Working Conditions for Registered Nurses

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Registered nurses are essential members of the medical team.
Registered nurses are essential members of the medical team. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Registered nurses are health care professionals who care for individuals suffering from illnesses, injuries and medical conditions. They also educate people about health and fitness, as well as offer emotional support and advice to patients and their families. Registered nurses work closely with physicians, assisting them with their daily tasks. The exact working conditions of registered nurses depend on the specific type of work they do and the place they work, but there are some commonalities among all RN jobs.

Work Environment

Hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers and elderly care homes are some of the places that employ registered nurses. Many RNs also travel to patients' homes to provide special in-home care. Most facilities where RNs work are comfortable, well lit and clean. Nearly all big hospitals provide 24-hour security, and there are always plenty of resources to take care of nurses in the case of an emergency. Health care facilities generally are busy places, with doctors, patients and other nurses moving about constantly. Employees are expected to be alert and attentive at all times during their shift.

Duties

Registered nurses perform a very wide range of duties, even those that specialize in a particular area such as pediatrics or obstetrics. Administering shots, taking blood and tissue samples, emptying catheters, applying bandages, cleaning wounds, recording patients’ height and weight, feeding patients and adjusting their bedding are some of the many tasks a nurse may be asked to perform. Their job involves considerable amounts of standing, walking, bending and stretching, so it’s important for RNs to be in good physical shape and be free of ailments that may prevent them from being able to fulfill their responsibilities.

Schedule

Most registered nurses work 40 hours a week, typically in eight-hour or 12-hour shifts. Nurses generally alternate with others on their team for night and weekend shifts, though newer nurses often are asked to work the overnight shifts. Some nurses work part time or split their time between administrative duties and patient care. Nurses often have to be on-call 24 hours a day in the case of emergencies.

Dangers and Risks

A registered nurse's job is generally quite safe, but there are certain dangers and risks to be aware of. Registered nurses often work closely with patients suffering from infectious and contagious diseases, which poses a potential risk of contracting something if proper safety measures are not taken. RNs also may be exposed to harmful, toxic and potentially hazardous chemical compounds and medications. For these reasons, registered nurses must follow strict guidelines regarding sterilization of medical instruments, the use of rubber gloves and face masks while handling hazard materials and with other aspects of the job. Nurses may also suffer back injury as a result of moving patients around. They can occasionally suffer emotional issues, as well, that stem from dealing with patients who are seriously ill, injured or in pain, and the patients' families.

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