It has often been said that you have to walk a mile in someone else's shoes to truly understand what they go through. I say the same is true in your case. There is so much more to it than you can see from where you are, and I can say this with certainty, having been a CNA for four + years BEFORE I became a med-surg RN. I have said many times that I would've stayed a CNA forever, if the pay matched the work. I think we can both agree that it does not even come close. I wonder sometimes if that isn't part of the whole CNA vs. RN struggle...
Anyway, you asked what we do all day... and I must say that we, like you, probably do a lot of things that you never see us doing. Passing meds involves making sure that the pt. isn't allergic to the meds, that the meds have actually been ordered properly, and that we are giving the right meds to the right pt. at the right time. Multiple that times 5-10 meds per pt. times 5-6 pts., times multiple med passes during the day, and you can see that this could get quite time consuming. We have to call doctors-and wait for them to call back, and call back when they don't. We have to try to decipher their impossible handwriting and endure their condescending remarks when we politely attempt to clarify their hastily written orders.
We are taking pts. to the bathroom, cleaning them up, and bringing them new gowns. We are trying to prevent respiratory failure, heart attacks, and other complications, by being in tune with thorough assessments, and any subtle changes that we pick up. We are bringing our pts. water, snacks, and checking their blood sugars so they don't bottom out. Did you know that any blood sugar below 60 means that the pt. brain isn't getting energy to function on. (And why it is so important that you tell us these kinds of numbers.) We are monitoring low blood pressures, high blood pressures and dealing with unreasonable family members.
The list goes on and on and on and...Believe me. The level of responsibility that an RN carries on his or her shoulders is unbelievable. And I think what you most need to hear, rather than an accounting of minute by minute of our day, is how much we appreciate the care that you provide to our pts. Hopefully, we do that as a team, as the design was intended. Your job was created out of necessity. We need you to be the eyes and ears for us, and we appreciate your notifying us of changes that you see. The pts. trust you more than they trust the RN, or even (especially) their own doctors. That should be something very meaningful to you. You have one of the most important jobs in the whole hospital. I am sorry that your compensation may not match that fact, but it is still true, and something to be proud of.
I cannot say that all nurses work as hard as others. This job is like any other, you have the good, and you will always have those who look for ways to get out of doing their fair share. I believe that life works that all out in the end. And you will find that the only thing that matters is kindness. And hopefully, that is what you have provided to your pts. each time that you work.