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A Brief Look at the Role of an RN in the Hospital

Career News March 17, 2013

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a majority of registered nurses are employed at hospitals. Forty-eight percent of job opportunities available to nurses are provided by general medical hospitals, and this number is steadily rising. The core of patient care is registered nurses; they coordinate various types of medical treatment that patients receive while in the hospital. Their roles vary by location, but a registered nurse refresher course will point out several common tasks they perform in a hospital environment.

Assessment of Patients

A registered nurse has to assess the patient`s medical condition several times a day. This includes monitoring the vital signs and documenting bodily functions. They have to listen to the heart and lungs, and check for any abnormalities associated with the patient`s medical state. However, a registered nurse does much more than assess the physical condition. Evaluating test results and drug levels are part of the daily routine. It is beneficial to take a full medical history of a patient and make note of any complaints that he or she made.


Registered nurse key function is charting. The primary means of communication in a hospital is a chart. A chart is where doctors put orders; nurses document patient’s assessments and make notes about their status. The chart holds diagrams treatment protocols and test results. A registered nurse has to maintain a chart of each patient for which they are responsible for. Sometimes they will need to refer to notes made by a licensed practical nurse or a licensed vocational nurse to ensure everything is accurate. Hospitals do have different methods of documenting charts, but as a rule they all contain the same components:

•Patient education
•Telemetry strips
•Flow sheets
•Progress notes

These are legal documents and have to be treated with care.

Administrative Duties

Registered nurses serve in administrative positions, in most hospitals. This is especially true if there are nursing assistants; LPN’s and LVN’s on staff. There may be a registered nurse in charge of a floor or a ward to supervise the staff. The management responsibilities include things such as:

•Ordering diagnostic testing if a change occurs in the condition of a patient
•Providing a method of communication between the patient and the doctor
•Reviewing the work of medical personnel on the floor

Nursing Care Plans

The care plans for patients are developed by the registered nurse. This plan is based on the directions they receive from the doctor or specialist and standards in place for patient care. The nurse must monitor the care at all times to ensure that it is up to standard, and the documentation is properly recorded.

Diagnostic Testing

In some locations, nurses carry out the diagnostic testing. This includes collecting samples of urine, stool, sputum and emesis; in addition to drawing blood for testing. Samples of skin and hair may be needed in some situations. Blood sugar, oxygen level, specific gravity and blood gases are other types of diagnostic testing that nurses conduct on site.

Training and Education

Registered nurses educate family members and patients regarding pain management and disease. They provide instructions about outpatient services, wound care, and taking medications. It is the registered nurses job to ensure patients are well informed about taking care of themselves after being discharged from the hospital. This may include lifestyle and wellness changes such as exercise and diet. Nurses want the patients to remain healthy when they leave the hospital. RNs could be in charge of educating staff members about continuing education, patient care, and hygiene for LPNs.

Medication Disbursement and Medical Procedures

The registered nurse role includes procedures such as inserting nasogastric tubes and starting IVs. Some registered nurses manage other forms of intravenous access and PICC lines through advanced training. Nurses hand out medication in intravenous solutions, oral doses and through injections. Drug disbursement includes setting up titrations and calculating proper dosages.

The key to patient’s care in a hospital is registered nurses. Whether working on the floor or in the emergency room, it is the registered nurse who communicates regularly with family members and doctors along with managing the treatment a patient receives. Over the next few years, employment opportunities for nurses are expected to rise. By the year 2020, there will be a twenty-six percent increase in available nurse positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A majority of the increase will involve registered nurse positions in hospitals. Now is the time to get a registered nurse refresher course of the responsibilities for working in a hospital environment.

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