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Registered Nurse Responsibilities


Registered nurses (RNs) perform many tasks throughout their shifts. While these responsibilities may tax them physically and mentally, the job is equally rewarding. Each day, RNs have the opportunity to make valuable impacts in patients’ lives, from providing lifesaving treatments to calming patient fears. As they work, they also have the opportunity to build bonds with patients in their care. While registered nurse responsibilities may grow routine over time, RNs must remember that what they do is seen as anything but ordinary in the eyes of patients.

Individuals who are interested in advancing their nursing careers may want to consider earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

RN Responsibilities and Duties

Because registered nurses manage so many tasks, no two days are alike. The nursing profession encompasses many varying disciplines. They perform tasks such as physical examinations and health history management. They care for injuries, administer medication, provide therapeutic interventions, and deliver interceptive treatments. Nurses also educate consumers and fellow employees about health topics.

Other RN responsibilities and duties include interpreting patient information and, in coordination with the patient, planning specific aspects of needed care. Today’s nurses have the added responsibility of coordinating the many services required for patient care.

Beyond hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices, nurses work in a variety of other settings.

  • Schools
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Athletic events
  • Campgrounds
  • Correctional facilities
  • Homeless shelters
  • Vacation destinations

Comparing Professional Nursing Responsibilities

Job duties of nurses vary depending on the required educational level and career type. For instance, registered nurse responsibilities differ from those of licensed practical nurses, vocational nurses, or advanced practice registered nurses. The following is a comparison of the different professional nursing roles individuals can pursue.

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Individuals may begin their nursing careers by becoming licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs). The diploma or certificate can be earned in about one year. After completing a program, it is necessary to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN exam) to work in a medical facility. Both LPNs and LVNs ensure the comfort of patients, check blood pressure, change bandages, monitor patients, report changes in a patient’s condition to RNs or doctors, and assume other tasks.

LPNs and LVNs who want to advance in the field can consider enrolling in a BSN program and exploring the benefits of becoming a registered nurse.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

Registered nurses who want to advance in their careers can consider furthering their education and becoming advanced practice registered nurses. Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) deliver treatments directly to patients. There are four primary types of APRNs.

  • Nurse practitioners (NPs): diagnose and treat minor conditions and injuries, as well as provide prescriptions at clinics, hospitals, private practices, and senior care homes.
  • Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs): deliver gynecological and obstetrics services at hospitals, birthing clinics, and private residences.
  • Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs): treat physical and mental conditions at clinics, community health centers, hospitals, independent practices, and senior care homes.
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs): deliver treatments to nearly 70% of all patients requiring sedation for pain and preoperative preparation.

A Day in the Life of an RN

When learning about registered nurse responsibilities and job duties, it can help to see registered nurses in action. The following hypothetical account outlines a typical day of a registered nurse in the progressive care, surgery, or telemetry unit of a hospital.

The workday starts at 7 am and ends at 7 pm On arrival, the nurse reviews patient status reports from the previous shift. The first hour of the shift is spent establishing a tentative plan for working through the day. The next two hours are very busy. Duties include the following:

  • Assisting admitted patients with activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • Checking blood sugar levels of diabetic patients before breakfast
  • Completing patient assessments and care plan updates
  • Coordinating patient treatments with physicians
  • Completing new admission processes and performing assessments on new patients
  • Overseeing insulin distribution
  • Preparing admitted patients for breakfast

From 11 am to 1 pm, the nurse starts readying patients for lunch and assisting those who require help with ADLs. They check blood sugar levels of diabetic patients again, and contact a physician if any issues arise. During this period, the nurse will administer the day’s second round of medications with the assistance of other nurses. They will also perform blood draws prescribed by physicians for lab tests. If there’s time, the nurse will do paperwork, and then work on admitting and discharging patients per physician orders.

Once the registered nurse has completed these tasks, it’s time for lunch. This is important, as a busy nurse might find it tempting to skip meals and catch up on tasks. However, nurses must maintain their stamina throughout the day.

From 2 pm to 4 pm, the nurse will catch up on various tasks, staying mindful of unforeseen events that may occur during these hours. If more patients must be admitted or discharged, that will be done next. The nurse will also perform tasks such as changing dressings, checking equipment, and moving patients as requested. Now is the time for the third daily round of prescriptions and any additional medications that patients may need. The registered nurse will also execute any orders submitted by primary or rounding physicians.

The workday will begin to wrap up between 5 pm and 6 pm, during which time the nurse makes sure things are ready for the shift of the next RN. During this time, our RN will oversee the shift’s last prescription distribution and make sure all patient documentation is complete.

Now it’s dinnertime. The blood sugar levels of diabetic patients must be checked once again. The nurse will make sure all patients are ready to eat and assist those who need help with ADLs. During this time, they will complete any remaining work related to incoming or departing patients. At 6:45 pm, the nurse relays any important verbal or written information to the next shift, then heads home after a long, but productive and fulfilling day.

Learn More About Becoming an RN

The history of nursing education at AdventHealth University Online stretches back to 1908, providing students with a strong foundation of academic excellence. Today, that education is marked by cutting- edge courses taught by experienced faculty who are dedicated to helping individuals interested in  pursuing an online Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.

If you are passionate about the field of healthcare, and want to learn more advancing your nursing education and career, explore how an online Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from AdventHealth University Online can help you reach your goals.

Recommended Readings

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner vs. Family Nurse Practitioner

BSN vs MSN: What’s the Right Path for You?

RN vs BSN: Understanding the Difference


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “Hallmarks of the Professional Nursing Practice Environment”

Kaplan, “A Day in the Life of a Registered Nurse”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

Wiley Online Library, “Differences and Similarities in the Scope of Practice Between Registered Nurses and Nurse Specialists in Emergency Care: an Interview Study”

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