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What Do Nurses Do?

Nurses have many duties, including caring for patients, communicating with doctors, administering medicine and checking vital signs. Making up for the biggest healthcare job in the U.S., nurses play a vital role in medical facilities and enjoy a large number of job opportunities. The career growth for nursing is projected to increase by 16% in the next decade, and provides a professionally and personally rewarding experience.

What Is Nursing?

Simply put, nurses are life-savers. There are more than 3 million registered nurses in the United States. In fact, nurses outnumber doctors 3:1 in the health care industry. While doctors often specialize in one area, nurses are able to coordinate the care for all aspects of a patient’s overall health. A patient experiencing chest pains, for example, might have a cardiologist, a nephrologist and an internal medicine specialist. Each of these doctors would diagnose, treat and prescribe medications solely for their area of expertise. The nurse, though, would be the care provider responsible for the patient’s full care, ensuring prescriptions don’t negatively interact with one another, and that a patient understands and is prepared for treatment. When diagnostic results come in, it’s the nurse who reads them first and, if necessary, immediately notifies the appropriate doctor.

Gone are the days when nurses act like the doctors’ handmaidens; today, they are equally responsible for the overall care of the patient.

What Is a Registered Nurse?

A registered nurse is a nurse who has obtained a nursing degree, has passed the NCLEX-RN exam and has fulfilled all other state licensing requirements. While an associates degree is the minimum education required to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, a bachelor’s degree or higher is becoming more commonly preferred among employers. For more information about becoming a registered nurse, you can read our registered nursing career guide.

General Nurse Duties 

What do nurses do? They are continuously monitoring and evaluating patients, nurses must be smart, adaptive, educated and skilled in critical thinking. Nurses’ responsibilities include coordinating with multiple specialists to ensure that their patients are adequately on the road to recovery. Through the different types of care, a nurse’s capabilities extend past their stereotypical personas; while many envision nurses donned in medical scrubs and running through a hospital, a nurse may come in many forms.

Specifically, here are some of the things nurses do on a typical day:

  • Conduct physical exams
  • Take detailed health care histories
  • Listen to patients and analyze their physical and emotional needs
  • Provide counseling and health care education to patients
  • Coordinate care with other health care providers and specialists
  • Stay current with advances in health care options, medications, and treatment plans
  • Draw blood, and perform other health-related testing
  • Check a patient’s vital signs

Where Do Nurses Work?

Not all registered nurses work in hospitals. You can find a nurse in a wide variety of health care settings, including doctor’s offices, urgent care centers, pharmacies, schools, and many other locations. Nurses have the ability to use their skills to meet the needs of their patients, pretty much wherever they are located.  For example, many nurses now assist the elderly or disabled in their homes. Some common places where nurses work include:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Offices
  • Schools
  • Pharmacies
  • Ambulance/Helicopter
  • Home health care settings
  • Senior living communities

Types of Nurses (with Requirements)

Answering the question of what do nurses do can be challenging due to the fact that nurses are skilled in many fields and may choose to focus their trade specifically in certain types of care. Some specific nursing fields include geriatrics, critical care, pediatrics, treatment planning, and case management. From working face-to-face with patients to managing their paperwork, nurses play a huge role in our lives and the profession continues to be a prosperous career path for those considering taking on this role. Some different types of nurses and their education requirements include:

  • Nurse Anesthetist. A nurse anesthetist assist mainly with medical procesdures, specifically with anesthetic. To become a nurse anesthetist, you must hold bachelor’s degree.
  • Family Nurse Practitioner. A family nurse practitioner delivers family-focused care as a part of a healthcare team. Family nurse practitioners must hold a master’s degree.
  • NICU Nurse. A NICU nurse works with sick newborn babies. To become a NICU nurse, you must hold a bachelor’s degree.
  • Labor and Delivery Nurse. A labor and delivery nurse assists with the birth of newborns. Labor and delivery nurses must hold an associates degree.
  • Travel Nurse. A travel nurse works short-term contracts in multiple locations in order to explore the world while working as a nurse. To become a travel nurse, you must hold an associates degree.
  • Neonatal Nurse. A neonatal nurse works with sick babies. Neonatal nurses must hold a bachelor’s degree.
  • Pediatric Nurse. A pediatric nurse works with children in maintaining their normal care. To become a pediatric nurse, you must hold an associates degree.
  • Ambulatory Nurse. An ambulator nurse works specifically on an ambulance for numerous emergencies. Ambulatory nurses must hold an associates degree.
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist. A clinical nurse specialist works with patients in a variety of specialties in an advanced setting. To become a clinical nurse specialist, you must hold a master’s degree.
  • School Nurse. A school nurse provides medical support, education and treatment within an adolescent school facility. School nurses must hold an bachelor’s degree.
  • Nurse Educator. A nurse educator instructs and teacher aspriring nurse and health professions in their journey towards their career. To become a nurse educator, you must hold a master’s degree.

If you are interested in learning about more nursing specialties and their education requirements, read our guide on types of nursing degrees.

What Are Nursing Salaries?

According to labor and statistics, the median salary for a Registered Nurse (RN) is $70,000 and can range as high as $130,000 per year. On average, nursing salaries are 7% higher than the average job salary nationwide. Different classifications of nurses will earn different salaries:



We are offering up to a 5K sign on bonus for experienced Clinic RN’s.

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health brings together two award-winning health systems in Washington state CHI Franciscan and Virginia Mason. As one integrated health system with the most patient access points in western Washington, our team includes 18,000 staff and nearly 5,000 employed physicians and affiliated providers. At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, you will find the safest and highest quality of care provided by our expert, compassionate medical care team at 11 hospitals and nearly 300 sites throughout the greater Puget Sound region. While you’re busy impacting the healthcare industry, we’ll take care of you with benefits that include health/dental/vision, FSA, matching retirement plans, paid vacation, adoption assistance, annual bonus eligibility, and more


At Virginia Mason our Registered Nurses blend skill, expertise and critical thinking with care, compassion and personal relationships to truly connect with their patients. Ours is a culture that fosters learning and innovation, and challenges you to reach your full potential. Our Registered Nurses, physicians and other team members collaborate to provide the most positive patient experience possible. As the experts on the front line of patient care, you will have the opportunity to provide input and insight in creating change, improving process and reshaping the way our patient care is delivered. As a Registered Nurse at Virginia Mason you are able to grow personally and professionally as you make a dramatic difference in the lives of others.

The responsibilities of the Registered Nurse includes:

  • Coordinating and facilitating quality management of a broad based outpatient population across the continuum of care.
  • Providing skilled triage and assessment, education, collaboration and coordination of healthcare and community resources.
  • Supporting the care team in the provision of patient care.
  • Providing patient advice
  • Assisting in prioritizing daily work of the clinic
  • Providing direction to team members, including oversight of Medical Assistant’s clinical competency.


  • Current Washington State licensure as an RN
  • CPR certification is required every two years
  • Graduation from an accredited school of nursing approved by the Washington State Board of Nursing.
  • Strong patient assessment skills, ability to work collaboratively in team setting, Current working knowledge of electronic medical records.

We are an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.

Pay Range
$33.48 – $56.01 /hour


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