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Physical Requirements for Being an RN

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To do their jobs well, nurses need to have physical strength, the ability to move around freely, and the ability to see, hear and communicate well with patients. Every nursing job will have slightly different physical requirements, but without some standard abilities, it becomes difficult for a nurse to do the job effectively.

What Nurses Do

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Nurses spend much of their time on their feet helping patients in their charge. Their daily duties can include moving patients from one place to another, helping to bathe a patient or changing him into clean attire. Nurses also maintain and set up medical equipment, record data into computers or patients charts, and develop a rapport with patients and their families so they can help everyone understand how to manage a patient's illness. Naturally, the physical demands of the job can depend on the unit in which the nurse works. For example, nurses who work in an emergency or surgery unit in a hospital might have a more physically demanding job than a nurse who works in a pediatrics clinic.

Physical Strength and Health

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Because many nursing jobs require physical strength and stamina, being in good physical condition is a big plus in the job. A nurse might have to help a patient move from one bed to another or walk to the bathroom, using safe lifting techniques to protect the patient from injury. If a nurse doesn't have the strength to lift a heavy patient on her own, she might need help other members of the staff or use lifting equipment to assist. A nurse also needs physical strength to complete emergency procedures such as CPR. In terms of health, nurses might also be required to be free of communicable diseases such as Hepatitis, rubella and the mumps.

Good Mobility

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To deliver the services that patients need, nurses need the ability to move quickly and frequently from one room to another in the medical facility. They must also be able to bend over to grab items off the floor or connect medial equipment. In an emergency situation, nurses need to move around quickly and make sound on-the-spot decisions. Since medical units and offices can sometimes be in confined spaces, they'll also need to be able to move easily through those tight areas.


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One of the essential functions of a nurse's job is patient care, which requires strong communication abilities. Nurses need to be able to see and hear well in order to adequately monitor patients. Good hearing will help nurses hear calls for help or equipment alarms. They'll also need good listening and speaking skills to help keep patients and their families informed of a patient's care protocol as well as the manual dexterity to type and write patient information into charts. Because entering chart information can take up a lot of time, nurses will need good posture while sitting in front of a computer.


Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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