The basic responsibility of a nurse is to assist the doctor with providing patient care, but this job includes many other tasks that must be completed to ensure the best medical care possible. If you want to become a nurse, you’ll have an easier time choosing a specific career path in this field by learning about some of the common responsibilities in nursing along with the unique tasks that apply to different healthcare settings.
Primary nursing duties
Many nurses act as primary caregivers and assist with providing the initial, most basic level of medical care, but nurses who work in other sectors also perform a lot of the same duties. Nurses are often tasked with preparing patients for medical procedures and collecting blood, urine, and other samples from patients for testing and diagnostic purposes. When a patient arrives for an appointment, either a nurse or another medical assistant will usually check the patient’s temperature, blood pressure and other vital signs. Nurses across all sectors must also know how to read patients’ medical records correctly and ensure that the information is correct.
Other common nursing tasks include:
- Changing patients’ dressings
- Ordering medical supplies
- Prescribing medications
- Giving vaccines and other shots
- Handling specialist referrals
- Providing patient education
To perform these duties correctly, a nurse must have the proper education and training. A Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN) is a great entry-level degree, but a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) will help you advance even further in your career. The specific DNP required to succeed in healthcare settings can differ, but the best DNP programs give you the education you’ll need to overcome a multitude of challenges, such as the course offered by Baylor University.
The differences of nursing in other healthcare settings
Most nurses start off as primary caregivers, but you may choose to advance your career by working in a different healthcare setting that requires special skills to complete the unique tasks that are associated with these practices. You might also choose to work in a variety of settings throughout your career to learn different skills that can help you become the most well-rounded and valuable nurse possible.
Some nurses work in hospital emergency rooms and often treat patients who suffer heart attacks, gunshot wounds, and other medical conditions that require immediate attention. Emergency room nurses must often act more quickly than nurses in primary care settings, making split-second decisions to try to save patients’ lives. These nurses are also required to have additional certifications, such as the Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) credentials.
When patients undergo surgery, nurses are needed in operating rooms to give each patient adequate care and limit the chances of complications from a procedure. Operating room nurses assist surgeons throughout each surgical phase and also help prepare patients for surgery. After the surgery is finished, the nurse will monitor the patient’s condition and provide aftercare instructions to try to ensure better healing.
Pediatric nurses see children as patients and may work in doctor’s offices, hospitals, or other medical clinics. In addition to performing the standard duties of a nurse, pediatric nurses must also know how to communicate with children in ways that are easy to understand and help put their young minds at ease. These nurses must also show patience and compassion for children who might be fearful or resistant to treatment.
One of the main duties of an obstetrics nurse is to assist women who are giving birth, but these nurses provide additional services to help improve and maintain a woman’s gynecological health. Obstetrics nurses often perform pelvic exams and monitor the development of a baby inside the womb. When a baby is born, the nurse may administer vaccines and monitor the baby inside an incubator if the infant was delivered prematurely. Obstetrics nurses work in hospital delivery rooms and OBGYN offices, but some of these nurses also work at birthing centers and even sometimes travel to different homes to assist with in-home deliveries.
Some nurses are trained specifically to work in hospitals that are on military bases as well as in VA facilities. There are even nurses who are employed by the military and work in combat zones. Along with providing standard healthcare, military nurses often provide critical care to servicemembers who have been wounded or are experiencing other serious medical conditions. The military is also known to employ psychiatric nurse practitioners to help servicemembers who experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other psychological conditions that are related to their service.
Elderly patients often have special needs, and geriatric nurses help care for these patients in hospitals, retirement communities, and nursing homes. Some geriatric nurses also travel to patients’ homes to provide in-home care. Responsibilities of a geriatric nurse include monitoring vital signs and administering medications to patients who may have trouble taking them on their own. Seniors who have trouble dressing or feeding themselves may also be aided by geriatric nurses. These nurses must also know how to recognize signs of medical conditions that commonly affect the elderly and act quickly when medical emergencies arise.
The unique goal of a hospice nurse is to help a patient feel comfortable in their final days without providing treatments to delay their death. Hospice nurses care for patients who are expected to live for another six months or less because of a terminal condition. These nurses often care for seniors as well as younger patients with terminal illnesses. If a patient is in a lot of pain, the hospice nurse may help with pain management and administer pain medicine to ease their suffering. Hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice centers often employ hospice nurses, and some of these nurses make house calls.
Nursing helps patients in many ways
Nursing isn’t a standard practice, and nurses who provide primary care as well as nursing professionals who offer specialized care are needed more as the world of medicine continues to evolve. With the right education and training, you can contribute to this area of medicine and help patients get the care that’s required for their specific medical needs.
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