What Do Nurses Do? A Detailed Summary

Nurses are indispensable members of the healthcare system, offering essential support across various settings including hospitals, clinics, community centers, and home care. They play a pivotal role in patient care, serving as caregivers, educators, and critical resources for families and communities.

This article delves into the multifaceted responsibilities and roles of nurses, highlighting the depth and breadth of their vital contributions to health care.

Clinical Care and Patient Management

At the core of nursing is direct patient care. Nurses assess the health status of patients by taking vital signs, administering physical exams, and gathering health histories. Based on these assessments, they formulate nursing diagnoses that address the needs and conditions of the patient. A significant part of a nurse’s role is to implement and coordinate the patient care plan, working collaboratively with other healthcare professionals.

Nurses administer medications and treatments prescribed by physicians, monitoring patients for side effects and effectiveness. They are trained to perform various medical procedures, including injections, wound care, and the management of intravenous lines. In emergency rooms, nurses are often the first point of contact, where they must quickly assess patient conditions and prioritize urgent care.

Education and Counseling

Nurses also serve as educators—a role that is crucial in promoting health, preventing disease, and helping patients cope with illness. They teach patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries, explaining post-treatment home care needs, dietary restrictions, and rehabilitation exercises. Nurses may conduct classes or one-on-one sessions to educate the public or specific groups on health conditions, prevention techniques, and lifestyle choices that lead to better health outcomes.

Advocacy and Ethical Care

Advocacy is another key responsibility. Nurses advocate for the health, welfare, and rights of their patients, ensuring they receive optimal care. This involves speaking out against policies or practices that might compromise patient care or dignity, and supporting patients in understanding their treatment options and rights.

Ethically, nurses are bound to uphold principles like autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice in their practice. They often find themselves navigating ethical dilemmas, such as end-of-life care decisions or conflicts over consent to treatment, where they must balance respect for patient choices with medical advisability and legal requirements.

Emotional and Psychological Support

Nurses routinely provide emotional support to patients facing stress due to illness, injury, or hospitalization. This psychological support also extends to families who may be coping with a loved one’s acute or chronic condition. Nurses must exhibit a high degree of empathy and effective communication skills, helping to alleviate fear and anxiety and offering comfort during difficult times.

Administrative Duties

Beyond direct patient care, nurses often have administrative responsibilities. These can include documenting care in patient records, coordinating with other healthcare services (such as laboratories and pharmacies), and managing supplies. In leadership roles, nurses also oversee other nursing staff, manage departmental budgets, and participate in health policy planning.

Specialized Nursing Roles

Nursing encompasses a variety of specialty areas that require specific knowledge and skills. Some of the specialized fields include:

  • Pediatric Nursing: Focused on the care of infants and children, pediatric nurses address growth and development issues, vaccination schedules, and common childhood illnesses.
  • Oncology Nursing: These nurses care for cancer patients, administering chemotherapy, monitoring side effects, and supporting patients through treatment challenges.
  • Geriatric Nursing: Working with elderly patients, geriatric nurses manage the aging process, chronic health issues, and end-of-life care.
  • Surgical Nursing: Surgical nurses assist in operating rooms, helping with procedures, managing surgical equipment, and providing post-operative care.

Public Health and Research

Many nurses engage in public health efforts, working to improve community health outcomes through education and public policy advocacy. Nurses also contribute to medical and healthcare research, collecting data and conducting studies to advance the knowledge of health practices, outcomes, and care.


The role of nurses is extensive and varied, reflecting the complexity and diversity of healthcare itself. Nurses not only provide direct patient care but also engage in a wide range of supportive, educational, and leadership activities that are crucial to the healthcare system. Their unique blend of skills, knowledge, and compassion makes them indispensable in the pursuit of health and well-being across populations.

As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, nurses will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role in shaping future health services, policy, and research.

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