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A registered nurse (RN) is a nurse who has graduated from a nursing program and has passed a national licensing exam to obtain a nursing license. An RN's scope of practice is determined by local legislation governing nurses, and usually regulated by a professional body or council.
Registered nurses are employed in a wide variety of professional settings, often specializing in their field of practice. They may be responsible for supervising care delivered by other healthcare workers including enrolled nurses, licensed practical nurses, unlicensed assistive personnel, nursing students, and less-experienced RNs.
Registered nurses must usually meet a minimum practice hours requirement and undertake continuing education in order to maintain their registration. Furthermore, there is often a requirement that an RN remain free from serious criminal convictions.
The registration of nurses by nursing councils or boards began in the early twentieth century. New Zealand registered the first nurse in 1901 with the establishment of the Nurses Registration Act. Nurses were required to complete three years of training and pass a state-administered examination. Registration ensured a degree of consistency in the education of new nurses, and the title was usually protected by law. After 1905 in California, for example, it became a misdemeanour to claim to be an RN without a certificate of registration.
Registration acts allowed authorities a degree of control over who was admitted to the profession. Requirements varied by location, but often included a stipulation that the applicant must be "of good moral character" and must not have mental or physical conditions that rendered them unable to practice.
As nursing became more of an international profession, with RNs travelling to find work or improved working conditions and wages, some countries began implementing standardized language tests (notably the International English Language Testing System).
In all Canadian provinces except Quebec, new registered nurses are required to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. This is either achieved through a four year university (or collaborative) program or through a bridging program for registered practical nurses or licensed practical nurses. Some universities also offer compressed programs for applicants already holding a bachelor's degree in another field.
In the United States, a registered nurse is a clinician who has completed at least an associate degree in nursing or a hospital-based diploma program. The RN has successfully completed the NCLEX-RN examination for initial licensure. Associate degrees in nursing frequently take three years to complete because of the increased volume of undergraduate coursework related to the profession of nursing. Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees include more thorough coursework in leadership and community health.
Specialty certification is available through organizations such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center, a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association. After meeting the eligibility requirements and passing the appropriate specialty certification exam, the designation of Registered Nurse – Board Certified (RN-BC) credential is granted.
As of 2011, there are 2.24 million registered nurses in China. In 2008 the United States had approximately three million nurses  and Canada had just over 250,000. In the US and Canada this works out to approximately eight nurses per 1000 people. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth rate of registered nurses is 24%, well above the national average of 14%. The highest paid registered nurses in the United States are in California. California cities often comprise the top five highest paying metropolitan areas for registered nurses in the country.