A Day in the Life of a Nurse

Written by NS StaffJune 30, 2011
Nurse Working

As a nurse, you can generally plan when you will work and for how long, but your day will be anything but routine. Be ready to think on your feet and be surprised!

But, once you get started, and you help your first patient make it through some hard times, it will all be worth it. If you thrive in an environment with lots of change and enjoy helping others, then nursing is for you!

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A normal nursing shift is eight hours long. You may work the day shift, the evening shift, or the night shift. The misconception that you can relax during the night shift because your patients will all be asleep is just that, a misconception. Each shift will call on your energy to balance patients, paperwork, and priorities.

Your shift usually starts with a little history. You will talk to the nurse who had your patients during the previous shift. This is when you find out what to expect for the next eight hours. You will learn each patient's diagnosis, what medications each patient needs, what special care each patient requires, and who might come or go during your shift. You will also go over the doctor's reports for each patient.

You still have more to do before you see your patients. You need to set up treatment sheets for your patients. Record the history that the nurse told you, and include any other important information you picked up from the charts. This is a good time to look at the lab tests that have and will be run. You want to know what to expect, so when the unexpected happens, you won't get completely sidetracked.

Now it is time to see your patients. At one major HMO, each nurse is given a balanced load of patients -- some patients with extra needs and some patients that need little help. Each shift, the needs of the patients are re-evaluated as their health changes. One nurse estimated that she gets 30 to 40 minutes with each patient. But, the timing is rarely ever that equal.

Nursing can be very stressful. But career nurses find that saving lives makes up for the stress. With people living longer than ever before, and new technology and medications found every day to treat diseases, you will have the opportunity to touch many lives each day. Once you learn how to balance the paperwork, the schedules, and the emotions from patients, doctors, and families, you can handle almost anything.

Learn more about different nursing careers.

Learn More About Your Future Career as a Nurse:

Nursing Career Summary
Salary & Compensation
Day in the Life of…
Job Outlook
Typical Career Path
Medical Assisting as a Pathway to Nursing 
Profile of a Nurse
Nursing as Compared to Doctoring
Blood and Needles

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