Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses (NOC 3012)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Registered nurses (RNs) and registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) provide nursing care to patients, clients and those in long-term care.

Watch the video below to see what a day in the life of a registered nurse is like.

Common job titles
  • adviser, nursing
  • consultant, nurse - public health nurse
  • nurse
  • nurse, ambulatory care
  • nurse, burn unit
  • nurse, clinic / public health clinic


In general, registered nurses (RNs) and registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs):

  • Assess patients to identify proper treatments
  • Consult with patients and their families
  • Work with a health-care team
  • Give medications and treatments
  • Monitor patients for changes
  • Document nursing care, observations, patients’ concerns and medications
  • Check and operate medical equipment
  • Teach patients and their caregivers about self-care
  • Co-ordinate with other health services to ensure continuity of care
  • Deliver health education programs and promote health and wellness
  • Advocate for health care improvements

Some RNs and RPNs assist in surgeries and other procedures. They may also help in planning for patient release. In addition, they may supervise or mentor other nursing staff, students or new employees.

Specific types of nurses have additional duties:

Registered psychiatric nurses care for people with mental health and addiction issues.

Registered psychiatric nurses in hospitals can specialize in forensic psychiatry, emergency mental health, crisis stabilization, eating disorders, child and youth mental health, addictions and withdrawal management, developmental disabilities, mental health for the elderly, or for women who are pregnant or have recently given birth.

Registered nurses in hospitals can specialize in surgery, critical care, maternity, pediatrics, geriatrics, psychiatry or emergency room care.

Long-term care nurses develop care plans and manage and direct nursing care for patients in long-term care.

Community health nurses travel to schools, businesses, community health centres, patients’ homes and other sites to provide direct care. In addition, they work on illness prevention and health education, and support individuals, families and community groups.

Agency nurses in private agencies often work directly for families on a contract basis. They may also work for nursing or temporary help agencies that assign them to patients or work locations.

Outpatient clinic and outpatient office nurses work with doctors in doctors’ offices, clinics and emergency medical centres. They do initial assessments, routine lab tests, exams and paperwork. They also give injections and medications, dress wounds and incisions, and help with minor surgery. RPNs who work in outpatient clinics and offices help patients with mental health and addiction issues.

Occupational health nurses care for minor injuries and illnesses at worksites. They also provide emergency care, prepare accident reports and arrange for further care as needed. In addition, they offer health counselling, perform exams, give vaccines and work on accident-prevention programs. RPNs in this position focus on job-related mental health.

Nursing consultants work as independent advisors to organizations. They may also develop education programs.

Nursing researchers may be self-employed, or they may work for hospitals, public or private organizations, or government. Their research helps determine the best health outcomes for patients and shapes health policies.

Clinical nurse specialists and clinical resource nurses are experts in a specific field of nursing. They lead and advise nursing staff in dealing with patients needing special care. They work in a range of health-care settings including hospitals, clinics and acute care facilities.

Work environment

Registered nurses (RNs) and registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) can work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, clinics, people’s homes or the larger community. They may work on their own or as members of a health-care team. Some nurses are self-employed.

Hours and schedules depend on the workplace. Some nurses work eight- to 12-hour shifts; others have shorter workdays. Nurses usually work on rotation, including weekends, evenings, nights and holidays. Full-time nurses work an average of 37.5 hours each week. Others work part time or in casual positions without set hours, filling in as needed.

Nurses use equipment to lift patients. They follow safety procedures to reduce their risk of injury and illness. In addition, they must cope with the emotional aspects of working with the sick, injured and terminally ill, as well as with patients’ families.

Nurses must continue to learn and adapt to changes that affect their work. These can include the rise of new diseases and the legalization of certain drugs. Technology is also changing the way nurses do their job. Increasingly, nurses work remotely, providing tele-health. Documentation methods have also advanced.

New technologies and policies–such as the increase in day surgeries and shorter hospital stays–can mean a heavier workload for nurses.

Nurses need to be able to multi-task and handle stress well in a complex and fast-paced environment.

Insights from industry

As the population grows and ages, the demand for nurses is rising in B.C. Canadian credentials for registered nurses (RNs) and registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) are also accepted around the world.

The need for RNs and RPNs is high across the province, especially in the northern and rural regions. To help boost the supply of nurses, post-secondary institutions have opened more training spaces. In addition, the B.C. government will forgive the student loans of graduates who take jobs in regions with the greatest demand.

The demand is particularly strong in specialty areas, such as medical-surgical and mental health. This is especially true in the Mainland/Southwest region.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Registered nurses (RNs) usually begin their careers in entry-level positions in medical, surgical, maternity or geriatric units. Registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) usually start in entry-level positions in acute psychiatric units or on community mental health teams. They may also work in facilities that provide care to those who have not been successfully treated by other programs.

RNs with additional certification can specialize in areas such as emergency care, oncology, psychiatric care, critical care, pediatrics, geriatrics, palliative care, rehabilitation or occupational health. With experience and more education, RNs can become nurse educators, nurse managers, care co-ordinators, clinical nurse specialists or nurse practitioners.

RPNs with additional experience or education can specialize in forensic psychiatry, emergency mental health, crisis stabilization, eating disorders, child and youth mental health, withdrawal management or developmental disabilities.

RNs and RPNs with experience and additional courses may move on to supervisory and managerial positions. They often become team leaders or patient care co-ordinators. They may also progress to roles such as manager and clinical lead, program manager, nurse manager, director of care, dean of nursing, lead researcher, professional practice lead, or assistant, associate or professor of nursing.

Additional resources