13 Responsibilities of Nurses (Plus Skills and Specialities)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Nurses are essential parts of the health care industry because they provide bedside care and support for the medical team. Nurses can work in many areas, but they share many of the same responsibilities. If you're interested in becoming a nurse, learning more about their responsibilities can be beneficial. In this article, we list 13 essential responsibilities of nurses, describe what a nurse does and provide their average salary.

13 primary responsibilities of nurses

The responsibilities of a nurse may vary depending on where they work, what licenses they have and how experienced they are. Here are some of the most common tasks nurses manage:

1. Recording medical history and symptoms

As a nurse, you use paper and pen or computerised systems to track and monitor their patients' symptoms. By recording vitals, daily activity and medication dosages, you can determine how much a patient has improved or declined while under care. When helping patients recover from accidents or injuries, you set goals for them and record their medical information to determine if they're meeting goals. Recording medical history is also important because it provides other health care professionals with a reliable account of the person's previous symptoms and conditions.

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2. Administering medications and treatments

Nurses can administer medications to their patients to relieve pain and treat conditions. It's important that you monitor medications and keep a record of when patients receive them. You have a thorough understanding of how different medications can interact with one another and what the maximum dosage of each medication is for different patients. You may also administer treatments like nebulisers, chemotherapy or physical therapy.

3. Collaborating with teams for patient care

Nurses play a vital role in collecting information from patients and sharing it with the rest of their medical team. Because this is such a key responsibility for those in the nursing profession, you have excellent verbal and written communication skills to effectively collaborate with physicians and other health care providers. Clear, concise communication can also ensure that patients and their family members understand all of the information you provide.

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4. Performing diagnostic tests

A diagnostic test is a process in which the nurse gathers information to determine the cause of the patient's symptoms. You take patient vitals to determine the current health status of each patient. This includes blood pressure, temperature, respiration and pulse. You may also take vitals and take part in other diagnostic testing, like blood sampling and ECGs. You perform or help with preventative screenings like breast exams, colonoscopies and physical exams.

5. Monitoring patients' health

Nurses carefully monitor and observe their patients to record any symptoms or relevant information that may lead to a diagnosis or a change in their treatment plan. This may involve carefully checking patient records to ensure they list all correct medications and dosages, maintaining intravenous (IV) lines by changing them frequently and monitoring the patient's vital signs. You also pay close attention to non-verbal cues from your patients to help them identify underlying causes for their health-related issues.

6. Providing support and advice to patients

It's important to make sure patients feel cared for, listened to and understood, especially when you come to deliver challenging medical news. Patients often look to you for support and advice to help them process their diagnoses and determine what steps they can take next. Nurses who are empathetic towards patients and their family members can provide comfort and guidance during these situations. You may also equip your patients with effective coping strategies or provide them with inpatient and outpatient resources.

7. Operating medical equipment

Nurses use a wide variety of diagnostic tools to care for their patients, including stethoscopes, glucometers, pulse oximeters, thermometers and blood pressure machines. Depending on where you work and what licenses you hold, you can also complete further training to operate more specialised machinery, such as intravenous infusion pumps, ventilation equipment and wound drainage systems. Having a strong background in technology and mathematics can help you to properly operate medical equipment and analyse the results.

8. Conducting physical examinations

Nurses often conduct a physical examination of patients at the beginning of their visit to assess their overall health. This may involve taking the patient's temperature, recording their weight, monitoring their heartbeat and checking their blood pressure. This examination may also include testing the patient's reflexes, checking their lymph nodes and examining their eyes, ears, nose and throat. The physical examination provides you and the rest of the medical team with a current update on the patient's health and an opportunity to talk to patients about their health goals and concerns.

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9. Educating patients about how to manage an illness

Part of a nurse's role is to educate their patients about various medical conditions and provide simple instructions on how they can manage their symptoms. This can include explaining what medications the patient is to take, when the patient can schedule a follow-up appointment and instructions for rehabilitative exercises or practices. You may also explain additional post-treatment home care needs to a patient's family or caregiver. This can include recommendations for the patient's diet and nutrition, exercise routine and physical therapy.

10. Advocating for the health and well-being of patients

To properly care for their patients and ensure their safety, nurses may often act as advocates for their health and overall well-being. This can involve translating the medical information or diagnosis a doctor provides to ensure the patient understands the important details, encouraging patients to ask questions or connecting patients with resources at another facility that's better suited for their needs. You can also advocate for your patients by taking the time to actively listen to their concerns, respecting their wishes and communicating what the patient wants with their family or other staff members.

11. Providing basic bedside care

Nurses can provide bedside care by attending to patients and listening to their concerns. They may provide food and drink additional comfort items and help reposition the patient. They can provide emotional support and advocate for the patient when speaking to other health care facilities. Bedside care can also include taking regular vitals, checking on the patient and ensuring they're taking their medication as the doctor prescribes.

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12. Training and educating staff

Another responsibility that nurses have is to train new and incoming staff. You provide guidance and advice for brand new nurses, teaching them how to perform procedures in a setting outside the classroom and tricks for making the job easier. You can also train new staff members by teaching them where resources are, what their daily schedules look like and providing information about each patient in the facility or on their floor.

13. Maintaining inventory

Depending on the nurse and where they work, they may maintain inventory. This can include reviewing and ordering important medical supplies like bandages, saline, tools, socks, cups and splints. This responsibility is more common for charge nurses or those leading teams of nurses. Nurses who work in long-term facilities may also be more likely to perform duties related to maintaining inventory, as they may restock patients' rooms and ensure they have the materials they need.

Nurse work environment

Nurses are health care professionals who work directly with patients to help them recover and treat conditions. They provide bedside care, diagnose disease and maintain a clean and safe environment. They often work in fast-paced, challenging environments and may work long shifts, depending on the facility in which they work. Many hospitals schedule their nurses in twelve-hour shifts and require them to change from overnight to during the day.

Nurses spend most of their shifts on their feet, restocking rooms, addressing concerns and directing visitors. Depending on where they work, they may perform rounds several times per their shift in which they check on each patient, administer medication and take vitals. Nurses may work in a variety of industries, including:

  • hospitals

  • clinics

  • doctors' offices

  • schools

  • correctional facilities

  • homeless shelters

  • rehabilitation centres

  • senior care homes

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How much are nurses paid?

How much a nurse can earn depends on their skills, experience, speciality, location and the organisation they work for. The average salary of a nurse is $359,862 per year. Your earnings can also depend on your licensure, education and certifications. For example, the average salary of a registered nurse is $454,585 per year.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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