A female nurse in an hospital setting utilizes a clipboard.

What Does a Nurse Do in a Typical Work Day?

As a nurse, your role is crucial in providing care and support to patients, as well as collaborating with other healthcare professionals.

Your day-to-day tasks involve assessing patient needs and conditions, administering medications and treatments, monitoring vital signs, and addressing emergencies. You also play a pivotal role in advocating for patients, ensuring their rights and informed consent, and supporting their emotional and psychological well-being.

Let’s dive deeper into the responsibilities and duties of a nurse in a typical work day.

Providing Patient Care

When it comes to patient care, nurses are at the forefront. You are responsible for assessing patient needs and conditions, administering medications and treatments, and monitoring vital signs. This involves performing tasks such as:

  1. Assessing patient needs and conditions: You gather information about the patient’s medical history, current symptoms, and other relevant factors to determine their condition and needs.
  2. Administering medications and treatments: Nurses play a crucial role in administering medications accurately and safely, as well as performing treatments such as wound dressings, IV therapy, and more.
  3. Monitoring vital signs and addressing emergencies: You continuously monitor patient vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels, and respond promptly to any emergencies or changes in their condition.

Collaborating with Healthcare Team

As a nurse, you work closely with physicians, specialists, and other healthcare professionals to ensure coordinated and comprehensive care for patients. This involves:

  1. Communicating with physicians and specialists: You collaborate with doctors and specialists to discuss patient conditions, treatment plans, and any necessary adjustments or interventions.
  2. Coordinating care plans with other healthcare professionals: Nurses play a vital role in coordinating and implementing care plans, ensuring that all members of the healthcare team are working together towards the best outcomes for patients.
  3. Participating in interdisciplinary rounds and meetings: Nurses actively participate in interdisciplinary rounds and meetings, where healthcare professionals discuss patient progress, make decisions, and plan for further care.

Patient Advocacy

A significant aspect of a nurse’s role is advocating for patients and ensuring their rights and well-being. This includes:

  1. Ensuring patient rights and informed consent: Nurses advocate for patient rights, ensuring they are aware of their options, risks, and benefits of treatments, and have the opportunity to give informed consent.
  2. Supporting patients’ emotional and psychological needs: Nurses provide emotional support to patients, helping them cope with their health conditions, alleviate anxiety, and address any psychological concerns.
  3. Facilitating communication between patients and their families: Nurses act as a bridge between patients and their families, helping to facilitate effective communication, address concerns, and provide updates on treatment plans.

Conducting Patient Assessments

One of the primary tasks of a nurse is conducting patient assessments. This involves:

  1. Gathering medical history and current symptoms: Nurses interview patients to gather information about their medical history, current symptoms, and any relevant factors that can help in assessing their condition.
  2. Performing physical examinations: Nurses conduct physical examinations, which may include checking vital signs, listening to the patient’s heart and lungs, and assessing overall physical well-being.
  3. Documenting findings and observations: Nurses document their findings and observations from the assessments in the patient’s medical records, ensuring accurate and clear documentation.

Administering Medications and Treatments

Nurses are responsible for administering medications and carrying out treatments as ordered by physicians. This involves:

  1. Preparing and administering medications: Nurses ensure that medications are prepared accurately, following the prescribed dosage and administration route. They also educate patients on medication use and potential side effects.
  2. Monitoring medication effectiveness and side effects: Nurses monitor patients’ response to medications, assessing their effectiveness and observing for any potential side effects or adverse reactions.
  3. Performing procedures and treatments as ordered: Nurses perform various procedures and treatments, such as dressing changes, wound care, IV therapy, and catheter insertion, following proper protocols and ensuring patient comfort and safety.

Monitoring and Managing Patient Care

Nurses play a crucial role in monitoring and managing patient care on a daily basis. This involves:

  1. Monitoring vital signs and documenting changes: Nurses continuously monitor patient vital signs, document any changes or abnormalities, and take appropriate action if necessary.
  2. Assisting with activities of daily living (ADLs): Nurses help patients with their activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, eating, and mobility, ensuring their comfort and maintaining their hygiene.
  3. Responding to patient calls and addressing concerns: Nurses promptly respond to patient calls, address their concerns, and provide the necessary assistance or information. They serve as a point of contact for patients, ensuring their needs are met.

