12 Surprising Nurse Duties and Types of Nurse Roles

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 April 2022

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 often have an important role in the health care industry as they support patients during operations and medical procedures. Besides their daily duties, there are some surprising responsibilities that they have. If you're considering becoming a nurse, knowing the roles and responsibilities of nurses can be helpful in deciding if this is the career path for you. In this article, we discuss surprising nurse duties and the types of nursing roles you can pursue.

12 surprising nurse duties

Here are 12 surprising nurse duties:

1. Making medical assessments

A nurse's role involves noting important medical details about a patient's health. They usually conduct formal and informal analyses and know their patients' diagnoses and situations well. Nurses are also the first to review lab and medical test results and share their concerns. Although doctors make medical diagnoses, they consider nurses' advice before proceeding. Their access to patients' data and close contact with patients also mean that they can tell when something is wrong. They can recognise small irregularities and find problems quickly and early enough to avoid an emergency.

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2. Teaching

Patients consult doctors for medical advice and instruction, but nurses usually talk to them and their family members. They can teach patients how to care for themselves during the recovery process after they're discharged. They can help their patients to craft a care plan and educate them on the symptoms that they may experience due to their illnesses. For example, nurses may teach their patients how to breastfeed, use medical devices and explain body developmental expectations. They often act as an additional support system for patients and their caregivers and help them understand their conditions.

3. Supporting patients outside of their health care

As a nurse, caring for a patient can go beyond their bodily health to their mental and emotional health. Nurses are caregivers with close contact and relationships with their patients. This means that they can recognise when a patient requires more than just medical care. Nurses can provide help by contacting social services, addiction centres or other services to improve the lives of their patients. A nurse usually approaches patient care in a comprehensive manner to ensure that their patients leave hospitals with better overall health.

4. Providing emotional support

Apart from their own patients, a nurse's responsibility can extend to caring for their families. Patients and their families may experience distressing emotions during the hospital stay. Nurses often provide emotional support by taking time to console or encourage them. A patient's family may want to stay close to them and a nurse's role can include comfortably situating them. For example, this can mean allowing a family to hold their patients by arranging monitor cables properly.

5. Building a sense of trust

Patients may be afraid of medical procedures. A nurse's duty is usually to assure them. This can include explaining the procedure in simpler terms or making the patient comfortable with things they like. Nurses may spend time talking to patients to comfort them. It can take patience, time and energy, but it can be helpful in quickening the recovery process.

6. Following protocols

Nurses are trained medical professionals with the expertise to perform specific procedures and protocols. Their roles and responsibilities can be technical, and they may handle complicated clinical requirements. They balance being detailed in their medical assessments and forming strong connections with their patients. They also perform daily medical procedures on patients by staying focused and following instructions.

7. Staying updated

Health care systems can differ among medical centres. Staying updated with technological advancements and health care programmes can be helpful. The health care industry also relies on technology to make its processes more efficient. Being familiar with them can make nurses more competent and help them provide better care for their patients. Nurses can take review classes or pursue certifications at various points in their careers to improve their skills and the quality of their care.

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8. Studying variables

During the training process, nurses usually learn about different medical fields and body components. When they treat their patients, they use their knowledge to determine the best treatment plan. Nurses critically assess different care options depending on how they can affect a patient's physical, emotional and mental health.

9. Specialised duties

Nurses work in a variety of settings and have different niches. Nurses who prefer the business side of nursing can progress to become entrepreneurs who specialise in mentoring and case management issues. Within health care, nursing roles can range from mental health and oncology to critical care. Nurses can also work in residential homes, correctional facilities or as legal consultants.

10. Fixing equipment

When a hospital is understaffed or support is unavailable, nurses may have the duty of fixing any malfunctioning equipment. They're typically skilled in troubleshooting problems like a malfunctioning bed or infusion pump. Nurses can learn these skills on the job or during training sessions conducted by health care facilities.

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11. Organising patient care environment

Creating order in a patient's environment is part of a nurse's job to ensure safety. This includes labelling and organising intravenous lines in the ICU unit. Nurses may also rearrange the furniture in the health care facility or the patient's home.

12. Attending funerals

Nurses often form close relationships with their patients. Hospice and home care nurses may attend funerals to comfort the family members of their patients. Attending funerals can train nurses to manage the emotions of losing their patients.

A typical day in the life of a nurse

Nurses work as part of a medical team of professionals like surgeons, physicians, technicians and other health care providers. Together, they diagnose and treat patients in different contexts. The daily routines of nurses may change on a daily basis. It usually depends on patients' needs and conditions. It can be helpful for nurses to be skilled in working well under pressure and thinking quickly to solve problems. Multitasking is also typically part of a nurse's skill set as they manage various patients daily. Here are some daily duties of a nurse:

  • checking a patient's vitals, measurements and medical histories

  • conducting a primary assessment on a patient's symptoms

  • performing physical examinations

  • drawing blood samples

  • requesting and doing diagnostic tests

  • recommending care options and assessments to physicians

  • administering medication

  • maintaining accurate and detailed medical records

  • consulting other healthcare providers

  • educating patients

  • implementing and assessing treatment care plans

  • recommending sources of support for patients

  • staying updated with patients' conditions and informing the team

  • preparing treatment rooms

  • sanitising and assembling medical equipment

  • checking and counting medication

  • completing patient assessments

  • administering wound care

  • changing dressings

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Types of nursing roles

Nurses have different specialisations, and their duties differ depending on what they choose. Here're some specialisations for nurses:

Oncology nurses

Oncology nurses care for patients who are undergoing cancer treatment. They provide educational resources to patients and their family members. Nurses teach them what to expect from the treatment and how to care for them at home. They also write treatment plans and arrange appointments with other medical personnel.

Mental health nurses

Mental health nurses treat patients with psychiatric illnesses like depression and mood disorders. Their work can be in hospitals and clinics or secure facilities. They conduct patient observations and risk assessments while building and maintaining relationships with their patients. The nurses may also provide emotional support to their families.

Critical care nurses

Working with critically ill patients, critical care nurses usually think and react fast to situations and emergencies. Their patients are often in intensive care units, burn units or recovery units. They work with patients who have complex illnesses and help complete assessments and treat their wounds.

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Neonatal nurses

Neonatal nurses work with newborn babies who have urgent health conditions. They treat their conditions from birth and can continue to treat them until they're older. Their duties include assisting the delivery of babies that are premature and educating mothers on breastfeeding and performing medical procedures on their sick babies at home.

Staff nurses

Staff nurses are responsible for assisting surgeons in the operating theatre. Their duties include preparing the instrument trolley, checking the instruments and properly sterilising everything. They also regularly check the crash cart and emergency supplies and take care of post-operation patients.

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