10+ Essential Nurse Duties, Roles and Functions

There are dozens of nurse duties and responsibilities LPNs, CNAs, and registered nurses perform daily.

These duties range from administering medication to bedside care and taking continuing education courses.

Each component of nursing care is essential for ensuring patients’ well-being and recovery.

I’ll cover ten common nurse roles completed during a typical day at hospitals, nursing homes, and healthcare facilities.

1. Administering Medications and Fluids

Nurses regularly administer medication to patients with injuries, illnesses, and sicknesses as part of their recovery process.

While administering medication, nurses must manage drug dosages and keep track of their quantities to ensure accuracy. 

Missing medication not only costs healthcare facilities money but also endangers those using drugs without supervision.

Besides medication, nurses administer IV fluids and perform blood transfusions when patients require fluids.

What do Nurses Administer?

  • Distribute drugs/medications (they cannot prescribe medications)
  • Administer IV fluids
  • Initiate blood transfusions

Finally, CNAs, LPNs, and registered nurses do not prescribe medications.

However, some advanced practice registered nurses (nurse practitioners) prescribe medication due to their advanced education and training.

2. Bedside Care and Cleaning of Patients

Nurses perform numerous physical tasks to ensure patient health, safety, and well-being.

To illustrate, nurses provide bedside care by monitoring patients’ vitals and health status, dressing wounds, and other services.

They also bathe, dress, and assist patients with daily chores if they cannot perform these functions themselves.

This involves cleaning poop, vomit, blood, and other bodily fluids when necessary.

The environment nurses work in determines the responsibilities they’re expected to carry out. 

For instance, hospitals, nursing homes, and healthcare facilities help sick and injured patients daily.

Therefore, bedside care, supporting patients with everyday tasks, and cleaning are standard parts of the job.

Alternatively, legal nurse consultants, nurse entrepreneurs, and some nurse practitioners don’t perform these responsibilities due to their career specialty and focus.

3. Conduct Physical/Head-to-Toe Assessments

Many registered nurses who do direct patient care perform basic physical assessments on patients.

The purpose of these assessments is to evaluate a patient’s overall health and identify irregularities/concerns that need to be addressed.

That said, CNAs, LPNs, and registered nurses cannot diagnose a patient’s condition.

They assess the patient’s condition and relay vital information to a nurse practitioner or physician.

Nurse practitioners and physicians have training and education to properly diagnose patients (within their scope of practice).

Physical Assessments Involve

  • Performing blood pressure checks
  • Monitoring and evaluating heart rate and vitals
  • Head-to-toe assessments
  • Drawing blood
  • Notifying physicians/nurse practitioners of irregularities

Lastly, invaluable techniques and evaluation strategies like the ABCs of nursing and the ADPIE nursing process allow nurses to assess and prioritize patient care to maximize well-being and save lives.

4. Educate Patients and Families

Educating patients and families is an essential part of nursing and patient care. 

Education on their medical condition, treatment plan, recovery process, and healthcare updates allows patients to stay informed and make better healthcare decisions.

Breaking down complex medical jargon into simple, understandable information makes medical care easier for everyone involved.

Besides that, nurses answer questions patients and family members have to provide assurance and emotional/psychological support.

5. Give Emotional and Psychological Support

As previously mentioned, providing emotional/psychological support is critical for implementing exceptional patient care.

Nurses must educate and inform patients and understand how to communicate effectively to keep patients and family members emotionally stable.

This is important because unnecessary fear leads to bad decision-making and avoiding life-saving procedures. 

By keeping patients and families positive (or at least emotionally stable), nurses, practitioners, and physicians help them make more rational decisions.

Unnecessary emotional and psychological stress also complicates other patients and families who overhear the concerns of existing patients.

Nurses and medical professionals must maintain patient privacy at all times.

Therefore, keeping patients/family members calm reduces unwanted outbursts and inappropriate conversations that sometimes occur in front of other patients.

Nursing is a dynamic profession that requires just as much emotional intelligence as technical knowledge.

6. Implement and Develop Nursing Care Plans

Nursing care plans allow healthcare professionals to understand and address patient needs and risks based on the patient’s condition.

In short, the nursing care plan provides a process for approaching a patient who needs specific treatment.

It also reduces mistakes, incorrect assessments, and misdiagnoses, harming a patient’s procedure and recovery process.

Nurses learn how to develop and implement care plans while attending nursing school and continue to develop this skill throughout their careers.

Without a good nursing care plan, healthcare professionals would have difficulty determining a patient’s condition and addressing their needs with minimal risk.

7. Managing and Utilizing Medical Equipment

Nurses use various medical equipment when providing patient care.

This includes equipment like stethoscopes,bandage scissors, pulse oximeters, syringes, and safety gear.

However, it also involves special equipment and diagnostic and assessment devices.

For example, utilizing vital monitoring machines, IV pumps, draining systems, ventilation and blood monitoring devices, and life support equipment.

Nurses must understand how to properly utilize these tools (within their scope of practice) to ensure proper patient care and well-being.

They must also ensure the medical equipment is running correctly and sanitize it regularly to minimize cross-contamination.

8. Monitoring Patient Vitals

Nurses must monitor patient vitals regularly to ensure they’re stable before and during treatment and recover properly after a procedure.

Nurses perform most (if not all) of a patient’s care when practitioners and physicians aren’t around.

The vitals nurses monitor and the frequency of monitoring vary depending on the situation.

For example, patients in emergency care require frequent monitoring to ensure their overall stability and well-being.

Nurses also monitor a patient’s vitals more frequently after receiving medication or after being sedated to ensure the medications/drugs don’t have adverse effects.

Conversely, low-risk patients require less frequent monitoring and occasional health checks.

Notably, a lapse in routine monitoring can create significant complications or even lead to death if unchecked.

9. Prepare Rooms and Equipment

Nurses frequently prepare rooms for accepting new patients.

This includes prepping medical equipment, ensuring the room is sanitized, and removing items left by previous patients.

Ensuring a room is prepared correctly reduces the time between patients when immediate care is needed.

It also minimizes cross-contamination of germs and allows medical professionals to provide care with the correct equipment and medications.

Having the correct medication, tools, and equipment available saves healthcare professionals significant time and reduces medical errors.

10. Record and Document the Patient’s Medical History

Nurses record and document their patient’s medical history to identify health problems, gather historical records, and monitor recovery.

Importantly, maintaining healthcare records allows medical professionals to share vital information.

This is particularly useful for nurses, practitioners, and physicians who don’t have a history with a patient and need to be up-to-date on the situation quickly.

Documenting medical data ensures patients receive proper care and helps healthcare professionals develop care plans based on their history and condition.

11. Take Continuing Education Courses

Nurses must take continuing education courses consistently to ensure proper patient care.

Medical information and healthcare practices change regularly as new technology, data, and procedures are developed.

Yesterday’s best procedures may no longer be today’s best practices, and nurses must quickly adapt to reduce patient risks and improve healthcare outcomes.

Nursing is a lifelong practice where education is constantly at the forefront of society’s healthcare system.

There are MSN and DNP degrees in various nursing specialties for nurses who want to advance their careers.

There are currently over 100 nursing specialties, and it’s continually growing, which allows medical professionals to work in a profession that best suits their personality and lifestyle.