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What Does PRN Stand for in the Medical Profession?

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In the medical profession, PRN stands for practicing registered nurse, which is a registered nurse who is actively working the field. Registered nurses make up the largest occupation in the health care profession. Though most work in hospitals and work directly with patients, registered nurses can also work in homes or outpatient care centers and work as educators or assist in medical legal cases.


Practicing registered nurses are distinguished from other nurses, particularly from licensed practical nurses (LPNs), who are also called licensed vocation nurses (LVNs). The licensure to become a licensed practical nurse takes less education than to become a practicing registered nurse, so these nurses operate under the direction of registered nurses. Another position that shares some of the work of these positions, but requires less education than both and qualifies one to do less as well, is a certified nursing assistant (CNA).


There are a number of paths to becoming a certified registered nurse. The most common is a program resulting in an associate of science in nursing degree (or AND). Though these are two-year programs, it sometimes takes an extra year or two to complete their prerequisites. The second most common path, though it was the most common until the late ’90s, is a diploma program, which usually takes three years. There are also four-year programs that result in bachelor of science in nursing degrees (BSN) and prepare students for graduate work in nursing.


Nursing laws are determined by state, but every state accepts the NCLEX-RN, a national licensing test, as a qualification to practice as a registered nurse. To take this test, one much have completed one of the educational programs listed in the above section.


In 2006, about 2.5 million jobs were filled by registered nurses. Nearly two-thirds of these jobs where in hospitals while less than one-tenth, the second largest set, was in physician’s offices. Homes, nursing care facilities, employment services and outpatient care centers were the next four biggest places of employment. About a fifth of these positions were part time.

Job Prospects

In 2006, the median income for registered nurses was just under $60,000 a year. Already the largest health care occupation and suffering from staff shortages, registered nursing employment is expected to continue growing at a higher rate than other industries. Because of trends in where and how long patients are treated, more growth is expected in physician's offices, home health care services and outpatient care facilities than in hospitals.


Dan Clark graduated Bard College at Simon's Rock with a B.A. in English. He has been living in Chicago and working as a freelance writer since 2009. His articles and stories have been published on eHow and and in "Blotter Magazine," "Defenestration," and "Mary Literary Quarterly."

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