What Does a RN do?

  1. I am starting my college classes to get an associate degree, in one month. I've read several books and watch alot of discovery health and TLC shows. I come onto this allnurses.com site often and want to know WHAT DOES A RN DO, in a days work.
  2. Visit prenurse profile page

    About prenurse

    Joined: Apr '01; Posts: 27
    Specialty: 1 year(s) of experience in ED


  3. by   Kaliko69

    I have a feeling there isnt enough room for them to tell you what all they do in a day.


  4. by   justanurse
    clock in
    get report
    look over patient's chart/orders/medication sheets/labs
    search down thermometer/bp cuff
    answer phone
    do assessment on one patient: introduce yourself, vs's, neuro check, listen to heart sounds/breath sounds/bowel sounds, assess skin, assess dressings/drains/iv's/foley, converse calmly and reassuringly with your patient, do patient education for any tests/surgery patient is to have today
    repeat assessment for each patient
    answer phone again, inform family of patient status, educate about patient disease or condition
    answer 2 call lights: bedpan, get cola, pain medication, etc
    give first round of medications for shift
    day shift: bathe each patient (or at least set-up if you're lucky enough to have a patient who can bathe self), change linens, do dressing care
    night shift: provide pm care (fresh pillow case, back care, mouth care, tucking in, sleeping pill, etc)
    plan for turns q2 hours, back care, oral care for patients who are totals, or just needing assistance
    make rounds with doctor, look up lab work and x-ray reports, explain to doctor why they're not already on the chart, try to find out information for doctor that is on chart while he/she is in possession of chart
    spend 5-10 minutes deciphering illegible handwriting of doctor, usually asking at least 2 other persons to help
    send patient to surgery: make sure correct paperwork is signed and on chart, medications are given, family is instructed to wait in the appropriate waiting room, while telling another family that you'll be with them in "just a few minutes"
    spend 10-15 minutes explaining to patient and/or family just what doctor said/meant
    chart everything in descriptive detail
    answer 4 more call lights and two more phone calls
    make rounds with several more doctors (30% have only 1 doc, 40% have 2 docs, and the rest have 3-5 docs), all the while smiling and being congenial/helpful in providing information and pleasantly listening to the bs that oozes around you
    go to bathroom
    pass more medications
    restart iv, praying silently after patient informs you "it took the last nurse 6 tries to get it"
    admit new patient: full assessment, obtain history, assess for home needs, list medications, list belongings (dentures, rings, glasses, etc) call doctor for orders, get water pitcher, stock bathroom, inform patient of orders received, perform orders received, inform family of visiting times/phone numbers/orders received, etc
    send patient for test
    check all your charts for new orders and transcribe medications onto medication sheets, sign off orders
    do accuchecks
    check patient back in from test: reposition for comfort, obtain vs's if needed, check any puncture wounds made during test, order meal tray for patients who have been npo, etc
    pass meals
    obtain sandwich and eat quickly
    pass more medications, call pharmacy to ask about new medication that has not arrived
    obtain i&o's: clear iv pumps, empty foley's, ask patient about intake/output not recorded
    restart another iv
    send another patient for test
    place foley in new admit, pray it actually does "wink" at you
    check patient back in from surgery: get vs flow sheet and fill in all times, get vs, check dressing/tubes/drains, review orders, give pain medication, hang proper iv fluids, ensure proper diet ordered (or family/patient informed of npo), complete all other orders
    say good-bye to secretary as they are being sent to another department and sit down to enter your orders in computer
    answer 7 call lights while sitting at desk and 15 phone calls, inform other staff of requests of patients and direct phone calls to appropriate people
    get vs on fresh surgery patient, repeat often until all times completed
    pass more medications
    do anything/everything you have orders to do, but have not yet done, do patient education for tests/surgery patient is to have tomorrow
    give report on your patients
    chart everything in detail, making sure to not leave one thing out, fill in all blanks, remembering that if you didn't chart it you didn't do it
    clock out
    get belongings
    go home
    eat a bite
    visit with family 30-60 minutes
    go to bed, sleep 5-6 hours
    get up, go to work
    clock in.........

    Does this help any?
    I know there are so many more things that are done in a day's work. This does not even begin to include the specialized things that each area does. Be your unit ICU, CCU, telemetry, ortho, med/surg, respiratory, onc, etc. Your patient load may be from 1 to ?? One patient doesn't sound like much, but that patient will be in ICU/CCU and have multiple tubes, machines, therapeutic gtts, pages of orders to do, pages of medications to give, arrhythmias, are full-codes on death's door with 15 family members waiting to come in. And, even if you have 8-10 patients on the "regular" floor, you may have 2-3 total care's that need frequent treatments and who, 3-4 years ago would have been in the unit.

