In the United States, nurses represent the largest group of healthcare employees with over 2.6 million registered nurses actively employed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 60 percent of the registered nurses working in the U.S. are employed in hospitals on wards, also referred to as floors. A staff nurse on a hospital floor is considered an entry-level nursing position. Registered nurses working in hospitals have a wide variety of responsibilities to the patients they care for.
Direct Patient Care
Nurses on hospital floors provide direct care to patients. Nurses monitor vital signs, check patients for signs of illness or infection, as well as monitor patients for complications they may experience from surgeries or other medical procedures. Staff nurses meticulously document their patients' conditions by regularly recording information into the patients' charts, otherwise known as charting. Nurses work closely with other health care team members such as physicians, therapists and nutritional experts to provide the best team care available.
Staff nurses educate patients in a variety subjects that directly relate to the patient's medical needs. A staff nurse may help a diabetic patient learn to use a blood glucose monitor or teach an asthmatic how to properly use a rescue inhaler. Additionally, nurses educate patients and their families on the home care of injuries as well as surgical incisions. Nurses ensure that patients are knowledgeable about their conditions and needs before being discharged form the hospital.
Good hospital nurses provide more than just physical care. Being hospitalized is a stressful, often frightening, experience for both the patient and his family. Nurses offer emotional support and caring to the patient, ensuring him that his needs will be meet. Some nurses in hospitals work with critically ill patients who will not recover. These nurses have an even more important role -- they must not only make the patient physically comfortable but also help to make sure the patient dies with dignity and honor.
An ever-growing problem for hospitals are infections that are resistant to medications. Nurses play a key role in preventing the spread of infection by using proper infection control techniques. In addition, many patients nurses care for have infectious diseases that may sicken not only other patients but hospital staff as well. Nurses must be vigilant in ensuring proper techniques are used not only by other staff members but also families and friends of hospitalized patients.
Work as a Team
As the front line in patient care, hospital nurses are in a unique position to play a key role in bringing the rest of the team together. Nurses are absolutely essential members of this team, and by their dedication to quality patient care, they will continue to be among the most respected and trusted health care professionals.
2016 Salary Information for Registered Nurses
Registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $68,450 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, registered nurses earned a 25th percentile salary of $56,190, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $83,770, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 2,955,200 people were employed in the U.S. as registered nurses.