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Responsibilities of a Registered Nurse

Because nurses manage so many tasks, no two days are alike. [1] The nursing profession encompasses many varying disciplines. Modern nurses perform tasks such as physical examinations and health history management. They care for injuries, administer medication, provide therapeutic interventions, and deliver interceptive treatments. Nurses also educate consumers and fellow employees about health topics.

A group of smiling nurses

Other responsibilities include interpreting patient information and, with the patient, planning specific aspects of needed care. Today’s nurses have the added responsibility of coordinating the many services required for patient care.

Advanced degree nurses oversee personnel such as licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and support staff members. They also conduct research to measure organizational performance and improve patient outcomes.

Nurses work in settings other than hospitals, private practices, and schools. They deliver services at:

  • Athletic events
  • Campgrounds
  • Correctional facilities
  • Homeless shelters
  • Vacation destinations

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) deliver treatments directly to consumers. There are four primary types of APRNs. Nurse practitioners (NPs) deliver services such as diagnosing and treating minor conditions and injuries, as well as providing prescriptions at clinics, hospitals, private practices, and senior care homes. Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) deliver gynecological and obstetrics services at hospitals, birthing clinics, and private residences. Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) treat physical and mental conditions at clinics, community health centers, hospitals, independent practices, and senior care homes. Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) deliver treatments to nearly 70 percent of all patients requiring sedation for pain and preoperative preparation.

A Glimpse into Caregiving

A nurse identified only as Sarah, BSN, RN, on the website revealed her description of a typical day on the job. [2] She starts by recounting her curiosity about what the average nursing workday was like before entering the profession. Her hypothetical account outlines a day working in a hospital progressive care, surgery, or telemetry unit. The following depicts a day performing tasks completed by most entry-level nurses.

A Day on the Job with Sarah

Sarah’s workday starts at 7:00 a.m. and ends at 7:00 p.m. On arrival, she reviews patient status reports from the previous shift. She spends the first hour of the shift establishing a rough plan for working through her day.

The next two hours are very busy for Sarah. In this short time span, she will:

  • Assist existing clients with activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • Check blood sugar levels of diabetic clients before breakfast
  • Complete patient assessments and care plan updates
  • Coordinate patient treatments with physicians
  • Meet new clients and perform assessments
  • Oversee insulin distribution
  • Prepare hospitalized patients for breakfast

From 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Sarah starts readying patients for lunch and assisting those who require help with ADLs. She’ll check the blood sugar levels of her diabetic clients again and contact a physician if any issues arise. During this period, Sarah administers the day’s second medication round assisted by other nurses. She also draws blood that physicians have requested for laboratory tests. If there’s time, she’ll catch up on paperwork, and then work on admitting and discharging patients per physician orders.

Once Sarah has completed these tasks, it’s time for lunch. This is important, as a busy nurse might find it tempting to skip meals and catch up on tasks. However, this can prove nonproductive, as nurses must maintain their stamina throughout the day.

From 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Sarah will catch up on tasks, cautious that unforeseen events tend to occur during these hours. If she missed the opportunity to admit or discharge any patients, she’ll do so now. She’ll also perform tasks such as changing expired dressings and equipment and moving patients as requested. Now it’s time for the third daily round of prescriptions and any additional medications that patients may need. Sarah will also execute any orders submitted by primary physicians.

Sarah will begin wrapping up her work between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., so that her work is complete before the next shift arrives. During this time, she’ll oversee the last prescription distribution on her shift. She’ll also make sure that all patient information is complete.

It’s also dinnertime, and she must check the blood sugar levels of her diabetic patients once again. She’ll make sure that all clients are ready to eat and assist her clients who need help with ADLs. During this time, Sarah completes any remaining work related to incoming or departing patients. At 6:45 p.m., Sarah relays any important verbal or written information to the next shift, then heads home after a long, but productive, day.

Keeping It All in Perspective

Each day, nurses have the privilege of performing wonderful feats, such as providing lifesaving treatments and calming patient fears. [3] During service, nurses also have the opportunity to build bonds with the patients in their care. While this may grow routine over time, it is critical that nurses remember that hospital visits are not a regular life event for most patients.

Clients may not relate to how things work in the caregiving setting or why some requests and tasks might take considerable time to complete. Explaining these facts to patients goes a long way toward settling unnecessary concerns. When patients understand organizational processes, they are less likely to experience fear or frustration. This practice saves time, builds rapport and leaves both patients and consumers satisfied with their day.

Nurses perform many tasks throughout the day. While this may tax them physically and mentally, the job is equally rewarding. While this narrative attempts to recount an average day working as nurse, rest assured that no two days would be the same.

Learn More

Adventist University started building its solid foundation for nursing education in 1908 when it began training nurses so healthcare could be provided for more people. Today they offer cutting edge education and experienced faculty dedicated to helping individuals interested in pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing degree.

Recommended Readings

The Interspersing of Nursing: A Geographical Look at the Demand for Nurses
Insider’s Guide to the Looming Nurse Shortage
The Evolving Role of a Public Health Nurse
Leadership Qualities of a Transformational Nurse


[2] as-to-work-as-a-registered-nurse/