That's because you can't see the nurse's brain working. A nurse is constantly assessing, analyzing, evaluating, and using their knowledge base non-stop. It's anticipating and preventing complications, it's recognizing even slight changes in status to catch that complication before it becomes a larger problem. And then, yes, there's the more complex stuff like running ECMO, checking wedge pressures, managing art lines, or titrating drips.
But even basic stuff, like a med pass, it's not just reading the order and handing over a med, it's knowing which labs to check prior to administering the med, knowing what it treats, why the patient is taking it, is it a safe dose, what side effects and adverse reactions to monitor for, when to hold it, other drug interactions, etc.
How far are you into your first year? Have you started care planning yet? Once you are a nurse, you don't fill out those care plans
like you do in school, but you are constantly running them in your mind all the time. And not just one or two, but 5 or 6 or 10. Don't get me wrong, it's not that you're thinking them in NANDA format. But you're always looking for s/s of sepsis, skin breakdown, PNA, PE, dysrhythmias, IICP, ileus, bleeding, over-sedation (whatever is specific to your patient) and automatically performing those interventions that relate to those diagnoses. It becomes second nature. So that one care plan that took you an hour or two to put together? That nurse has half a dozen of those in her head all.the.time. And they may change or more be added as the shift progresses.
While it may appear that the nurse is not doing much, I promise you, there is a lot happening that you don't comprehend yet. It will come.