set of core standards for nursing at the professional level. However, BSNs have more preparation in some areas. At this stage, a majority of Kansas registered nurses hold the BSN.

According to an article published in The Journal of Professional Nursing in 2015 there is a close relationship between educational level of Kansas RNs and their job setting and position (http://www.professionalnursing.org/article/S8755-7223(15)00048-4/abstract).

Average RN Salary in Kansas

Kansas registered nurses averaged $28.01 an hour in 2016 ($58,260 a year).

The Kansas registered nursing profession has been projected to see 7.9% occupational growth between 2014 and 2024.

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