Despite unpredictable working conditions, long hours and stressful environments, the high pay and industry demands continue to attract a large number of aspiring individuals into the nursing profession– one of the most challenging career paths related to medicine. From a nurse station to retirement communities, the work assignments of nurses can vary greatly from one another. Hence, it is of high importance to carefully consider where you would want to render your services as a professional. For guidance, consider some of these working environments for nurses to get a better picture of this medical professional’s duties and responsibilities.
Nurses working in hospitals and similar medical facilities
Undeniably one of the most common work environments for the profession, hospitals employ a great number of nurses to assist other medical professionals such as doctors and surgeons in their work. Some nurses provide general care such as the general staff nurse, while others have specializations such as the critical care nurse in intensive care units and emergency rooms and obstetric nurses in delivery rooms.
General staff nurses
General staff nurses are the most common kind of nurses found in hospitals, and they can be Registered Nurses (RNs) or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). They are responsible for a wide array of tasks such as:
- Monitoring patient health conditions
- Administering medication and treatment
- Maintaining patient hygiene such as baths
- Changing bed sheets and making the patients' beds
- Ensuring patients' overall safety and comfort during recovery
Aside from the above, general staff nurses also spend time in anurse station to process data in charts and prepare reports whenever they are not directly attending to a patient’s needs.
Critical care nurses
More commonly known as intensive care unit nurses (ICU nurses) or Emergency Room nurses (ER nurses), these specialized nurses watch over patients in critical conditions such as those who have just suffered and are recovering from heart attacks, shocks, strokes, or severe trauma. Critical care nurses have more or less the same duties and responsibilities as general staff nurses, though there are a few tasks that are innate to the nature of their work such as:
- Providing assistance to other medical professionals during procedures such as surgeons during surgeries
- Ensuring that medical equipment such as monitors are fully functional
Because of the critical condition of the patients they are looking after, critical care nurses need good communication skills and quick decision-making capabilities to respond well to stressful situations. More often than not, hospitals only employ RNs with years of prior experience in general patient care as critical care nurses. Some places also require additional education and certifications to qualify as intensive care units and emergency room nurses such as the Critical Care Nurse certification examination administered in countries such as the US and Canada.
An obstetric nurse is another specialized nurse found in hospitals that focus on medical care for pregnant women and children. Aside from hospitals, some obstetrician and gynecologist private clinics also employ obstetric nurses to aid them in their work. Some of the duties of an obstetric nurse include:
- Caring for women in all stages of pregnancy
- Monitoring the post-natal health of both the mother and the child
- Giving advice for women who are seeking to get pregnant
- Assisting patients during delivery
- Educating patients about infant care and postnatal care for mothers
To become an obstetric nurse, one has to undergo additional training and experience in handling pregnant women. Obstetric nurses are often found in the delivery room, hospital nursery, ornurse station.
Nurses employed by doctors in private physician clinics
If you really love the nursing profession but do not see yourself working endless shifts in a hospital, working as a nurse in private physician clinics can provide you with an 8-hour shift option. Work assignments of nurses in private clinics are slightly different than those in hospitals such as:
- Performing telephone call triage (triage, the process of sorting patients according to the one that needs the most immediate medical attention to the least one)
- Answering patient inquiries both in person or on the phone
- Assessing patient vital signs before the doctor talks to them
- Administering vaccinations, injections, and other medications that involve a medical professional’s assistance
- Collecting, recording and notifying patients' laboratory and test results
- Setting up equipment and tools before procedures
Nurses working in private physician clinics also perform clerical work such as updating records, cleaning stockrooms, maintaining medical supplies and equipment, and processing paperwork for patients during operations. Both RNs and LPNs can be employed in private physician clinics. Competition for staff nurse positions in physician clinics is often tough and stiff due to the attractive convenience offered by the fixed hours of duty.
Nurses involved in providing long-term care for patients
Long-term care nurses are medical professionals who provide healthcare to individuals who are suffering from health problems and disabilities that are projected to affect them for the long term such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson's. Long-term care for patients is often very personal and intimate due to the one on one set up. Aside from the medical care and attention they provide, long-term care nurses often form friendly relationships with their patients, even turning into their companions.
A great deal of emotional maturity and communication skills are important for long-term care nurses to provide the appropriate attention their patient needs. Long-term care nurses have similar duties and responsibilities as nurses in hospitals, except that they are more often stationed in nursing homes, retirement communities, or even in the comfort of the patient’s own home. Due to the constant rise of elderly populations in most western countries and some eastern ones, the demand for long-term care nurses is forecasted to increase in the future.
Nurses in military bases, camps, clinics, and hospitals
Nurses are also present among military personnel including in special branches such as the navy, air force, and coast guard, and they can hold various military positions. These nurses often treat active or retired medical personnel and are sometimes deployed with military troops in dangerous war zones and other areas of conflict to treat gunshot wounds, mutilated limbs and other injuries soldiers receive during hours of battle. Because of the nature of their work, it is also unavoidable for military nurses to incorporate listening to their patients’ emotional problems and psychological woes as part of their responsibility to look after the overall well-being of military troops.
To become a military personnel with a medical background, one must adhere to strict requirements and be able to cope with tough military physical training. Although the stakes are high, nurses in the military enjoy a wide range of benefits and advantages such as good pay, free advanced education and training, and better job security. The government also shoulders the expenses of maintaining your licenses.
Nurses involved in charitable and missionary work
It is still a well-known fact up to this day that there are several undeveloped or underdeveloped places in the world that do not have access to proper medical care. With that in mind, some non-government organizations, charitable institutions, humanitarian, and even religious groups such as the World Health Organization’s Charity Doctors and Doctors Without Borders, employ numerous medical professionals such as nurses to aid them in their advocacies. It could be a simple medical mission to raise health awareness or large-scale missionary work in foreign countries.
Missionary nurses often travel around the world, especially to its impoverished areas to provide much-needed medical care to those who are unable to afford such services. Missionary nurses also educate their less-fortunate patients on a very basic, yet important health practices such as proper hygiene. They also provide emotional and psychological care for their patients and in the case of missionary nurses in religious groups, spiritual enlightenment and guidance.
Work assignments of nurses in missionary activities can sometimes involve tasks that are not medically related such as helping in the construction of roads, buildings, wells, and other important infrastructures that are essential in aiding the development of poor communities. If you are passionate about traveling around the world, getting exposure to different and interesting cultures, learning new languages, and helping people in need with the use of your skills, then working as a missionary nurse may be the perfect fit for you.
Despite its several drawbacks and challenges, the nursing profession is indeed one of the most interesting, exciting, and diversified career paths one can choose to take on in life. With all these several work environments to choose from, chances are always high that there will always be an option that fits your preferences. In the long run, this will offer you the best avenue to put to work all those years spent in medical school and give you the best working experience. After all, nothing can be much nobler than working to save other people’s lives, right?
- Undeniably one of the most common work environments for the nursing profession is the hospital. In hospitals, nurses can specialize based on units.
- Nurses can work in intense environments like the emergency room or intensive care unit.
- Private doctors' offices need nurses, too.