If you’ve ever watched a popular medical TV series wondering, “What does a nurse do on a daily basis?” you probably figured out there’s no one sole answer. It depends on the episode. Yet while everyday work may not be quite as dramatic as “Grey’s Anatomy,” nurses certainly experience a variety of patient-care scenarios, even on a quiet day. And many of them are quite rewarding.
But what does a registered nurse do?
No matter the environment or their specific role, nurses check in on patients, provide care and maintain a record of everything they do. They’re expert communicators, keeping colleagues informed on patients’ needs and their patients informed about their condition.
Read on to see how a typical day plays out.
How long are nurses’ shifts?
When navigating your work schedule, you’ll realize that shift lengths can vary. You may work for eight hours one day, but 10-hour or 12-hour shifts are also typical, especially in hospitals.
The time of day also varies, with many healthcare facilities running both day and night shifts. Not sure which is best for you? Read up on the benefits of the night shift here.
How can nurses prepare for the day?
You have a long day ahead, so it’s important to prepare yourself mentally and physically. Apart from proper rest, here are a couple of other things you can do to set yourself up for a stellar day at work:
- Dress for success: Put on your performance scrubs and compression wear. You’ll be on your feet all day, so staying comfortable while avoiding swelling is essential. Wearing the right shoes for your foot type can keep you even more comfortable. And don’t forget to pack all of your accessories, like your face mask, scrub cap, and nursing pouch.
- Get energized: Enjoy your morning (or nighttime) cup of coffee or green tea and a healthy first meal of the day for foods that support your brain and body, like berries, nuts, grains, and fish. Don’t forget to pack your meal(s) for later in the day.
What’s a typical workday for nurses like?
A typical nurse schedule is a bit of a misnomer, considering that every day is different when you’re living the “nurse life.” Plus, nurses practice different specialties, which influences what work they do. Schedules for critical care, emergency room, and surgical nurses could vary significantly from others.
In general, nurses see new patients, tackle different cases, and learn to expect the unexpected. The schedule we’re providing here is more or less a sample of what a registered nurse’s typical workday could look like.
If you work in a medical setting with both night and day shifts, you’ll have to do a handoff with your coworkers when you arrive. For example, if you start work in the morning, the night shift nurses will bring you up to speed on what happened with current patients and new admissions. Once informed of any changes, you’ll be empowered to safely and effectively take on the day ahead.
Time to get in those first few thousand steps. During rounds you move from patient to patient, checking in on their status. That may include taking blood work, doing in-depth assessments, performing wound care, assessing vital signs, and charting and administering meds. One thing’s for sure: it will mean communicating with your patients and listening to their needs. You may also assist some patients with everyday tasks like eating.
Think of breaks as microdoses of R&R. We recommend rehydrating with plenty of water and eating a healthy meal or snack to get you through the next stretch of your day. Reach for something like nuts if you don’t have time for a complete meal. And, if you’re a coffee-lover, use this time to grab another cup of joe. Finally, we’re all about self-care, so if you can squeeze in a couple of minutes of stretching, meditation, or even some good laughs with your colleagues, we say go for it.
Depending on where you work, new patients may have just arrived. Use this time to get acquainted with new admissions, talk to their family members and stay updated on patient charts. You’ll also need to administer medications or take blood sugar readings from patients, like diabetics, who require specific care throughout the day.
End-of-shift charting and reporting
Good records keep a medical environment running smoothly, so nurses document everything during their shift. That brings us back to square one: the shift change. Nurses on the next shift are rolling out of bed and heading toward the hospital, and you’ll now be the one to inform them of any updates. Once you do, it’s time to head home and wind down with a relaxing bath or mind-clearing walk (though we’re pretty sure you already got in all your steps during your shift).
We appreciate the work you do as a healthcare professional, especially after having researched what a day in the life of someone in your field looks like. We learn more about what you do so that we can improve what we do, which is making luxurious scrubs and performance accessories to help get you through any day, no matter how typical or atypical.