What Do Registered Nurses Do On A Daily Basis?

what do registered nurses do on a daily basis

The field of nursing offers a wide variety of specialties, job opportunities and populations to work with. That being said, there are many things that are consistent among nurses regardless of location.

General Duties

All nurses must provide the basic, routine care to their patients. This includes:

  • Assessing vital signs

  • Monitoring intake and output

  • Administering medication

  • Educating patients and family members

  • Communicating patient needs to other healthcare professionals

  • Advocating for patient rights

  • Providing moral and emotional support for both patients and family members

  • Documenting patient status accurately

  • Coordinating plan of care

  • Facilitating safe discharge

  • Reporting change in patient status 

Clearly this is not an exhaustive list, as each individual patient presents with unique needs and nurses are expected to adapt and take responsibility for whatever may be required.

Unique Responsibilities

Many nurses have additional responsibilities beyond those listed above. This will vary depending on local legislation, experience, degree held and certifications. Other tasks that may fall under the purview of registered nurses include:

  • Scheduling of patient treatment

  • Supervising and managing other healthcare staff

  • Managing patient cases

  • Completing diagnostic tests

  • Interpreting test results

  • Utilizing appropriate medical equipment

  • Operating life support systems

  • Sterilizing treatment rooms

  • Assisting with surgery

Most nurses do not complete all of the duties mentioned above. However, any of these tasks may be completed in a typical day in certain specialties.

What a Typical Day Looks Like

On a typical day a registered nurse will face many challenges and have many successes. For example, consider a day on a medical-surgical floor. While there are multiple shifts offered, we will look at the 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. shift. On arriving at the hospital, the nurse must first meet with the nurse they are relieving to discuss changes, new information, and meet any new patients. 

A typical caseload for this scenario will be six patients with varying diagnoses. Once the nurse has met the patients and is familiar with their needs, they then must begin administering morning medications. Many patients will also verbalize specific needs, such as needing to use the restroom or requesting a meal change. 

The nurse must coordinate all of this with nursing techs, CNA, or dietary workers. As the day goes on, the nurse must manage the care of patients, assist with transferring, monitor vital signs, administer any additional needed medications, schedule needed treatments, communicate with doctors completing rounds, educate family members on patient status, monitor patients for any signs or symptoms of worsening health, provide transportation to appointments, and meet additional patient needs. 

This will continue for the entirety of the shift, with documentation and observation required throughout the day.

Communication with other healthcare providers is essential to ensure proper safety and comfort of patients. Good interpersonal skills and communication skills are needed whenever conflict arises or to assist in patient education.Once the shift is complete, the nurse must then educate the incoming nurse on patient status and information to ensure a safe continuation of care.


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