Nurses are an essential part of the healthcare system. They work as patient caregivers in both senses of the word. They monitor patient health, treat health conditions, and make decisions for how best to prevent illness and promote health. Nursing is a job that is always on the go, requiring decision making and problem solving. The typical day is full of interactions with a wide variety of people.
The profession is incredibly nuanced, and if someone has ever wanted to walk a mile in a nurse’s shoes to see what the routine and workload is like, it is important to note that a nurse needs supportive quality shoes to carry him or her through the day. The bottom line is that there is no typical day for a nurse, but we have gathered some commonalities for a brief glimpse into a day in the life of these healthcare workers.
The Promise of a New Day
The benefits of being a nurse are apparent for those who love their work. While work can be exhausting or uneventful, every shift has the potential to be momentous. Those who are energized by helping others often find the profession exhilarating no matter what the day brings, and every day is different. Of all medical staff, it is nurses who see people at their most vulnerable and who help those patients return to health.
An Ever-Evolving To-Do List
While every shift is different, there is much consistency in what a nurse does each day or at least each week. Some patient-centric examples include recording patient medical histories, vital signs, and symptoms; performing physical examinations, including drawing blood samples and initiating diagnostic tests; administering medication, wound care, and other treatments; and providing emotional support for patients and their families.
Nurses work closely with other healthcare professionals, interacting with administrative and clerical staff as well as collaborating with physicians and other nurses. If nurses are required to take on administrative duties themselves, they may interact with insurance providers and other care facilities. Each day will likely include some more tedious tasks such as sanitizing and assembling medical equipment, making sure treatment rooms are equipped and prepared, and taking inventory of medication and supplies.
Maintaining accurate and detailed records that follow the proper codes is an essential part of a nurse’s job. These records become part of a patient’s medical log, and everything must be thoroughly and accurately documented to make sure other attendant medical staff have the correct information. Any care administered and any changes in a patient’s condition must be recorded before a nurse leaves for the day.
Nursing for Many Settings
Many things mentioned above are consistent across the nursing profession, but some elements of working as a nurse in a hospital differ from offering care in other settings. These subtle differences resonate with every nurse differently.
Hospitals use rotating shifts to make sure that 24-hour care is provided. Hospital nurses’ schedules, therefore, have a reputation for being long and over irregular hours. At a hospital, a nurse is likely to have a loose schedule of morning rounds, something that resembles a break for lunch (though it may be very brief), afternoon rounds, and charting during end-of-shift reporting and briefing the next nurse on shift. Since hospital nurses are likely to work night shifts and weekends during at least some point of their tenure, “morning” and “afternoon” are relative to their shift, not to the sun’s place in the sky.
Walk-In and Surgical Clinics
Clinics run on regular hours, so nurses who work in clinics are more likely to have shifts that follow a uniform schedule. However, nurses in this role may occasionally have to work additional hours as circumstances dictate, especially in emergency cases. The job is often a blend of routine care and emergency treatment.
Residential and at-home care settings are arguably the most open-ended when it comes to scheduling. They are certainly the most client-specific. Residential care nurses who oversee the severely ill or disabled are scheduled on a shift basis to provide 24-hour at-home care. In settings where the patient is more independent, nurses may follow regular office hours or remain on-call.
Telephone triage nurses, also referred to as telehealth nurses, offer patient care in a remote capacity. While this used to be limited to phone calls, video chat options are spreading quickly across the nation. These nurses assist in an advisory capacity, offering health care advice and helping patients decide whether to seek emergency care or not.
Because their work is remote, telehealth nurses can often reach patients who have otherwise limited access to health care. Telephone triage services such as CareXM operate on a shift basis which allows them to be accessible 24 hours a day. This means constant availability to patients but also often irregular hours (including nights and weekends) for the nurses on the line.
Nurses may also work in more specialized settings, such as educational or legal facilities. Nurses who work in corporate offices or at public schools work normal business hours, correlating with the times business personnel or students need their care. Correctional facilities can also employ one or more nurses to be available, these schedules being less regular. Nurses who work in the court system or as legal consultants provide their expertise when it is called for. Some nurses undertake these roles in addition to full-time work.