What do Registered Nurses Do?

Nurses are easy to spot; they are the women and men racing around the hospitals, wearing scrubs or uniforms in different colors. Their role is extremely important in all areas of patient care, but what do registered nurses (RN) actually do?

In every healthcare setting, registered nurses work as an integral part of the team along with doctors and other healthcare professionals. But there is much more that a registered nurse does.

What do Registered Nurses Do?

The main tasks for registered nurses (RNs) include provision of medical care to patients, in hospitals, at home or at various other settings. They play an important role to educate patients and general public about various health conditions, and offer advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.

Typical duties of registered nurses are:

  • To assess and plan nursing care requirements after taking and recording patients' medical histories and symptoms.
  • To maintain a record of medication and treatments administered to patients.
  • To give medications to patients on time.
  • Coordinate and implement plans for patient care with other professionals.
  • Check vital signs, like pulse, blood pressure, and temperature and keep records.
  • To inform relevant doctors of any significant change in patients' condition.
  • To operate and monitor medical equipment like monitors and infusion pumps.
  • To supervise and mentor junior and student nurses.
  • To provide pre and post operative care.
  • To educate patients and their families about how to manage chronic illnesses or injuries.

A few nurses have active registered nurse licenses but they do not work directly with the patients, they diversify and offer services as nurse educators, public policy advisors, healthcare consultants, hospital administrators, researchers, medical writers, or sales persons for various pharmaceutical and medical supply companies.

What Different Nurses Do

What do registered nurses do? That usually depends on the working place, and patient population at that specific place. There are many possibilities for working with specific patient groups. Following list includes just a few examples:

  • Cardiovascular nurses provide care for patients who have heart diseases and people who undergo heart surgery.
  • Neonatology nurses work with new born and pre mature babies.
  • Operating room nurses work alongside the surgical teams and provide patient care before, during and after surgery.
  • Critical care nurses provide care to patients with complex and serious disease in the Intensive or Critical Care Units, who need very close monitoring and treatment.
  • Addiction nurses help people to cope with addictions to alcohol, drugs, and other substances.
  • Occupational health nurses provide occupational health services at various locations.
  • Genetics nurses provide support to people having a family history or suffering from genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis, need special care, testing and counseling.
  • Nephrology nurses provide care to patients with kidney diseases caused by uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, substance abuse, or other causes conditions.
  • Rehabilitation nurses provide help to patients with temporary or permanent disabilities needing rehabilitation in order to have a better quality of life.

What Advanced Practice Registered Nurses Do

What registered nurses do may be a bit more complicated for advanced practice registered nurses (APRN), who are more educated and experienced than RNs, have at least a Master's degree and provide direct care to different patient populations. APRNs are prepared with advanced clinical education, knowledge, skills, and have a vast scope of practice. Following types of APRNs fit under this umbrella:

  • Nurse practitioner (NP) works in hospitals, care homes, private doctor offices and clinics. The main role of these nurse practitioners is to provide a range of health care services that can be primary services or preventive services. They are able to diagnose and treat common and minor illnesses and injuries and are authorized to prescribe some medications.
  • Certified nurse-midwife (CNM) provides low risk obstetric and gynecological care. They run well women clinics and handle births at birth centers and can conduct deliveries at home.
  • Clinical nurse specialists (CNS) are highly trained and experienced in diagnosing and treating patients independently. They provide direct patient care in many nursing specialties. They also provide indirect patient care, by working with and supervising other nurses and paramedical staff. They often take up leadership, training and administrative roles. They can conduct research and are able to implement and advocate for certain policies.
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) are trained to administer anesthesia to patients undergoing various procedures, around 65% of all anesthetics given to patients are administered by them.

Working Conditions for Registered Nurses

RNs are the back bone of healthcare system. They work in all healthcare settings including hospitals, clinics, doctor offices, care homes, schools, ambulance services, health centers, camps and homeless shelters. There are a lot of other occasions where their services can be required, like at sporting events, cruise ships, recreational facilities and prisons.

Compensation depends on level of education, experience, geographic location and the type of facility nurses work at. On an average, registered nurses earn $64,690 a year, although experienced registered nurses with advanced education can earn up to $80,000 a year or more. For detailed information of how much a nurse makes, please click here.

Steps to Becoming a Registered Nurse

With the question of "what do registered nurses do?" you may also want to know how to become a registered nurse. Here're the 5 steps of pursuing a career of a nurse.

1. Complete an Accredited Registered Nurse Program

Anyone wishing to become a registered nurse must graduate from an accredited program first; these programs offer various academic qualifications such as Bachelor's Degree, Associate Degree or Diplomas.

A Bachelor's Degree is of four years duration, while an associate degree program can be completed in two years. Some institutions offer fast track options or credit transfers from other degrees taking less time to complete. There are different areas of study to choose from like advanced nursing, administration, and research.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Examination

Passing NCLEX-RN Exam is necessary to get a nursing license, after getting the degree or diploma in nursing, students have to register with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to sign up for the NCLEX-RN exams. After registration, an Authorization to Test notification is sent to the candidates, telling them when it is time to sign up for the exam.

The exam has 119 Questions, covering all aspects taught in the degree program; it is of six hours duration, and every year 70-75 percent candidates clear the exam. In case someone is unable to pass, they can retake the exam but have to wait for 45 days.

3. Obtain a State License

It is mandatory for nurses to have proper licensure in order to work in the US. The licensing rules vary state by state. Some states require additional documentation like background checks before granting a license. It is better to check with the state board of nursing beforehand.

4. Obtain Employment as a Registered Nurse

There are multiple options available to choose from for recent graduates of RN programs, and this profession is in high demand.

5. Pursue Additional Training or Education

Higher education and training is necessary for more specialized roles, such as nurse practitioners, certified nurse specialists, nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists. To work in these roles, a master's degree is required.

For detailed information of qualifications and skills required for a nurse, please click here.

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