There is a routine in every workplace and duties can be repetitive throughout the year. As a nurse, no day is the same, and every moment is eventful. Some days are bearable and a breeze to go through, while some days are hectic and longer. As patients continue to come and go, nurses are required to think quickly at every problem they come across.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses specifically have some of these responsibilities:
- Assist physicians in providing patient care
- Educate the patients about certain medical conditions
- Provide support to the patients’ family members
- Operate medical equipment
- Record the patients’ medical history and symptoms
Given such duties, nurses can have unpredictable work schedules. Some have to stretch longer than the time they have to clock out. In reality, the day-to-day tasks can be intricate; hence, a typical nurse schedule can vary. Here is a detailed sample of what they do throughout the day:
Talking to night nurses and reviewing outpatient records: As a nurse arrives at work, speaking with previous night nurses can give an idea of how many patients they will deal with and how the day may go.
Collaborating with doctors and going over patient tests: Other duties include checking the e-mail, reviewing doctors' notes, and checking to see if there are any medications or tests to be administered. Nurses usually assess who is in the most critical condition. They occasionally take vitals for the patients and use a computer to chart their data.
Setting up medical equipment: Any testing equipment needed is set up, especially for early morning patients. Nurses can make a call to ensure that the set-up will be on time.
From lunch hours stretching beyond, this is the typical nurse schedule where rounds usually get quite hectic. Nurses can be called in and get interrupted at any point of the day, depending on the amount of emergency there is in certain situations. There are also days where nurses can only eat a portion of their lunch to get to their patients in critical conditions.
Nurses can deal with three or more patients per day: Patient needs vary, and depending on the reports, they have a chance to be discharged. Nurses continue to collect data, review procedures, and perform other assessments. They can look into the heart, lungs, and IV fluids, as well as other issues such as blood pressure and temperature. They continue to administer medications and take care of the patient’s individual needs, which may include changing dresses and tube feeding.
Get paperwork/reports together: After every assessment done on patients, nurses arrange comprehensive paperwork for their findings. This can aid them in identifying what possible complications may arise. Reports can also be used to track the progress of the patients until their next assessment.
Educate the patients: Nurses have an equal responsibility to teach aside from caring for their patients. They make sure that their patients are educated about their condition and the possible treatments. One specific example to educate is through discharge prescriptions. In prescribing medications to patients who are about to be discharged, nurses verify the name, the purpose, and the dosage instructions.
At the end of a typical nurse schedule, the next batch of nurses for the night comes in, and they are given reports about the day. Working on the night shift presents its own challenges and requires significant adjustments in one’s personal life. Depending on the facility, the shift may start as early as 8:00 p.m. or as late as 11:00 p.m. The routine for night-shift nurses are more or less the same for those working in the morning, but emergency cases can happen a lot at these hours despite the peace and quiet in the late shift. Nevertheless, here are some things that night-shift nurses do:
Receive reports from day-shift nurses: The night can typically start with getting the report on all current patients from the day-shift nurses. This can give an idea on who needs immediate care and the like. This process is similar to when the day-shift nurses speak with the night-shift nurses for the kind of patients they have to deal with.
Vitals and medications: The night-shift nurses similarly get vitals and administer medications to any of the patients who need it, going from room to room.
Clean and answer call lights: Sometime around the night, nurses can do other tasks as they are asked. One of them might be cleaning items. An example would be collecting and cleaning out bedpans. Nurses are also asked to answer call lights, where the patients can press the bedside button to signal the nursing station that they have a need that requires their attention.
Follow up on schedules: As some patients are scheduled for tests the next day, the nurses speak with the departments before they close up. They make sure that the procedure is already arranged as scheduled or ask questions about whether or not more preparations should be made.
Going through patient charts: As there are lesser interruptions in the night shift, nurses have more time to review the patients’ charts. They are able to interpret laboratory results and learn more about the medical history of these people, which can improve the nurses’ clinical knowledge.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Nurse
With the duties laid out for a typical nurse schedule, there are things to know about what it is really like to be a nurse on a daily basis. More often than not, being a nurse is not like what people see on television. Not everything can be a swift learning experience, and not every encounter with a patient can be rewarding and life-changing. There are some realistic pros and cons of being a nurse, and they balance out each other to create fulfilling experiences.
- Diversity. All nurses have different responsibilities. Some of them combine areas of practice. Nurses can work with patients with heart disease or substance problems. Some nurses also work in labor and delivery or intensive-care units in hospitals. Though they may have specific duties, their typical nurse schedule can be unpredictable at best. This can work up an element of excitement in their profession.
- Making a difference. Although this is already a commonplace view, the daily routine of nurses involves making a difference in people’s lives, because their job simply concerns everyone’s health and welfare. There may be days when nurses can actually save someone’s life in a literal sense, which is a significant impact on both this person and his or her family.
- Flexibility. Nurses work on a variety of schedules and can shift at any point. It is also possible for some nurses to not report to work at a specific time. They can have an “on call” type of schedule wherein they may wait for a phone call to work when needed or when someone has to call in sick, and the nurses have to fill in for them. Nurses can also work in several different places aside from hospitals. For instance, travel nurses are hired in a specific place for a certain amount of time.
- Camaraderie. This profession can be a bonding experience between nurses. They help one another to ensure that they can administer the best care possible for every patient they have. With the right amount of dedication, commitment, perseverance, and compassion for the welfare of the patients, this ought to be the most rewarding kind of profession as this concerns the lives of every individual there is.
- Exposure to illness and bacteria. In reality, the profession itself is risky as many patients have viruses or diseases that can contaminate others. Being exposed to germs and blood may not be an easy experience for many and may take some time to get used to. Nurses who have just started in their profession can have personal cases of sickness that can be overwhelming for their immune system.
- Emergencies can come at any time. There are days when the facility is short on workers and there is an increasing number of patients that require immediate treatment. Nurses have to be quick in dealing with situations as each person has his or her own need. This can happen at any point in a routine, whether a couple of times in a week or daily— depending on the responsibilities. There are also unfortunate moments when nurses have to witness patients not being able to make it, which can be an emotional toll.
- Difficulty in dealing with patients. Nurses have to encounter patients with their respective personalities and problems; some are easy to work with while some are difficult to handle. In this case, nurses may have to adjust accordingly for their patients to cooperate. Some of them can be polite and may thank the nurses for their help. Some are passive and simply say nothing. Some patients can be hot-tempered and demanding.
- Long work hours and adjustments in personal life. A 12-hour shift is the usual nurse schedule in a lot of facilities or hospitals. Adding in an hour of overtime can make for a long day. Being a nurse may require working night shifts, weekends, and holidays. For instance, new registered nurses may cover for less desirable shifts like the weekends. Given these demanding schedules, nurses may have a difficult time adjusting to changes in their personal lives such as spending time with family and friends.
Being in this profession is more than just about earning a name and getting a beneficial salary. It is a privilege to be able to work as a nurse, being granted entrance to a portion of people’s lives and helping them in their progress to get better. Nurses are placed on the front lines of the healthcare field and serve as mediators between the patients and the doctors. The daily life of this profession revolves around the needs of every patient, an experience that can slowly help nurses care for people’s needs more than their own.
- In the morning, nurses should talk to the night nurses and review patient records.
- Educating patients about their condition and treatments is a task any nurse should do.
- Throughout the day, nurses should check on vitals and medications.