“Every day, millions of nurses are on the front lines in the fight to improve the health of all Americans,” said Pamela Cipriano, president of the American Nurses Association. “Whether nurses are by the bedside or in the board room, we continue to be a trusted resource and a vital part of our nation’s health care system.”

For 15 consecutive years, the American public has ranked nurses as the most trusted professionals, with 84 percent of Americans rating nurses’ honesty and ethical standards as “very high” or “high.” Pharmacists occupied the next closest profession, at 17 percentage points behind nurses.

This trust allows nurses to provide quality care, advice and emotional support, educate the public and advocate for people’s health.

Nurse Work: What Do Nurses Do?

Registered nurses typically do the following, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

  Record patients’ medical histories and symptoms
  Administer patients’ medicines and treatments
  Set up plans for patients’ care or contribute to existing plans
  Observe patients and record the observations
  Consult and collaborate with doctors and other health care professionals
  Operate and monitor medical equipment
  Help perform diagnostic tests and analyze the results
  Teach patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries
  Explain what to do at home after treatment

Roles and responsibilities will depend on where nurses practice and the patients they work with. There are many specialties that determine what nurses do on a daily basis. Here are a few settings where nurses work and some common tasks associated with each environment.

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Hospital Nursing

  Help perform medical evaluations and take vitals
  Medication reporting and administration
  Assist doctors in operating rooms
  Provide support for patients following surgery
  Respond to emergencies

Hospitals are the most common work environment for nurses, with 61 percent of registered nurses in state, local and private hospitals, according to the BLS.

Nursing in a Private Medical Office

  Prepare exam rooms, such as by getting exam tables ready, checking otoscope and ophthalmoscope lights for ear and eye tests, turning on computers and getting charts ready for the day
  Check patients’ height, weight and other vitals
  Communicate with and pass information to the doctor
  Administer follow-up tests like MRIs, X-rays and meetings with specialists
  Provide patient education before and after procedures
  Operate medical equipment and maintain medical supplies, inventory and disposal

Seven percent of registered nurses work in physicians’ offices, according to the BLS.

Nursing in Ambulatory Settings

Ambulatory settings include those that exist outside of a hospital. Ambulatory nurses work in a variety of roles in primary care, nursing clinics, managed care facilities, occupational health, community health, infusion and dialysis centers, telehealth and urgent care centers. Roles include dialysis nurses, telehealth nurses and many other specialties, such as hospice nurses, which is one of the most common ambulatory care specialties for nurses.

With 61 percent of registered nurses working in hospitals, the BLS has identified other top employers of registered nurses that can be classified as ambulatory care.

  7 percent in nursing and residential care facilities
  7 percent in offices of physicians
  6 percent in home health care services
  6 percent in government

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Enhancing Your Nursing Career

More hospitals are starting to require that nurses have a bachelor’s degree. By earning an online RN to BSN from Notre Dame of Maryland University, you’ll gain the skills and knowledge needed to enhance your career opportunities in nursing while fulfilling the educational requirements of many health care employers. Most students complete their degree in 15 to 18 months.