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What is the day to day life of a registered nurse?

I am a sophomore in high school and looking to become a registered nurse. I am unsure of what a day working as a nurse would look like. What are some of the daily tasks and schedules of registered nurses? #nursing #registerednurse


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Suzanne’s Answer

Hi Gabriella,
This is Sue and I am a retired cancer nurse. I worked in the outpatient setting with adult patients diagnosed with different types of cancers. But, I was in a highly specialized area: clinical trials. I underwent special training and certification in order to work as a clinical trials nurse. I was also a supervisor so I was responsible for several other employees.
My days were spent doing any of the following: seeing patients in clinic, documenting the visits, managing any side effects, working with companies that were conducting the clinical trials, reviewing patient data, entering data into clinical trial data systems, reviewing protocols and ensuring that we were following all of the instructions exactly, reporting and adverse symptoms to the FDA and other regulatory bodies. My days were long and busy. I had to also train and counsel my employees, write their annual reviews and make sure they were up to date on their work.
Nurses working in hospitals work 8, 10 or 12 hour shifts. They typically request to work on the units of their choice such as medical/surgical or intensive care. They also undergo specialized training and certification in order to make sure they can deliver safe and quality care. Hospitals will often pay bonuses to salary if the nurse has these type of special certifications. A nurse will have an assigned caseload of patients and will carry out all prescribed orders for that patient including doing their own assessment of the patient's mental/physical/emotional status. The nurse never knows if a patient will experience an emergency during their shift. Nursing involves the ability to carefully structure work time as well as to be able to critically think through any situation that might arise.
I hope this answer is helpful.
Best,
Sue, RN

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Jimavis’s Answer

Hello, There are many different types of nursing. This could potentially alter what a typical day would look like.
Starting as a new nurse, it may be good to start off working in a hospital setting. They usually work 8 or 12 hour shifts. Daily task usually are but not limited to: Rounds(getting report and discussing the patients you will have), Taking vital signs, administering medications, calling doctors, observing CNA, HHA, reviewing and carrying out doctors orders, charting, wound care, blood glucose monitoring, bladder scanning. I hope this answers your question.

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Eric’s Answer

One of the wonderful things about nursing is the amazing flexibility. Over the course of a career most nurses I know have worked in multiple roles with a huge verity of schedules. Nurse can really tailor their schedules to their life circumstances and needs, both financially and with regard to raising/caring for a family, or planning p personal adventure.

Working in a hospital setting right out of nursing school is wonderful experience and final training for any future career in nursing. Frequently, a new grad nurse will have to settle for the more undesirable shifts, like over night or weekends and holidays, but has you put in your time and gain experience you can get the better shifts. In hospitals the shifts are 8, 10 or 12 hour shifts. Many nurses prefer 12 hour shifts, because you only have to work 3 days per week. In some places you can get a job that is all weekend shifts and only work 2 days/week for full-time pay.

Many nurses work in doctors' offices or clinics as well as surgery centers or imaging centers where the hours are more typically business hours with weekends and holiday's off, but more and more even offices are open long hours and on weekends and holidays. There are opportunities to work as a travel nurse, which means accepting 2-3 month contracts in different cities all over the country. They usually come with a generous housing allowance and allow you to see the country while earning a living in a hospital setting. Other nurses can find a telehealth position which often is work as a case manager or insurance nurse and can be done 100% from home. There are also jobs in home health that have nurses driving around a metropolitan area to visit and care for patients in the patients' home.

The day to day life and work will vary tremendously depending on what you choose.

- In the hospital you will be assigned to a group of patients (1-2 in the ICU or 5-7 on units where the patients' needs are less intense. Your job will be to attend to the patients' needs, assessing their condition, giving medications, explaining treatment and procedures, bathing and comforting, changing dressings and interacting with the doctors, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, etc. Nurses are generally the people in charge of leading the hospital team and can assign and oversee work done by patient care technicians and others. A lot of time is spend documenting all the work in a computer, as well as reviewing test results and orders and taking appropriate action based on what you learn.

- In and office or surgery center the nurses do less patient care and more flow management, taking vital signs, managing dressings and preparing patients for examination by the doctor, Nurse practitioner, or Physician assistant. In the surgery center the nurse will start IVs and draw blood as needed to prepare patients for their procedures. Some time is spent on the phone answering patients' medical questions, or relaying results of test, or explaining how patients need to prepare for a surgery or other procedures.

-Home health nurses are usually rather independent and visit patients who have significant needs, but are well enough to live at home. The home health nurse will visit for about an hour to provide wound care, medication administration (like IV antibiotics) and other technical care, as well as close assessment, comfort, teaching about disease processes or wound care and home safety. The home health nurse is usually the leader of the home care team and will coordinate with the other therapist who will see the patient, and interact with the doctor to get new orders or make plans for continuing care.

-Telehealth work is mostly independent and involves schedule or unscheduled calls to or from patients or both. Generally the telehealth nurse will offer advice about care and management of illness, or will be responsible for evaluating the care provided to a patient to judge what should be covered by health insurance. The day to day work is a lot of phone interaction and computer charting as well reviewing documents on the computer.

Nurses also work as consultants in many capacities from helping to design better care systems or charting systems in acute care (hospitals) to consulting with lawyers about malpractice or injury cases. Nurses run businesses, or can advance to leadership roles in hospitals, insurance companies and many other firms where they plan and run the business.

Basic nursing education is a great beginning to nearly limitless career opportunities. The work is hard, and the responsibility can be overwhelming (after all nurses are frequently making life and death decision for others) but the rewards are huge.

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