Nurses or registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.
Registered nurses typically do the following:
- Record patients' medical histories and symptoms
- Administer patients’ medicines and treatments
- Set up plans for patients’ care or contribute to existing plans
- Observe patients and record observations
- Consult with doctors and other healthcare professionals
- Operate and monitor medical equipment
- Help perform diagnostic tests and analyze results
- Teach patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries
- Explain what to do at home after treatment
Most registered nurses work as part of a team with physicians and other healthcare specialists. Some registered nurses oversee licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants, and home health aides.
Registered nurses' duties and titles often depend on where they work and the patients they work with. They can focus in the following areas:
- A specific health condition, such as a diabetes management nurse who helps patients with diabetes or an oncology nurse who helps cancer patients
- A specific part of the body, such as a dermatology nurse working with patients who have skin problems
- A specific group of people, such as a geriatric nurse who works with the elderly or a pediatric nurse who works with children and teens
- A specific workplace, such as an emergency or trauma nurse who works in a hospital or stand-alone emergency department or a school nurse working in an elementary, middle, or high school
Some registered nurses combine one or more of these specific areas. For example, a pediatric oncology nurse works with children and teens who have cancer.
Many possibilities for working with specific patient groups exist. The following list includes just a few other examples:
Addiction nurses care for patients who need help to overcome addictions to alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and other substances.
Cardiovascular nurses care for patients with heart disease and people who have had heart surgery.
Critical care nurses work in intensive care units in hospitals, providing care to patients with serious, complex, and acute illnesses and injuries that need very close monitoring and treatment.
Genetics nurses provide screening, counseling, and treatment of patients with genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis.
Neonatology nurses take care of newborn babies.
Nephrology nurses care for patients who have kidney-related health issues stemming from diabetes, high blood pressure, substance abuse, or other causes.
Rehabilitation nurses care for patients with temporary or permanent disabilities.
Some nurses have jobs in which they do not work directly with patients, but they must still have an active registered nurse license. For example, they may work as nurse educators, healthcare consultants, public policy advisors, researchers, hospital administrators, salespeople for pharmaceutical and medical supply companies, or as medical writers and editors.
Registered nurses may work to promote general health, by educating the public on warning signs and symptoms of disease. They may also run general health screenings or immunization clinics, blood drives, or other outreach programs.