What Does a Registered Nurse Do?

Registered nurse duties vary per the areas of their expertise, although they all require the same basic certification. They play a key role in promoting wellness by performing a wide range of services. An RN assesses patients’ health problems and needs, develops and executes nursing care plans, and upholds medical records. Compared to more entry-level nursing positions like CNAs, RNs have greater autonomy in their work, and more opportunities for advancement and specialization. Empathetic individuals with a strong work ethic are ideal for a nursing career.

Duties and Responsibilities of an RN

The day-to-day duties and responsibilities of an RN revolve around four main areas, often described as the metapardigm of nursing: person-centered care, managing the environment in which care is delivered, looking after the health of patients, and practicing basic clinical skills. More specific duties that fall within this paradigm include:

  • Observing and recording patients’ behavior;
  • Coordinating with physicians and other healthcare professionals to create and evaluate customized care plans;
  • Providing emotional and psychological support to the patients and their families;
  • Diagnosing the disease by analyzing patients’ symptoms and taking required actions for their recovery;
  • Maintaining reports of patients’ medical histories, and monitoring changes in their condition;
  • Carrying out the requisite treatments and medications;
  • Directing and supervising LPNs and CNAs;
  • Checking the stock on a regular basis to maintain inventory levels, and placing orders if required;
  • Changing patients’ medication as indicated by their conditions and responses;
  • Adhering to protocols, norms, rules and regulations in order to maintain complete medical records;
  • Maintaining a hygienic and safe working environment in compliance with standard healthcare procedures;
  • Conducting research for improving nursing practices and healthcare outcomes;
  • Providing instant care during medical emergencies, like car accidents, burns, heart attacks and strokes;
  • Discussing treatment with pharmacists and physicians in critical cases;
  • Providing necessary guidance on health maintenance and disease prevention;
  • Keeping an eye on each and every aspect of patient care that includes physical activity, plus proper diet;
  • Preparing rooms and decontaminating equipment and instruments;
  • Preparing patients for examinations;
  • Educating patients’ families about diseases and treatments;
  • Assisting doctors during surgery;
  • Resolving patients’ problems and fulfilling their requirements by applying a multifaceted team strategy;
  • Interacting with healthcare teams to maintain harmonious relationships;
  • Attending educational workshops to enhance professional and technical knowledge;
  • Performing lab work and giving complete information to the physician about a patient’s condition during anesthesia;
  • Recommending drugs and other forms of treatment, like inhalation therapy, physical therapy, etc.

Registered Nursing Roles and Specializations

While normal schooling for registered nurses takes about four years, those in a specialized field will often need additional education, training, and certification. An RN can assume the following roles:

Clinical Nurse Manager

Clinical nurse managers supervise the everyday activities of the nursing unit. They assess the performance of nurses, mentor them, and provide feedback. A clinical nurse manager overlooks the budgets and maintains inventory on supplies, medicines, and equipment.

Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists are advanced practice nurses who work with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and medical professionals in order to deliver anesthesia for surgical procedures. They care for patients before, after, and during surgery.

Labor and Delivery Nurse

Labor and delivery nurses, also known as midwives, care for women during their delivery, take care of newborn babies, treat any complications including emergency conditions like low infant body temperature or an irregular birth, and educate mothers and families. They possess excellent critical thinking and quick decision-making skills.

Patient Educator

These nurses develop educational programs for individuals in health care settings. Patient educators also explain at-home care and treatment to patients and their families.

Chief Nursing Officer

Chief nursing officers possess the highest position in the nursing industry. They direct the staff nurses and nurse managers. They also design and execute patient care plans.

Critical Care Nurse

Critical care nurses assess patients and implement necessary care plans accordingly. They work in ICUs, pediatric intensive care units, and neonatal and cardiac units, where regular supervision is required.


As of 2018, the average income of a registered nurse was $36.30 per hour and $75,510 per year. However, income may vary greatly in this profession depending on location and specialty.


The following skills are vital for registered nurses:

  • Communication;
  • Quick reaction time;
  • Empathy;
  • Compassion;
  • Critical thinking;
  • Ability to stay calm under pressure;
  • Strong constitution;
  • Good work ethic.

Work Environment

The profession of a registered nurse comes along with major responsibilities. It is a challenging vocation that demands versatility and alertness. The work environment for RNs can present a lot of potential issues and stressors, so it is a good idea to both understand the workplace, and be prepared to answer candid interview questions about stress, communication, and coping skills when applying for a job.

Registered nurses work in different areas of the healthcare sector, including hospitals, clinics, schools, rehabilitation centers, outpatient and mental health facilities, ambulatory care centers, and private physician’s clinics. They may also work in community centers, schools, and patients’ homes.

As a registered nurse, you are expected to be prepared for working long hours. You may have to work on weekends, holidays, and even during night shifts. These professionals spend most of their time walking, standing, lifting, and bending. They are also supposed to work closely with patients suffering from infectious diseases.

Career Outlook

One of the benefits of a career in nursing is a high and growing demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the registered nursing profession will grow quickly in the coming years. Between 2018 and 2028, the BLS projects 12% growth in the industry. Increases in the elderly population and easy access to health care services are some of the reasons for the growth of demand for these professionals.

Moreover, because older people often prefer to receive treatment at home, the demand for registered nurses in residential care facilities will likely rise. Overall, nurses will have immense job opportunities in the future.

quick RN guide links