Although the nursing shortage has been a noteworthy topic for years, it still isn’t resolved. More registered nurses are needed, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of registered nurses is projected to increase 15 percent by 2026. There are plenty of opportunities for career-changers and nurses seeking advancement. Plus, with the emerging technologies in nursing, continued education is a must for registered nurses.

The responsibilities and duties of a registered nurse include the following tasks, according to the American Nurses Association:

  • Performing physical exams and taking health histories
  • Providing health promotion, counseling, and education
  • Administering medications, wound care, and other personalized interventions
  • Interpreting patient information and making critical decisions about needed actions
  • Coordinating care in collaboration with other healthcare professional

    Taking Your Nursing Career to the Next Level

  • Directing and supervising care delivered by other healthcare personnel, like licensed practical nurses and nurse aides
  • Conducting research in support of improved practice and patient outcomes

Registered nurses work in all healthcare settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices, and ambulatory care centers, among many others. They also encounter various technologies in their work as innovation continues in the healthcare space.

RN Duties and Responsibilities in Hospitals

Registered nurses work in hospitals more than any other work environment. State, local, and private hospitals comprise 61 percent of registered nursing positions, according to the BLS.

Registered nurses in hospitals perform many of the typical duties listed previously. After obtaining the needed level of education, experience, and qualifications, registered nurses can enter a specialization that will alter fundamental duties and responsibilities. The following examples illustrate some of the opportunities that are possible.

Cardiac nurses

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Cardiac nurses help patients suffering from heart disease, recovering from heart surgery, and receiving treatment for all types of heart conditions. These nurses receive special training for treating physical symptoms of cardiac patients, as well as the emotional, nutritional, and ongoing needs of this group of patients.

Critical care nurses

Patients with serious and acute illnesses and injuries require close monitoring and treatment. Critical care nurses use advanced knowledge and skills to perform assessments, provide intensive therapy and intervention, advocate for patients and operate life support systems.

Neonatology nurses

Neonatology nurses care for premature and critically ill newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of hospitals. Responsibilities include administering medications, recording newborns’ status and progress, and educating new mothers about their babies and answering any questions.

Perioperative nurses

Perioperative nurses, also known as surgical or operating room nurses, maintain a sterile operating room and monitor patients during surgery, and they help patients prepare for and recover from surgery.

RN Duties and Responsibilities in Primary Care

In primary care, registered nurses provide a necessary skill set to pediatrics and family medicine offices. These nurses engage in tasks such as managing complex care, leading care teams, and overseeing specialized care services.

Registered nurses can assist with procedures, directly supervise medical assistants, and head telephone triage for answering questions from patients. As a result, registered nurses can free up a physician’s time and increase the quality of care in a primary care environment.

RN Duties and Responsibilities in Nursing Homes

Some registered nurses have taken specialized graduate courses in geriatric care and have obtained a certificate or degree to become a gerontological nurse. As a result, registered nurses often work as the head nurse in nursing homes. Under the direct supervision of the medical doctor, the registered nurses oversee licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants.

Supervisory tasks include designating nursing assignments and creating working schedules. Other roles include preparing IVs, administering medications, drawing blood, and taking vital signs. Registered nurses also interact with a patient’s family to report changes in the patient’s health or living situation.

RN Duties and Responsibilities in Schools

Registered nurses in schools are able to play a role in students’ ability to learn. There are many children who need care for chronic physical or developmental disorders and may require health-related services in schools. School nurses advance the academic success, achievement, and health of students.

There are four primary standards of practice and services provided by the school nurse, according to the National Association of School Nurses:


School nurses lead in the development of policies, programs, and procedures for school health services. They advocate for the individual student and provide education that encourage self-empowerment, problem-solving, effective communication, and collaboration with others. They also participate in plans that monitor bullying, school violence, and emergency incidents. They provide system‐level leadership and act as change agents, promoting education and healthcare reform.

Community/public health

School nurses employ cultural competency in delivering effective care in culturally diverse communities. They promote health by addressing topics like healthy lifestyles, risk‐reducing behaviors, developmental needs, activities of daily living, and self‐care. They strive to promote health equity, assisting students and families in connecting with healthcare services and resources for assistance with finances, shelter, food, and health promotion.

Care coordination

As case managers, they coordinate student health between the medical facility, family, and school. School nurses deliver quality healthcare and nursing intervention for health problems. This includes education of school staff.

Quality improvement

School nurses use research data as they advocate and illustrate the impact of their role on meaningful health and academic outcomes. They engage in quality improvement, which is a continuous and systematic process that leads to measurable improvements and outcomes and is integral to healthcare reform and standards of practice. Continuous quality improvement is the nursing process in action: assessment, identification of the issue, development of a plan of action, implementation of the plan, and evaluation of the outcome.

Taking Your Nursing Career to the Next Level

Healthcare employers have started recommending that registered nurses obtain their bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree is required to enter many nursing specialties. With the ever-changing world of nursing technology making continued education a must, now is the time to consider furthering your nursing education.