    Good luck in school!!!!!!!
    Nursing is so much more than any media can make it out to be.
    Anything else someone would like to add?
  5. by   Ellen in Ont
    That about summs up a typical day on the floor! And it sounded like a pretty good day at that (you got to the bathroom AND grabbed a bite to eat). Can I add: consulting with the multidisciplin team (physio, respiratory, pharmacy etc) and co-ordinating care delivery with them; spending long times on the phone looking for staff for the next shift; looking up drugs, treatments, or diseases you are not familiar with (you learn at least one thing new every shift); answering the questions from junior staff, students, etc in as pleasant and helpful a way as possible to encourage them to not be afraid to ask if they are ever in doubt about something; learning about new equipment, prodedures, policies etc.; and trying to keep one ear on everything that happens in the unit so you can relieve for breaks or assist where necessary. You were right that nursing is so varied that every specialty would have it's own unique list as well. Great summary justanurse! P.S. I never call myself just a nurse (please don't take that as criticism of your name, I don't know how to put in one of those smiley faces). When people ask me why I didn't go into medice to be a doctor, I reply that I wanted something more challenging - so I chose nursing!
  6. by   prenurse
    WOW!!! Thank you so much for replying. I don't think I really thought about how much information that question required when I asked it. BUT IT DOES help me out, and surely answered my question. Thank you so much for your time, and everyone who replyed. I really appreciate it. This site has been VERY helpful. Lots of information on lots of different topics. I can hardly wait to start next month!!!

    [This message has been edited by prenurse (edited April 26, 2001).]
  7. by   jamistlc
    Greetings All Nurses,

    I commend you on asking this simple question. I thought mistakinly that all nurses were the same, so when I was accepted into a nursing program I jumped, no second thoughts. Just joy for getting in!

    The program was for LPN not RN, first error, second, it did not have college credits! Do not get me wrong I mean if I could do it over those two items would be factors greater than just getting in! I am glad to be an LPN, I have carreer goals though that require more than that! They require a RN, minimally!

    To be forsure make sure the program has college credits and is not a diploma one (hospital based). So that if and when you want to go further you can have credit for what you already have. I have cousin who gradusted as her school was switching to be a BSN program from a Diploma program and she complains about it all the time, "It is not fair, I did almost all the same classes'...."

    Do not take a path that makes you bitter! I am not bitter just realistic. I will have to start over and retake alot of courses and clinicals again. Why because I was just happy to get in and leaped without looking!

    Visit my web site at <A HREF="http://www.geocities.com/4birthing" TARGET=_blank>http://www.geocities.com/4birthing
    </A>Have a Blessed and Peaceful Day,
  8. by   justanurse
    Hi, Ellen & all,
    I picked "justanurse" as my name on here partly in fun of what people think of us. Oh, she's just a nurse, it's the doctor who does all the work and makes all the decisions, and saves your life. Yeah, right! It's really that NURSE who does something about what is going on with the patient, seeing as how he/she is there the other 23 hours and 55 minutes of the day. Sometimes even to the point of suggesting to the doctor what to order for the patient.
  9. by   mustangsheba
    Justanurse: I like it! You did great answering the question. And, believe me Prenurse, this is not an exaggeration! The very thought of answering your question well boggled my mind. Thank you!
  10. by   tillie1
    Originally posted by prenurse:
    I am starting my college classes to get an associate degree, in one month. I've read several books and watch alot of discovery health and TLC shows. I come onto this allnurses.com site often and want to know WHAT DOES A RN DO, in a days work.
    prenurse..justanurse did a great job answering your original question. I would suggest, it at allpossible that you look into working part time as a cna while you are getting your prereqs. Especially if you have no medical experience, working as a cna would give you a chance to see what floor nursing is about, the roles cna's and rn's play and help you decide if you really know wht you are getting into. good luck and keep us "posted" on how you are doing

  11. by   leesonlpn
    Justanurse - you forgot to mention emptying your leg bag! I find mine is good for 12hours LOL
  12. by   Isthisforme?
    With reading the replies to this question, I have to ask... Do you enjoy your job? What are the hours like? I am thinking of going to school to be an RN (and hopefully more) in January and I am nervous! I do not have any medical experience, but been interested in the field for a long time now. Any recommendations?

    Thank you!
  13. by   prospectivestu
    Hello everone..I am a prospective nursing student and i want to know if a regsitered nurse also has to clean bedpans , bathe patients and to be more specific clean or dress the private parts of males..? Please reply
  14. by   prospectivestu
    Hi isthisforme i am in a similar situation to what u mentioned..and i am quite apprehensive about going in for this career because of the type of the comments about it i got from several people. some of them i have mentioned in my question above. This field does attract me but i still want to reconsider all the aspects of the job. If you have any information about it please let me know.