Registered nurses (RNs) work to promote health, prevent
disease, and help patients cope with illness. They are advocates
and health educators for patients, families, and communities. When
providing direct patient care, they observe, assess, and record
symptoms, reactions, and progress; assist physicians during treatments
and examinations; administer medications; and assist in convalescence
Registered nurses also develop and manage nursing
care plans; instruct patients and their families in proper care;
and help individuals and groups take steps to improve or maintain
their health. While State laws govern the tasks that RNs may perform,
it is usually the work setting that determines their daily job duties.
Hospital nurses form the largest group of nurses. Most are staff
nurses, who provide bedside nursing care and carry out medical regimens.
They also may supervise licensed practical nurses and nursing aides.
Hospital nurses usually are assigned to one area, such as surgery,
maternity, pediatrics, emergency room, intensive care, or treatment
of cancer patients. Some may rotate among departments.
Office nurses care for outpatients in physicians'
offices, clinics, surgical centers, and emergency medical centers.
They prepare patients for and assist with examinations, administer
injections and medications, dress wounds and incisions, assist with
minor surgery, and maintain records. Some also perform routine laboratory
and office work.
Nursing home nurses manage nursing care for residents
with conditions ranging from a fracture to Alzheimer's disease.
Although they often spend much of their time on administrative and
supervisory tasks, RNs also assess residents' health condition,
develop treatment plans, supervise licensed practical nurses and
nursing aides, and perform difficult procedures such as starting
intravenous fluids. They also work in specialty-care departments,
such as long-term rehabilitation units for patients with strokes
Home health nurses provide periodic services to patients
at home. After assessing patients' home environments, they care
for and instruct patients and their families. Home health nurses
care for a broad range of patients, such as those recovering from
illnesses and accidents, cancer, and childbirth. They must be able
to work independently, and may supervise home health aides.
Public health nurses work in government and private
agencies and clinics, schools, retirement communities, and other
community settings. They focus on populations, working with individuals,
groups, and families to improve the overall health of communities.
They also work as partners with communities to plan and implement
programs. Public health nurses instruct individuals, families, and
other groups regarding health issues, disease prevention, nutrition,
and childcare. They arrange for immunizations, blood pressure testing,
and other health screening. These nurses also work with community
leaders, teachers, parents, and physicians in community health education.
Occupational health or industrial nurses provide nursing
care at work sites to employees, customers, and others with minor
injuries and illnesses. They provide emergency care, prepare accident
reports, and arrange for further care if necessary. They also offer
health counseling, assist with health examinations and inoculations,
and assess work environments to identify potential health or safety
Head nurses or nurse supervisors direct nursing activities.
They plan work schedules and assign duties to nurses and aides,
provide or arrange for training, and visit patients to observe nurses
and to ensure the proper delivery of care. They also may see that
records are maintained and equipment and supplies are ordered.
At the advanced level, nurse practitioners provide
basic primary healthcare. They diagnose and treat common acute illnesses
and injuries. Nurse practitioners also can prescribe medications(but
certification and licensing requirements vary by State. Other advanced
practice nurses include clinical nurse specialists, certified registered
nurse anesthetists, and certified nurse-midwives. Advanced practice
nurses must meet higher educational and clinical practice requirements
beyond the basic nursing education and licensing required of all