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What does a registered nurse do on a day-to-day basis ?

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Jessie’s Answer

In a medical unit in a hospital, we manage the care of anywhere from 3 - 6 patients at a time. Meaning we administer medications to all of them, talk to all of their families, all of their doctors, bring them to all of their tests such as x-rays and back to the rooms, we get all of their vitals, bring all of them to the bathroom and back to bed every few hours when they all have to use the restroom, or if they are incontinent we have to clean them and the bed every few hours. A large part of our job is charting to document every move we have made with the patients, and things we do even without the patient, such as update "plans of care", chart the IVs, chest tubes, feeding tubes, food and water intake, output of urine and stool, any time they go for a walk or get repositioned to prevent bedsores, state the call bell is within the reach of the patient, make sure core measures such as meds and actions are ordered and completed for people with cardiovascular events such as strokes and heart attacks.

In summary, we are managing every aspect of multiple patient's care, and also performing the care that we are managing. This job requires incredible time management and prioritization skills, and more patience than a normal person should have to have.

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Jasmine’s Answer

I assess and monitor extremely sick patients. I work on a Step Down Unit which means I care for sick patients who aren’t sick enough to be in the Intensive Care Unit. As a RN I am the person who is with patients all the time. I have to critically think and throughly assess patients so if someone isn’t doing to good I can get the doctors and other departments I need to keep my patient alive. I always have to think about my patients well being when providing care. I give many different types of medications to patients and it’s my job to monitor and make sure it’s safe to give the medication and assess the patient frequently to make sure they aren’t having a reaction to certain medication. I usually care for 3-4 patients because me they are very sick I have to keep a closer eye on each of my patients. I care for dying patients and my face is sometimes the last face they see and I’m there with them holding their hands when their families can’t be there. I am continuously educating patients and their families. As a RN education is very important. I educated patients on their diagnosis and medications. This is some of the responsibilities I do as a RN.

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David’s Answer

Hi Shaniya,

I have been a Nurse for 30 years but a great deal of my career has been in the ER setting, so I will stick to that. You are pretty much on your feet from the start of shift to finish, whether a 8 or 12 hour shift. The job takes a great deal of patience, great time management and critical thinking skills and a lot of thinking on your feet. You rely on the team you work with a lot! Having trust in your colleagues is essential. It is just part of the job. No matter how hard you try, there are just times when you need help. At times it can be very intense when you are dealing with life-threatening emergencies but it is not always like that. There are times where you may be educating a patient on a disease process, giving medications, assisting with eating , ambulating or giving them discharge instructions. At other times you may have to deal with violent patients, infectious diseases and dying patients, all within the same hour. You always have the support of your team but it can be trying and you constantly have to remain calm and grounded.

At times you may be involved in doing invasive nursing procedures, such as starting IV's, giving shots, placing a Foley catheter(tube into the bladder) or putting a tube down the patients nose into the stomach. You may assist a doctor with a procedure such as putting on a splint or suturing. At times you may be consulting with a Doctor, Pharmacist or Social Worker. You spend a lot of time answering questions of family members or the patient. Sometimes you may have to answer questions asked by Police Officers or Fireman, as an example. You transport patients to medical units , x-ray or other units as needed. At the worst moments, you could be doing CPR or pushing drugs on a infant, whose heart has stopped beating. Ultimately the Nurses role is to carry out the most effective and safe plan of care directed by the Physician/Nurse Practitioner and to be the eyes and ears for the Physician/Practitioner as needed.

The role of a Nurse can be tough. It can be one of the toughest occupations out there. You constantly have to deal with Spiritual, emotional and Physical issues that most occupations do not require. Most of the time it is a balance between meeting your needs and that of patients and the patients needs ultimately come first. That is what you are there to do, to bring comfort to the patient and their loved ones. Daily you are a Nurse, Educator, Motivator, Researcher and Therapist .

That said, no matter how demanding it is, it can also be one of the greatest jobs out there. Yes there are days where your back and feet really hurt at the end of a shift but it is not always like that. Yes there may be days where you just go home and just fall onto the bed but there are more better days than bad days. Somehow although there is something special with having a career dedicated to providing comfort when someone is at their worse.

You have the opportunity to work with some of the most dedicated and intelligent professionals in health care. At times, when see a patient walk out of the emergency room in a better state then when they came in or get a hug from child who knows they survived getting a shot, you know you have done some good stuff! There are days where you lessen the pain of a cancer patient and that is enough. Some days, at the worst, you get an abused child to a safer home and that is enough. There are days that you save a stroke patient and they walk into your ER a month later and give you a big hug. There are days where you get to draw a smiling face on a child's splint and you are their hero and that is more than enough.

There is a reason that Nursing is rated, year after year, as one of the most trusted occupations in America.

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Caitanya’s Answer

Hi Shaniya. The answer to this question is not so straightforward because registered nurses can do a lot of things. Not all RNs work in a hospital. Some work in skilled nursing facilities, some work in research, some work in management, some work in private practices. Therefore, it really depends on what they do and where they are to be able to answer that question. I hope that makes sense.