Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses (NOC 3012)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses may work in hospitals, nursing homes, extended care facilities, rehabilitation centres, clinics, community agencies, companies and private homes, or they may be self-employed. They provide direct nursing care to patients, clients and residents. As well, they:

  • co-ordinate health services
  • deliver health education programs
  • conduct research and provide consultative nursing services
  • advocate for improvements to care
  • assist in surgeries and other medical procedures

Want to learn more? Watch this WorkBC Career Trek video and see what it’s like to work in this type of career.

Nurses need to be ethical, compassionate, dependable, mature, and self-disciplined. They must also exercise good judgment, have patience and strong problem-solving, interpersonal and communication skills, and be able to work well with others.

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

This occupational group includes registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses and graduates of a nursing program who are awaiting registration (graduate nurses).

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


General duty registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses perform some or all of the following duties:

  • check patients to identify the right nursing treatments
  • work with a health team to put in place and evaluate patient care in consultation with patients and their families
  • give medications and treatments as outlined in the Health Professions Act or as prescribed by a physician or according to established policies
  • keep track of and report symptoms and changes in patients' conditions
  • operate or check medical apparatus or equipment
  • registered nurses help in surgery and other medical procedures
  • registered psychiatric nurses generally provide care to people with mental health and addictions issues
  • may supervise other nursing staff
  • may set up a patient discharge planning process
  • may teach and counsel patients and their families on health-related issues alongside other health-care providers
Specific duties for occupations within this group are outlined under Special Duties.

Special duties

Hospital nurses:

  • give bedside nursing or direct care
  • talk with physicians and other members in the health-care team about an effective care plan
  • may also supervise the care of patients by licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and nurses aides
  • registered nurses may specialize in surgery, critical care, maternity, pediatrics, geriatrics, psychiatry or emergency rooms
  • registered psychiatric nurses may specialize in forensic psychiatry, emergency mental health, crisis stabilization, eating disorders, child and youth mental health, addictions/withdrawal management, perinatal mental health, developmental disabilities, or psychogeriatric care

Long-term care nurses:

  • manage nursing care for residents with conditions ranging from fractures to Alzheimer's disease
  • develop care plans for residents
  • may supervise LPNs and aides

Community health nurses:

  • work in government, community health centres, private agencies, clinics, schools, retirement homes and other community settings
  • provide direct care or make referrals to other health-care providers
  • may provide home-care services
  • may take part in health education, health support and illness prevention for individuals, families and community groups

Private duty nurses:

  • care for patients needing constant attention
  • work either directly for families on a contract basis or for a nursing or temporary help agency that assigns them to patients

Office nurses:

  • help physicians in private practice, clinics, and emergency medical centres
  • registered nurse get patients ready for examinations, give injections and medications, dress wounds and incisions, and assist with minor surgery
  • registered psychiatric nurses generally provide care to people with mental health and addictions issues in these settings
  • may also perform routine laboratory and office work

Occupational health nurses:

  • give nursing care at work sites to employees, customers, and others with minor injuries and illnesses.
  • provide emergency care, prepare accident reports and arrange for further care if necessary
  • offer health counselling, help with health examinations and vaccinations, and work on accident-prevention programs
  • registered psychiatric nurses generally focus on occupational mental health

Nursing consultants:

  • consult to institutes, associations and health care organizations on issues and concerns related to the profession and nursing practice

Nursing researchers:

  • engage in research activities related to nursing
  • are either self-employed or employed by hospitals, public or private organizations, or government

Clinical nurses:

  • provide leadership, advice and counsel on provision of care for specific patient groups within the care of particular health care organizations

Work environment

Nurses mainly work in health-care facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, residential facilities, and doctor's offices as independent practitioners or team members. Community and public health nurses travel to patients' homes, schools, businesses, community centres or other sites.

Most nurses work 8 to 12 hour shifts, usually on rotation, including weekends, evenings, nights and holidays. On average, full-time nurses work 36 to 40 hours per week and part-time work is quite common.

Nurses use lifting devices and follow safety procedures to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and illness. New technologies and policies have resulted in a patient's reduced length of stay (i.e., more day surgeries are performed), which adds to the workload.

Nurses have to cope with the emotional aspects of working with the sick, injured and terminally ill, as well as patients' families.

Insights from industry

A growing and aging population will require more health services, which will result in an increased demand for registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses. Government has annually increased funding for health services and facilities, which will contribute to the increase in new job openings for nurses.

The current demand for nurses in all regions and settings in the province is strong. However, the current supply of nurses and new graduates is in short supply, particularly in northern and rural regions. To address this situation, the B.C. provincial government has created additional training spaces in public post-secondary institutions, and has offered loan forgiveness to nursing graduates who commit to work in under-served regions of the province.

The demand for nurses in specialty areas, such as operating rooms, emergency rooms and critical care is also strong, with many openings in the Mainland/Southwest region. In addition, experienced nurses and specialty nurses are also needed to teach students and train new graduates. The demand for nurse educators is increasing as many current nursing educators are nearing retirement. Other areas, such as medical-surgical units are also having a hard time recruiting and retaining registered nurses.

The role of nurses is expanding as governments consider ways to control increasing health-care costs. One approach is offering basic care through a mixed team that consists of doctors and other health professionals. Nurses would work alongside doctors and provide patient care in situations where a doctor's skills are not required. These workers are called nurse practitioners, which is a new, self-directed role for nurses.

The number of registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses working in residential/complex care is expected to decrease due to cost pressures and the current shortage of nurses. There is also a trend towards providing assisted living rather than intermediate care facilities. This will further reduce the employment opportunities for registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses in complex care. As a result, several health-care authorities are now introducing LPNs into home care nursing.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Some individuals may work as health-care aides or practical nurses before beginning education for registered nursing.

Registered nurses typically start in an entry level position in a medical or surgical unit. Registered psychiatric nurses typically start in an entry level position in an acute psychiatric unit or a tertiary mental health care facility.

Increasingly, new graduates are finding employment in community health and specialty areas where new graduates were not previously hired until they gained experience.

With additional certification, registered nurses may specialize in areas such as emergency care, oncology, psychiatric care, critical care, pediatrics, geriatrics, palliative care, rehabilitation or occupational health.

With additional experience and/or education, registered psychiatric nurses may specialize in forensic psychiatry, emergency mental health, crisis stabilization, eating disorders, child and youth mental health, withdrawal management, perinatal mental health, developmental disabilities or psychogeriatric care.

With experience and additional education, nurses can become clinical nurses, nurse educators, nurse managers, care coordinators, clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners.

Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses may progress to supervisory and managerial positions with experience and additional courses.

Additional resources