Nature of the Work
Registered nurses (RNs), regardless of specialty or work setting, assess patients; provide treatments and care to patients; educate patients, families, and the public about various medical conditions; and provide information and emotional support to patients and family members. RNs record patients' medical histories and symptoms, help perform diagnostic tests and analyze results, operate medical machinery, administer treatment and medications, and help with patient follow-up and rehabilitation. RNs teach patients and their families how to manage their illnesses or injuries; explain post-treatment home care needs and diet, nutrition, and exercise programs; and teach the self-administration of medication and physical therapy.
When caring for patients, RNs establish a care plan or contribute to an existing plan. Plans may include numerous activities such as administering medication by carefully checking of dosages and avoiding interactions; starting, maintaining, and discontinuing intravenous (IV) lines for fluid, medication, blood, and blood products; administering therapies and treatments; observing the patient and recording those observations; and collaborating with physicians and other healthcare clinicians.
There are many options for RNs who specialize in a work setting or type of treatment. Ambulatory care nurses provide preventive care and treat patients with a variety of illnesses and injuries in physicians' offices or in clinics. Critical care nurses provide care to patients with serious, complex, and acute illnesses or injuries that require very close monitoring and extensive medication protocols and therapies. Critical care nurses often work in critical or intensive care hospital units. Emergency or trauma nurses provide initial assessments and care for patients with life-threatening conditions. Some emergency nurses may serve as transport nurses and are, therefore, qualified provide medical care to patients who are transported by helicopter or airplane to the nearest medical facility. Home healthcare nurses provide at-home nursing care for patients. Hospice and palliative care nurses provide care, most often in home or hospice settings, focused on maintaining quality of life for terminally ill patients. Infusion nurses administer medications, fluids, and blood to patients through vascular access devices.
Long-term care nurses provide healthcare services on a recurring basis to patients with chronic physical or mental disorders. Medical-surgical nurses provide health promotion and basic medical care nursing care to patients with various medical and surgical diagnoses. Occupational health nurses seek to prevent job-related injuries and illnesses, provide monitoring and emergency care services, and help employers implement health and safety standards. Perianesthesia nurses provide preoperative and postoperative care to patients undergoing anesthesia during surgery or other procedures. Perioperative nurses assist surgeons by selecting and handling instruments, controlling bleeding, and suturing incisions. Psychiatric-mental health nurses provide care to patients with personality and mood disorders. Radiology nurses provide care to patients undergoing diagnostic radiation procedures such as ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging, and radiation therapy for oncology diagnoses. Rehabilitation nurses care for patients with temporary and permanent disabilities. Transplant nurses care for both transplant recipients and living donors and monitor signs of organ rejection.