What Does an RN Do?

The reality of what an RN does is different from what is often portrayed in the media.
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If you're interested in a career in nursing, you may be looking for improved wages, more job flexibility, personal fulfillment, or a job in which you can help people. However, you may also be wondering whether you would enjoy what an RN does on a daily basis. While specific RN tasks may differ from job to job, there are some general categories of responsibility that most nursing jobs involve.

Direct Patient Care

    Direct patient care is not a part of all RN jobs, but it is a part of most hospital jobs which is where the vast majority of registered nurses are employed. In doing direct patient care, nurses give patient medicine, complete treatments and change dressings. They also work with equipment that monitors patient condition, for example, cardiac monitoring on a telemetry floor. Nurses can also perform bedside diagnostic tests and analyze results, such as when they do a finger stick blood glucose test. Nurses also address patients' emotional and psychosocial needs.

Patient Teaching

    Nurses are on the front line of helping patients understand their conditions, treatments and treatment options. While they do not have unlimited time to spend with patients, they have more time than most physicians do, so they are able to answer questions and help troubleshoot difficulties with treatment. Nurses also provide information to patients about maintaining wellness. Another common teaching function in a nursing job is to help patients evaluate claims and potential alternative treatments.

Plan Patient Care

    Although registered nurses without advanced training do not diagnose diseases or conditions, they do make nursing diagnoses. This means that nurses help evaluate what is missing or needed in patient care and try to help alleviate this with various interventions. Nurses also observe patients and report any deterioration in condition as well as record their observations. In addition, part of planning patient care often includes supervising the work of other health care workers, including licensed practical nurses and certified nurse assistants. If you're interested in being a registered nurse, you should be prepared to supervise other workers.

Patient Advocacy

    In our highly burdened and complex healthcare system, the needs of patients often get lost behind paperwork, provider miscommunication, insurance questions and general confusion about how the healthcare system works. This can be especially true in teaching hospitals, where patient care is often managed by extremely inexperienced practitioners. If you are interested in being a registered nurse, you should be prepared to advocate for your patients, making sure they get the best, most appropriate care, and that their needs and desires are respected as much as possible.

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