On the Job
Registered nurses care for patients who are ill or injured.
The name "Florence Nightingale" is familiar to many, but the woman and her achievements might not be. Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) was a pioneer in the field of nursing who treated soldiers during the Crimean War. She was also a key figure in keeping nursing records and promoting sanitation practices. She used statistics and graphs to prove that certain practices could prevent unnecessary deaths. During her lifetime, she wrote over 200 articles, books, and pamphlets that discussed ideas on reforming health care and promoted nursing as a profession.Registered nurses (RNs) work to promote health and to help patients cope with illness. Nurses work with patients in hospitals, in doctors' offices, and in nursing homes. They work in public health facilities such as government agencies and schools. They also take care of patients in their homes as they recover from illness or accidents. Nurses have a large variety of tasks they can perform. However, the work setting usually determines their daily duties.
Hospital nurses observe patients and carry out medical treatments. They use computerized equipment to monitor patients' vital signs. They record their observations and other medical data in patients' charts. Nurses also consult with medical staff about ways to prevent infection. Sometimes nurses write and manage patient care plans.
Hospital nurses are usually assigned to one area, such as surgery. In these areas they have special duties. For example, surgery nurses prepare rooms and supplies before surgery. They sterilize instruments and prepare other equipment. They also assist surgeons by passing instruments and other items.
Hospital nurses perform many duties that are common to other work settings. For example, they discuss cases with patients' doctors. They maintain a stock of supplies. They also supervise licensed practical nurses and aides.
Office nurses prepare patients for exams and check vital signs. They assist doctors with exams when requested. They draw blood and give injections, as do nurses in most settings. Office nurses may also perform routine lab tests and office work.
Public health nurses work to improve the overall health of communities. They provide health care and first aid. They give shots and screenings such as blood pressure tests. Public health nurses develop health education programs. Thus, they teach the public about topics such as nutrition and childcare. In addition, they refer patients to community agencies.
Nursing care facility nurses manage the health care of residents. They spend much of their time on administrative and supervisory tasks. For example, they write care plans, and supervise licensed practical nurses (LPNs) in carrying them out. Home health nurses provide prescribed nursing care to patients in their own homes. They also instruct patients and their families how to perform necessary procedures.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Maintain accurate reports and records.
- Observe patients. Monitor vital signs using computerized equipment.
- Record patients' medical information, vital signs, and progress.
- Write and manage care plans for patients.
- Discuss cases with doctors and other medical staff.
- Monitor patient's reaction to anesthesia.
- Deliver infants and provide prenatal care under doctor's supervision.
- Evaluate tests to assess patient's condition.
- Monitor patient care.
- Supervise licensed practical nurses and aides.
- Prepare patients and assist with exams.
- Observe nurses and visit patients. Make sure proper nursing care is provided.
- Give patients treatments and medications.
- Provide health care, first aid, and shots in schools, clinics, and community agencies.
- Visit patients' home and work to identify health or safety problems.
- Develop health programs. Teach the public about topics such as health education, disease prevention, child care, and nutrition.
- Perform routine laboratory and office work.
- Examine patients on the way to the hospital or at disaster sites.
- Prepare rooms, sterile instruments, equipment, and supplies. Hand items to surgeons.
- Prescribe or recommend medications and treatments.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Assist and care for others.
- Document and record information.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Teach others.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Resolve conflicts and negotiate with others.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Work with the public.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Process information.
- Coordinate the work and activities of others.
- Develop and build teams.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high level of social contact. They work closely with patients.
- Often deal with angry or unpleasant patients.
- Are responsible for the health and safety of patients.
- Are often placed in conflict situations.
- May be responsible for the work outcomes of practical nurses and aides.
- Communicate with coworkers and patients daily by telephone or in person.
- Work in a group or as part of a team.
- Communicate with coworkers and patients by e-mail or letters on a monthly basis.
- Are exposed to diseases or infections on a daily basis. Always wear masks or rubber gloves to protect themselves and their patients from disease.
- Usually work indoors.
- Work very near patients and doctors. They come into physical contact with patients throughout the day.
- Often are exposed to sounds and noise levels that are distracting or uncomfortable.
- Usually wear a uniform or lab jacket.
- Must be very exact in their work. Errors could seriously endanger the health and safety of patients.
- Repeat the same tasks over and over, such as recording patients' medical information.
- Make decisions on a daily basis that strongly impact patients. They rarely consult doctors before making a decision.
- Are usually able to set their tasks for the day without consulting with a doctor.
- Must meet strict deadlines on a daily basis.
- Generally have a set schedule each week.
- May work part time or full time, but most work 40 hours a week.
- May work nights, weekends, and holidays, especially in hospitals or nursing homes.
- May be on-call to work on short notice.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Stand for long periods of time.
- Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Walk between patients' rooms. May run during emergencies.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Use one or two hands to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Use fingers to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- Be physically active for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away or off to the side.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- Keep or regain the body's balance or stay upright when in an unstable position.
- Use muscles for extended periods without getting tired.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
- Use muscles to jump, sprint, or throw objects.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.