What exactly is the job description for a registered nurse? Registered nurses (RNs), regardless of specialty or work setting, treat patients, educate patients and the public about various medical conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients’ family members. RNs record patients’ medical histories and symptoms, help perform diagnostic tests and analyze results, operate medical machinery, administer treatment and medications, and help with patient follow-up and rehabilitation. Additionally Registered nurses also may assess patient health problems and needs, develop and implement nursing care plans, and maintain medical records. Other duties include administering nursing care to ill, injured, convalescent, or disabled patients.
Depending on specialty, they may also advise patients on health maintenance and disease prevention or provide case management. Licensing or registration is required in all states and each state may regulate the exact scope of practice slightly differently. This includes advance practice nurses such as nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and certified registered nurse anesthetists. Advanced practice nursing is practiced by RNs who have specialized formal, post-basic education and who function in highly autonomous and specialized roles. These positions often come with higher pay but they also shoulder a much greater amount of responsibility.
Below you will find an overview of the kids of duties and daily tasks a registered nurse may be asked to perform. Not every task or responsibility will apply to all nursing jobs. Each position and specialty will come with a blend of responsibilities similar to those listed.
Job Description for a Registered Nurse – Tasks and Duties
- Maintain accurate, detailed reports, charts and records
- Monitor, record and report symptoms and changes in patients’ conditions on an ongoing basis
- Record patients’ medical information and vital signs and accurately report the information to physicians
- Modify patient treatment plans as indicated by patients’ responses and conditions
- Consult and coordinate with health care team members to assess, plan, implement and evaluate patient care plans.Order, interpret, and evaluate diagnostic tests to identify and assess patient’s condition
- Monitor all aspects of patient care, including diet, routine, and physical activity
- Direct and supervise less skilled nursing/health care personnel or supervise a particular unit on shift
- Prepare patients for and assist with examinations and treatments
- Observe nurses and visit patients to ensure that proper nursing care is provided
- Assess the needs of individuals, families and/or communities, including assessment of individuals’ home and/or work environments to identify potential health or safety problems
- Instruct individuals, families and other groups on topics such as health education, disease prevention, childbirth, and develop health improvement programs
- Prepare rooms, sterilize instruments, equipment and supplies, and ensure that stock of supplies is maintained
- Inform physician of patient’s condition during anesthesia or other medical procedures
- Deliver infants and provide prenatal and postpartum care and treatment under obstetrician’s supervision
- Administer local, inhalation, intravenous, and other anesthetics
- Provide health care, first aid, immunizations and assistance in convalescence and rehabilitation in locations such as schools, hospitals, and industry
- Perform physical examinations, make tentative diagnoses, and treat patients en route to hospitals or at disaster site triage centers
- Conduct specified laboratory tests
- Hand items to surgeons during operations
- Prescribe or recommend drugs, medical devices or other forms of treatment, such as physical therapy, inhalation therapy, or related therapeutic procedures
- Direct and coordinate infection control programs, advising and consulting with specified personnel about necessary precautions
- Perform administrative and managerial functions, such as taking responsibility for a unit’s staff, budget, planning, and long-range goals
- Provide or arrange for training/instruction of auxiliary personnel or students
- Refer students or patients to specialized health resources or community agencies furnishing assistance
- Consult with institutions or associations regarding issues and concerns relevant to the practice and profession of nursing
- Work with individuals, groups, and families to plan and implement programs designed to improve the overall health of communities
- Engage in research activities related to nursing
The above registered nurse job description is meant to serve as a general overview of the scope of practice for a nurse. It is important to understand that a registered nurse is expected to be flexible and have the ability to adapt to changing roles. Specific job descriptions will vary considerably based on the area of specialization and clinical setting. A RN working a hospital or emergency room setting will perform a different set of duties than a nurse working in a clinic or long-term care facility. Before you decide on a specialty, it can be helpful to speak with an active professional in the field to discuss what that specific job entails. If this looks like a career you would enjoy, you can learn more about how to become an RN by reading our step by step guide for students interested in nursing.
Watch this short video to see an expert explain what an RN does in a typical work day: