What Can I Do with an Associate Degree in Nursing?

Becoming a registered nurse requires a college degree, but whether you opt for an associate’s or a bachelor’s depends on your lifestyle and career goals. Both have their advantages. In this article we will examine the benefits of an ADN program.

What Can I Do with an Associate Degree in Nursing?

Nearly half of nurses break into the field with an associate degree. Your state-granted professional license is the same whether you spend two years or four years in school. So, unless you have managerial aspirations, an associate’s is what you need to be an entry-level RN in your choice of settings. Choose from a career as:

A Long-Term Care Nurse

When seniors can’t live safely at home, the best choice is often a long-term care facility. RNs in nursing homes and assisted living centers help patients with activities of daily living while providing medical supervision.

A Rehabilitation Nurse

Rehabilitation nurses help patients transition from hospital to home when their recovery is not complete. Treatment may be received in a nursing facility with a skilled unit or a separate rehabilitation hospital. You’ll work with patients who need additional therapy before heading home. Duties include pain management, medication administration, and assisting with therapeutic exercises to name a few.

An Emergency Room Nurse

ER nurses assess, triage, and treat patients with serious illnesses, injuries, or trauma. The work includes direct patient and family support. It’s a fast-paced environment in which you’ll use the broadest range of your skills, but you’ll never be bored.

An Oncology Nurses

Oncology nurses care for patients with cancer. You might work in a hospital, clinic, or infusion center. Duties include personal care, chemotherapy administration, and emotional support. You’ll collaborate with other healthcare professionals from doctors and nutritionists to physical and occupational therapists to optimize treatment while preserving patients’ quality of life.

A Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric nurses function as general nurses for children and their families. You’ll track developmental milestones, administer vaccinations, and provide nutritional guidance.

A Psychiatric Nurse

Psychiatric nurses help patients manage mental or behavioral illnesses. There are many opportunities for RNs to specialize in this area of medicine. You can work in a hospital, a mental health facility or an outpatient program dealing with general issues or specific disorders, such as chemical dependency.

A Travel Nurse

Travel nurses take short-term assignments in medical facilities nationwide. You’ll provide emergency coverage in hospitals, and nursing facilities. BSN RNs are preferred, but ADN RNs with strong skills or specialized experience are welcomed.

A Patient Care Coordinator

Patient care coordinators manage the hospitalization process from admission through discharge. You’ll work with patients, families, insurers, and healthcare providers to ensure continuity of care.

A Home Health Nurse

Home health nurses care for medically stable patients at home, assisting with physical needs, homemaking duties and medical equipment management. For many patients, having a private nurse is the difference between remaining independent and moving into a nursing home.

Home health RNs also fill a niche as IV nurses, traveling to private homes to administer intravenous therapy. Without IV nurses, otherwise stable patients have to stay in hospitals.

A Clinical Research Nurse

Not all nursing care is hands-on. RNs help advance the medical profession by assisting with clinical trials. Responsibilities include designing studies, recruiting subjects, tracking progress, and recording data. You might work with a research physician or at a college.

An Infection Prevention Nurse

Infection prevention nurses help healthcare providers stop the spread of infection within medical facilities. Working with doctors and epidemiologists, you’ll investigate outbreaks and assist with staff training.

A Dialysis Nurse

Dialysis is a treatment for kidney failure. As a dialysis RN, you’ll assist with this blood-cleansing procedure. ADN nurses may need additional certification to work in hospitals, but positions are open in dialysis centers. You may also perform lesser peritoneal dialysis treatments in homes.

A Surgical Nurse

Surgical nurses provide intensive nursing care before and during surgeries. Pre-operatively, you’ll take vital signs, insert urinary catheters, prepare blood products, and start IVs. During the procedure, you’ll circulate through the operating room, assisting the surgeon and anesthesiologist.

In addition to these popular careers, there are opportunities in:

  • Cardiology
  • Urology
  • Neurology
  • Women’s Health
  • Public Health

What Does an Entry-Level RN Do?

What entry-level nurses do largely depend on where they’re employed. Professional responsibilities are the same in all settings, to meet patients’ physical, emotional, and psychosocial needs. But an emergency room RN will start more IVs than a public health nurse. So, let’s break it down by setting.

Where Do Entry-level RNs Work?

As a career, nursing is flexible. You can get a job that plays to your interests and strengths anywhere healthcare is provided, including:

Hospitals and Clinics

There’s a nationwide initiative to staff more BSNs than ADNs in hospitals, but ADNs remain welcome. Entry-level nurses may not qualify for leadership positions right away, but if you prefer working with patients, you’ll enjoy the work. Responsibilities include:

  • Triaging patients
  • Taking vital signs
  • Monitoring patients for changes in condition
  • Administering fluids and medications
  • Starting IVs
  • Performing blood transfusions
  • Inserting urinary catheters
  • Tracking intake and output
  • Wound care
  • Medical equipment management
  • Pain assessments
  • Assisting with activities of daily living
  • Communicating with other healthcare professionals
  • Supervising paraprofessional staff
  • Providing emergency care
  • Patient education

Long-Term Care Facilities

Residential care is different than acute care. Patients need medical oversight but not ongoing intervention. In a nursing home, an entry-level RN’s duties are:

  • Monitoring residents for changes in condition
  • Administering medications and treatments
  • Performing tube feedings
  • Inserting urinary catheters
  • Assisting with mobility
  • Testing fingerstick blood sugar levels for diabetics
  • Collecting biological samples for off-site lab testing
  • Skin and wound care
  • Managing recreation and transportation needs
  • Providing companionship and emotional support
  • Supervising nursing assistants

Private Homes

Any RN can provide home care, but it’s a perfect role for entry-level nurses. Less costly than hospital or residential care, home care is fast becoming a money-saving alternative.

A home care RN’s duties vary based on the type of client they care for. But in general, you’ll:

  • Monitor vital sings.
  • Track changes in condition.
  • Manage home safety needs.
  • Accompany clients to medical appointments.
  • Assist with bathing, dressing and other personal care.
  • Prepare or administer medications and treatments, including tube feedings.
  • Manage medical equipment, such as oxygen tanks, ventilators and CPAP devices.
  • Provide companionship.
  • Supervising home healthcare aides.

Doctor’s Offices

The role of nurses in private practices has changed. Medical assistants manage most minor clinical duties, while RNs take on more managerial responsibilities as educators, specialists, or patient navigators. In a private practice, your duties may include:

  • Triaging patients with serious medical concerns.
  • Coordinating medical and community services for seniors.
  • Complex wound care
  • Infusion therapy
  • Patient advocacy
  • Disease education

Final Thoughts

Entry-level nurses don’t qualify for supervisory positions, but you have to walk before you can run. And if you keep learning, the sky’s the limit. Getting an associate degree is a good first step.

Want to Learn More?

The purpose of the Associate in Science, Nursing Degree program at Florida National University is to provide quality nursing education to a culturally, socially, and ethnically diverse community. The Nursing Degree program achieves this mission by preparing the graduates for employment at entry-level registered nursing positions. The program further achieves this mission by ensuring mastery of affective, cognitive, and psychomotor skills so that its graduates can become successful licensed registered nurses who can provide holistic, safe, culturally sensitive care to a wide variety of clients throughout their lifespan. Florida National University awards an Associate of Science Degree upon graduation.


If you are interested in nursing, let Florida National University answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to learn more about our Nursing degree program.