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People often have oversimplified ideas about how Registered Nurses (RNs) spend their workdays. With their advanced educations, certifications, and training, RNs juggle a wide variety of responsibilities. During a single day, an RN may administer medication, coordinate patient care with other medical professionals, take health histories from incoming patients, and make critical decisions on behalf of patients. By understanding what Registered Nurses do, you can better decide if this career path is right for you.
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When you're an RN, there's never a dull moment. Although an RN's responsibilities may vary depending on where they work—for example, nurses in hospitals may take on slightly different duties than those who provide home care—the vast majority handle all of the following on a consistent basis:
Ongoing Education and Training
Medical technologies and tools are constantly evolving, so RNs spend at least part of their time adjusting accordingly. This often means undergoing additional training to learn how to best utilize the latest advancements.
Coordination of Care
RNs are not "lone wolves." Medical care is a team effort, and RNs are often the ones pulling everyone together in the most efficient and effective way possible. From delegating responsibilities to ensuring that other medical professionals are performing the duties they've been assigned, proper coordination of care is a crucial part of any RN's job description.
When caring for patients, the solution is rarely black or white. Therefore, Registered Nurses spend much of their time interpreting patient information and using it to make the most informed decisions possible. Along with other medical professionals, they work to develop strategies that help patients heal and recover.
Exams and Health Histories
When new patients are admitted, they are usually examined and asked to provide their complete health histories. RNs are almost always the ones who perform these exams and collect information regarding patients' health histories. In this way, they work on the front lines of patient care and are patients' most important advocates.
Supervision and Direction
As an RN gains experience, they may move up in the ranks to assume supervisory positions. Sometimes, this happens gradually; other times, RNs are explicitly promoted to take on such roles. However, all RNs do at least some directing and supervising during their careers.
Counseling and Education
Registered Nurses also educate and counsel patients to help them improve their health and maintain healthy lifestyles. They facilitate this by sitting down with patients and providing them with information. From providing directions on how to properly take medications to giving instructions on how to live more healthily, RNs improve patients' lives in many direct and meaningful ways.
When patients need wound care, medication, or other types of intervention, RNs are usually the ones who handle it. For example, when a patient requires an injection, the nurse is typically the one to administer it. When someone shows up with a broken arm, an RN is typically the one who bandages it after the doctor has made their diagnosis.
It's not unusual for an RN to juggle all of the above responsibilities and more during a single day. Therefore, those who are the most successful in this line of work are capable of thinking quickly on their feet, and they tend to be very flexible and adaptable as well.