There are millions of nurses nationwide. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there are roughly 3.8 million registered nurses in the United States. That number figures to grow along with the demand for qualified, highly trained nurses.
Nurses perform a variety of functions, some of which may come as a surprise to those outside the medical profession. Learning more about what nurses do on a daily basis can paint a clearer picture of just how vital these health care professionals are.
Nurses are on the front lines of the medical profession, often interacting with patients more than any other professional within the health care field. Nurses communicate concerns, answer questions about conditions and care and even administer such care. While there are many tasks nurses can perform, some of their main responsibilities are observing and recording behavior, performing physical exams and diagnostic tests, collecting patient health histories, counseling patients and their families, and educating about treatment plans. Nurses also are responsible for administering medications, addressing and treating wounds and interpreting doctors’ patient information to make decisions about necessary actions, where appropriate.
Nurses excel at listening to patients and analyzing their physical and emotional needs. Nurses also coordinate care with other health care providers and stay current with treatment options and cutting edge research and technology.
In addition to the aforementioned tasks, nurses may draw blood and perform other health-related tests. Testing may differ based on the subspecialty of the nurse. For example, obstetrics nurses may initiate sonograms or oversee urine testing for pregnancy hormones. Pediatric nurses may plot growth charts and administer routine immunizations.
Nurses are also there to listen to patients, and some may offer compassionate advice as they aim to help patients navigate difficult situations.
According to CareerBuilder, nurses who work in physicians’ offices, community health centers, schools and other health environments may enjoy a regular working schedule and shifts during typical business hours. However, nurses working in hospitals and trauma centers tend to work rotating shifts to ensure patients receive round-the-clock care. Many nurses work outside traditional business hours, including during evenings, on holidays and on weekends. Some nurses are even on-call like doctors.