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  • What Is an ADN Nurse? A Closer Look at Their Crucial Role in the Healthcare System

As a leader in ADN education, Midway University if familiar with the crucial role ADN nurses play in the healthcare system.

October 28, 2019
People tend to call you a go-getter. Instead of waiting for something to change, you take action. That’s a great asset if you’re contemplating a role in nursing. As you’ve been looking into pursuing a nursing career, you’ve likely noticed a number of options to acquire the credentials you need. One that stands out is an associate degree in nursing (ADN) since you can finish a program in two years or fewer. But what is an ADN nurse, more specifically? You’re not alone in having some questions about this rewarding role in healthcare. Below, you’ll find information on everything from what ADN nurses do to the steps you’ll have to take to become one.

What is an ADN nurse, exactly?

It’s probably clear that ADN refers to the credential rather than the provider. This means an ADN nurse is a healthcare professional who has an associate-level education. In order to practice as a registered nurse (RN), though, they will also need to have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). While the exam is rigorous and extensive, it also ensures that every practicing nurse is qualified to provide safe and effective care. ADN nurses work right alongside RNs who’ve obtained a four-year bachelor’s degree. The latter individuals may have more opportunities to specialize or take on leadership roles, but both types of nurses are appropriately trained to care for their patients.

What do ADN nurses typically do?

Registered nurses perform a wide range of duties. Some typical tasks the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists include the following:
  • Taking patients’ medical histories and recording any symptoms
  • Administering medications like vaccines
  • Consulting with physicians and other members of the healthcare team
  • Assisting with diagnostic tests and helping to analyze the results
  • Educating patients and families how to manage a condition or injury
Of course, your exact responsibilities can vary depending on your organization’s structure as well as the work environment. There are actually quite a few workplace settings available to registered nurses. You can find them working in physician’s offices, outpatient clinics, nursing care facilities and even in patients’ homes. ADN nurses also work in hospitals, but many of those employers are now referring to hire nurses with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree.

What is the typical ADN nurse salary and job outlook?

While you might think nurses with a BSN far outpace those with an ADN in terms of salary, that’s not necessarily the case. Initial earning potential is often the same for nurses of either educational level. And the median annual salary for all RNs in 2021 was $77,600, according to the BLS. This is quite a bit higher than the national average for all occupations, which was $45,760. Furthermore, employment of registered nurses is projected to grow at the rate of 6 percent through 2031.

How do you become an ADN nurse?

By now you know you need to obtain an associate degree to become an ADN nurse, but it’s worth exploring exactly what that entails. Students working toward an associate degree in nursing must complete courses covering subjects like anatomy, microbiology, nursing basics, mental health nursing and more. You’ll cap off your education with nursing clinicals, which provide you with the hands-on experience that you’ll rely on throughout your career. The number of clinical hours you need to complete depends on your state’s NCLEX requirements. Remember, you need to pass the NCLEX-RN to become licensed to practice as a registered nurse. While nursing school should do a good job of preparing you for the NCLEX, you should still plan to set aside some time to review relevant material. The computerized exam is 75 to 265 questions and covers every aspect of nursing, from understanding patients’ rights to managing emergency medical conditions. It’s a good idea to read through the corresponding test plan to make sure you know what to expect.

Are there career advancement opportunities for ADN nurses?

Nursing is a fantastic field for those interested in remaining in a role they enjoy for the long term. But it’s also a good option for professionals looking to climb the career ladder. You may be able to access more senior positions simply by gaining experience working as an RN. It largely depends on your employer, but some are much more interested in promoting nurses based on merit than their educational credentials. That said, seeking additional education can ensure a more concrete path to career advancement. And the great thing about obtaining an associate degree in nursing is that you can build upon it if you so choose. That means you can continue progressing your education once you’re already earning a paycheck as a practicing RN. There are numerous RN to BSN bridge programs for ADN nurses who later decide to further their education. Some schools even offer an RN to MSN track for those interested in obtaining a master’s degree. You could even choose to pursue a doctoral-level degree if you’re interested in becoming a nurse educator or nurse executive.

Can you see yourself as an ADN nurse?

What is an ADN nurse? They’re certainly providers who ensure quality care for their patients. They could also be career changers who worked in a completely different industry at one point. How you define the role all depends on your specific background and goals. If you’re excited about the prospect of launching yourself into the fulfilling, fast-paced world of nursing, you might want to think about your educational options. Consider what you want out of a program. Perhaps you have some credits you want to transfer. Or maybe your schedule requires that you take classes at night. To learn more about how you can make pursuing a career in nursing work for you, visit Midway University’s Associate Degree in Nursing program page.