Nursing 101: What Do Registered Nurses Do?

Across the U.S. workforce, registered nurses (RNs) are of the most in-demand healthcare professionals today. In fact, by the year 2024, approximately 440,000 registered nurses will be needed to fill open positions within the field. Without a doubt, the future for aspiring nurses is bright.

Right now, you may be considering a career in nursing. You may have a great aptitude for helping others and a strong appetite for a rewarding, thriving career within the medical field. But before you take the plunge and enroll in a registered nursing program, you may want to find out more about what this career path truly entails. You may have questions like, What do registered nurses do, exactly?, Where can registered nurses work? or What will I be responsible for on a day-to-day basis as an RN?

As a leading nursing school in Connecticut, Goodwin College understands what it means and what it takes to be a nurse. Even more, we understand the day-to-day responsibilities of an RN and design our curriculum with these duties in mind, further preparing our students for a future in nursing. We can also help you get there.

But first, let’s start with the basics. What do registered nurses do as part of their daily routines? What do those moment-to-moment duties really look like for a registered nurse?

On the surface, the role of registered nurses may seem relatively distinguishable. These are the men and women bustling about a hospital or doctor’s office, helping patients to their exam rooms, gathering confidential patient information, administering shots and vaccines, and taking patient vital signs. These are the faces we see most, the people we interact with most, during a medical appointment.

But if you are considering becoming a registered nurse, then you may already know that a day in the life of a nurse involves much more than what patients see at a glance. An RN has an extensive role within healthcare, covering the medical, administrative, and interpersonal aspects of the field – and all that’s in between.

In general, RNs provide and coordinate patient care. They also educate patients and their families about various health conditions and offer support where it is needed. Most registered nurses work as part of a larger medical team, acting alongside physicians, medical assistants, other healthcare specialists.

The exact duties of a registered nurse will differ workplace to workplace. For example, nurses working in clinical settings may carry out more hands-on, routine tasks like taking patients’ weights and vital signs or conducting MRI and X-Ray exams. On the other hand, a critical care nurse will handle more life-and-death situations, therefore making their day-to-day unpredictable. In addition, registered nurses employed in hospitals are more likely to be in fast-paced situations with irregular hours, while an RN in a physician’s office is more likely to have a 40-hour work week and closer relationships with regular patients.

There are many different types of nurses you can become. What you will do as a registered nurse will rely heavily on where you choose to start your career. Depending on your work environment, you may be responsible for:

  • Patient or preventative care
  • Acute care or chronic care
  • Ambulatory or critical care
  • Case management
  • Clinical or laboratory duties
  • Treatment planning

Much of the day-to-day for all registered nurses, however, involves providing hands-on patient care. Though these may vary depending on the job title, typical hands-on tasks for registered nurses include:

  • Administering medications and treatments
  • Performing diagnostic tests
  • Managing intravenous lines
  • Dressing wounds and incisions
  • Operating medical equipment and technology
  • Conducting laboratory work and analyzing results
  • Observing, monitoring, and recording patients’ health conditions and progress
  • Assisting doctors during exams and surgeries
  • Communicating and collaborating with doctors
  • Creating, reviewing, and monitoring patient treatment plans

If you choose to become a registered nurse, you must also stay up to date on latest technology and research. When familiar, these tools can help nurses provide the best possible care to their patients, as well as the best possible support to their team members. In combination with these various patient care tasks, RNs may also take on a supervisory role by managing licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and nursing assistants.

Physical, patient care is only one aspect of the registered nurse job description. Beyond this care, RNs also offer emotional support to patients and their family members who are facing medical challenges. Additionally, nurses lend educational support to patients and their family members, teaching them (as well as the public) about:

  • Ongoing self-care and preventative healthy habits
  • Special diets and nutritional plans
  • Various health conditions and disease management
  • Managing illnesses or injuries at home
  • Self-administering medications or other treatment requirements

There is no doubt that registered nursing is one of the most fulfilling career paths you can pursue. Every professional hour is dedicated to helping the sick and injured, to improving the health and well-being of others, and to helping patients through some of the toughest moments of their lives. With the right nursing education and training, this job can be yours.

Start today at Goodwin College. Learn about our various nursing degrees by calling 800-899-3282 or visit goodwin.edu/caregivers to see why we’re a leader in healthcare education in CT!