Collaborating and Communicating

Effective collaboration and communication are essential for providing quality care. Nurses actively engage in:

  1. Discussing patient care with healthcare team members: Nurses communicate with other members of the healthcare team, including physicians, specialists, and other nurses, to discuss patient care, treatment plans, and any necessary interventions or adjustments.
  2. Updating patients and families on treatment plans: Nurses regularly update patients and their families on their treatment plans, progress, and any changes or developments that occur.
  3. Educating patients on self-care and medication management: Nurses provide education to patients on self-care practices, medication management, and lifestyle modifications to empower them to take an active role in their own healthcare.

Maintaining Documentation and Records

Accurate and timely documentation is crucial in healthcare. Nurses are responsible for:

  1. Documenting all care provided accurately and timely: Nurses ensure that all care provided to patients is accurately and clearly documented in their medical records. This includes noting any assessments, medications administered, treatments performed, and changes in the patient’s condition.
  2. Ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory standards: Nurses adhere to legal and regulatory standards regarding documentation, ensuring that all documentation meets the required standards for privacy, accuracy, and completeness.
  3. Recording significant events, changes, and interventions: Nurses document any significant events, changes in the patient’s condition, or interventions performed, ensuring a comprehensive and chronological record of the patient’s healthcare journey.

Fulfilling Aspects of the Nursing Profession

While being a nurse comes with its challenges, there are also many fulfilling aspects of the profession.

Making a Positive Impact on Patients’ Lives

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a nurse is the opportunity to make a positive impact on patients’ lives. Nurses build trust and rapport with their patients, providing care and support during their recovery and well-being. By assisting patients with their physical, emotional, and psychological needs, nurses help improve their overall quality of life.

Continual Learning and Professional Growth

Nursing is a profession that requires continual learning and professional growth. As medical advancements occur, nurses must stay updated with new technologies, treatments, and procedures. This allows them to provide the highest level of care to their patients. Nurses also have opportunities to acquire new specialized skills and certifications, which can lead to career advancement and specialization in specific areas of healthcare.

Challenges Faced by Nurses

While nursing is a rewarding profession, it also comes with its challenges.

High Workload and Time Management

Nurses often face a high workload and must manage their time efficiently. Balancing multiple patient assignments and tasks can be demanding, and nurses must prioritize care to ensure that all patients receive the attention they need. Additionally, nurses must be prepared to cope with emergencies and unexpected situations that may arise during their shift.

Emotional and Physical Demands

Nursing can be emotionally and physically demanding. Dealing with patient and family emotions, especially during critical or end-of-life situations, can take a toll on nurses. It is essential for nurses to practice self-care and maintain their personal well-being to prevent burnout and compassion fatigue.


In a typical work day, a nurse’s responsibilities include providing patient care, collaborating with the healthcare team, and advocating for patients. They conduct patient assessments, administer medications and treatments, monitor vital signs, manage patient care, and maintain accurate documentation. While nursing comes with its challenges, the fulfilling aspects of making a positive impact on patients’ lives and continual learning make it a rewarding profession. Nurses play a vital role in the healthcare system, providing compassionate and quality care to those in need.


How often do nurses assess patient needs and conditions?
Nurses assess patient needs and conditions regularly throughout their shift to ensure accurate and timely care.

What are some common medications and treatments that nurses administer?
Nurses administer a wide range of medications and treatments, including oral medications, intravenous (IV) therapy, wound dressings, and breathing treatments.

How do nurses cope with emergencies and unexpected situations?
Nurses are trained to respond quickly and efficiently to emergencies and unexpected situations. They follow established protocols and guidelines to ensure appropriate and effective interventions.

How often do nurses communicate with physicians and specialists?
Nurses communicate with physicians and specialists regularly to discuss patient conditions, treatment plans, and any necessary adjustments or interventions. Effective communication is crucial for providing coordinated care.

What role do nurses play in coordinating care plans?
Nurses play a vital role in coordinating and implementing care plans. They ensure that all members of the healthcare team are working together towards the best outcomes for patients and that care is delivered in a timely and efficient manner.

How do nurses ensure patient rights and informed consent?
Nurses advocate for patient rights by ensuring that patients are aware of their options, risks, and benefits of treatments. They provide information and support to help patients make informed decisions about their care.

What strategies do nurses use to provide emotional support to patients?
Nurses provide emotional support to patients by actively listening, validating their feelings, and offering empathy and reassurance. They create a safe and comforting environment for patients to express their emotions.

How do nurses maintain their personal well-being and practice self-care?
Nurses prioritize their own well-being by engaging in self-care practices such as exercise, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and stress management techniques. They also seek support from peers, mentors, or counselors when needed.