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The Typical Day for an RN
A registered nurse (RN) is qualified to provide nursing care for patients and their families, most frequently in a hospital but also potentially in a doctor’s office or a nursing home, among other places. The nurse is trained to assess patients, deliver treatment, monitor the condition of patients and provide help and care for the families of those undergoing treatment. As such, although a registered nurse works shifts, her day may vary considerably based on her place of work and the patients involved.
A nurse’s day has elements of both routine and flexibility. While a nurse’s day is typically eight hours long, nurses do get some variation on when they work. They might work a day, night or evening shift, though this may depend on where they work; for example, a practice may only be open during certain hours.
A nurse’s day, wherever she works, contains duties that must be completed each day. Each nurse will have a number of patients allocated to him each day; the time spent with each will vary, but, in general, it will be around 30 to 40 minutes for nurses in a hospital and a little less for nurses in a doctor’s office. In this time, a nurse’s tasks will include checking the patient’s vital signs, administering any necessary drugs or other medical products and changing dressings as appropriate. Nurses will send off for blood tests or check the results of these tests, too.
At least some portion of a nurse’s day will be spent in the office or handling paperwork elsewhere. This is necessary as there are patient histories that will need compiling, treatment sheets to compose and insurance forms that the nurse will fill in. The nurse must make sure that the appropriate paperwork has been completed in order to help keep the department running smoothly.
A nurse’s ability to communicate is tested considerably during her typical day. Nurses must connect frequently with other nurses who are heading off shift, in order to be kept updated as to the condition of patients. Meanwhile, they will communicate often with doctors, letting them know if a patient’s vital signs change, for example. In addition, a key part of a nurse’s role is to talk to patients’ families, informing them of the situation, comforting them and attaining from them information regarding a patient’s history.
Not all of a nurse’s day is routine. A nurse might have to deal with an influx of patients in the event of an emergency. For example, a flu pandemic in an area might cause the amount of patients in a doctor’s practice to surge and the nurse will need to obtain and administer supplies of anti-viral drugs. In a hospital, a large-scale accident, affecting many people, could require nurses to divide their time between routine clinical care and helping out in the hospital’s accident ward.
Nursing isn’t just about administering medicine. In addition, nurses also have to make decisions regarding doses and must sometimes query the instructions of other medical professionals in order to check that a patient is being treated safely.
Simon Fuller has been a freelance writer since 2008. His work has appeared in "Record Collector," "OPEN" and the online publication, brand-e. Fuller has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Reading and a postgraduate diploma from the London School of Journalism.