When asked what they like the most about their job, many nurses respond that no two days are ever the same. They work with people from a wide range of backgrounds who present to a hospital, clinic, or another healthcare facility with various health problems. The people they work with frequently change, as do their priorities.
Despite an always-changing work environment, all nurses perform at least some of the same basic functions every shift. If you are considering going into nursing, knowing the basic responsibilities you will face each workday can help you get a better sense of whether this is the right career for you.
Chart Patient Records
Nurses work as part of a team to serve the patient, even though they may never work on the same shift. Charting notes in patient records such as medication given, patient pain level or demeanor, and progression or improvement of symptoms helps the newest nurse on duty understand what is happening with the patient.
Medical record charting is part of every shift and usually takes place during the last hour. However, nurses should jot down notes or enter them into the computer shortly after completing patient care to prompt their memory when filling in patient charts later. Nurses who work in hospitals also brief the next nurse coming in for a shift about what has happened to the patient over the last eight hours.
Nurses just coming on shift in a hospital typically spend the first few hours doing rounds among the patients assigned to them. They chart any new details they observe or patients report on their medical record while also performing tasks such as taking blood samples and checking vital signs.
Nurses may also help patients with activities of daily living if they are unable to care for themselves. Examples include bathing, using the toilet, dressing, and getting out of bed for at least a short time.
Give Patients Medication
When a doctor prescribes medication to a patient, the prescription goes to a nurse who fills it and then administers it. Many medications are oral tablets, but patients may also receive medication through an IV placed in their arm. Nurses change the IV bag once all the liquid medication has flowed out of it and into the patient’s body.
Nurses need to wait with patients for several minutes after administering medication to ensure that they do not have any harmful side effects. They also need to know all the other medication the patient takes to avoid a potentially dangerous drug interaction.
Offer Patients Moral Support
People who need to visit the doctor or spend time in the hospital may be in significant pain or recently received a terminal diagnosis. They feel vulnerable and are often frightened or irritable. Family members cannot be with them every minute, so many patients turn to their nurse for moral support in difficult moments.
Unfortunately, needing moral support from their nurse does not always mean that patients will be kind to them. Nurses must possess a unique combination of empathy and compassion while also not taking things that a patient says during a difficult moment as a personal attack against them.
Patient Case Management
Nurses play a vital role in treatment planning for patients, since they spend much more time with them than doctors do. They should expect to collaborate with doctors, nurses, and other members of a patient’s medical team each day to offer their assessment of how the patient is faring. Nurses should also be ready and willing to offer suggestions about what to do differently if necessary.
If a doctor decides to make a medication change or another change to a patient’s treatment plan, a nurse will be the one to implement those changes. Case management is ongoing as nurses continue to observe patient reaction to changes and report them to the rest of the team.
Teaching patients how to care for their medical condition at home is a big part of a nurse’s daily duties. For example, patients who recently received a diabetes diagnosis from their regular doctor will work with a nurse to understand how to monitor their blood sugar. The nurse will teach them most things they need to know about diabetes, such as how to count carbohydrates in a meal, and provide written educational materials.
Another example of nurses providing patient education is when they demonstrate how to clean a wound and change the dressing. The nurse will send the patient home with enough supplies to last at least a few days.
Are You Ready to Learn More About Pursuing a Career in Nursing?
People who gravitate towards nursing often thrive on adrenaline and working under pressure. However, the lack of a predictable routine can be extremely stressful for others. Nursing is likely a good career choice for people with the following personal traits:
- Enjoy constant interpersonal interaction
- Can handle multiple priorities at once
- Empathetic and compassionate
- Ability to react immediately and appropriately to emergencies
- Ability to work as part of a team
These represent just a fraction of the skills and attributes you need to be a successful nurse, and Salem University is here to support your personal and professional growth. We offer associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in nursing with both online and on-campus course completion options.