The hospital admitting nurse is an angel who works with mounds of documentation that would make a mere mortal quiver. As the first person you are introduced to on the hospital floor, he can make or break your impression of the hospital experience. A good admissions nurse will instill confidence, easing your mind at a time of high stress. He functions as a liaison between the hospital, physician and you and typically delivers at least as much information as he does medical care.
You never know how interesting you are until an admissions nurse takes hold of you. You can expect him to ask you questions regarding your medical history, current problems, prior surgeries, medicines taken, psychiatric history, previous hospitalizations, eating habits, sex life, family, household stress, lifestyle, drug and alcohol use, family medical history, coping mechanisms, career, type of home and sleep patterns. Admissions nurses also ask about allergies, advance directives and, sometimes, next of kin and insurance-related questions. He will have you sign various forms and place an identification bracelet on you if it hasn't already been done.
The admissions nurse must examine you as well as question you at length. He may weigh you, check your pupils, feel various body parts, and listen to your heart, lungs and stomach. He may quiz you to make sure you aren't confused and check your entire body for bruises and skin tears. Along with a full-body assessment, the nurse will check your blood pressure, temperature, heart rate and breathing rate. He may draw your blood and ask you for urine and sputum specimens.
The admissions nurse will orient you and your family to the room and the hospital. Mealtimes, the mechanics of the bed, visiting hours and how to work the call light will all be explained. He will give you an idea of what to expect next in terms or testing or surgery preparation and answer all your questions. He will help you get into a hospital gown and apply oxygen if ordered by a physician. The nurse will start an IV, hook you up to heart monitoring equipment or insert a catheter into your bladder if ordered by the physician.
Completing the Process
Once the nurse has learned all about you, he must convey this information to your doctor and the pharmacy. He will send your specimens to the lab, carry out any initial orders from your doctor and create a plan of nursing care that your future nurses will follow. It is also his responsibility to ensure that the pharmacy sends your medicines to the floor, give you your first doses, and place the rest of your medicine in the medicine cart for the next nurse. The admitting nurse will document all the care given to you, and he will begin a record of the food you eat, fluids you drink and amount of your output if ordered by the physician.
J. Lucy Boyd, RN, BSN has written several nonfiction books including "The Complete Guide to Healthy Cooking and Nutrition for College Students." She is frequently called upon to provide career guidance to medical professionals and advice to parents of children with challenges. She also loves teaching others to cook for their families.