I'm probably going to get grilled for this, but nichefinder is right. We are highly-paid blue collar workers. I work med-surg, and I probably could have done this job right out of high school with six months of on-the-job training and two semesters of A&P. Other nurses ask about lab values during report, and unless it's a troponin level or the lab value is being treated with medication, I generally don't know. Lab values are for the provider to interpret and treat, and frankly if a patient asks about them I can honestly say "I don't know." This is not to say that I don't understand the implications of abnormal lab values; they just have no bearing on how I will carry out my duties. My job is to keep my patients alive and comfortable from 23:00 to 07:00, not to obsess over labs and diagnostic imaging results that have already been interpreted by one or more physicians.
All this being said, I am a proponent of the BSN as the entry level education for registered nurses, and some sort of associate's degree for practical nurses (whether it be an AS or AAS). The occupation of nursing has come a long way, but to truly be a profession we need to raise the bar for entry, as many others have done. I always get a kick from people who fail out of nursing school, then say that they plan on becoming pharmacists, physician assistants, or physical/occupational therapists. They're in for a hell of a ride when they have to take organic chemistry, which was far harder than even the most advanced nursing classes I had to take. Let alone the fact that those all require rigorous professional or graduate degrees.
To make a long story short: become a respiratory therapist. That, or look outside of health care for a career.