From record keeping and taking vital signs to assisting during diagnostic testing and educating patients, nurses play a vital role in the American health care system. Nurses work in a variety of medical settings, including doctors' offices, clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centers and long-term care facilities. While many nurses set their own personal goals, there are some career goals and objectives that all nurses share.
Providing Quality Patient Care
A nurse's primary objective -- regardless of work environment -- is to make sure all of her patients receive quality treatment in a timely manner. Nurses help expedite patient wait times by taking care of routine tasks. For example, nurses check patients' vital signs and ask questions about patients' medical histories so that doctors have as much information as possible when it's their turn to see patients and can get straight to work. Taking care of a patient's needs is rarely a one-person task, so nurses step in to assist physicians during diagnostic tests and various medical procedures. This helps ensure that all procedures are conducted properly.
Educating Patients and Families
Patients don't always understand the potential side effects of the medications they're prescribed, the postoperative instructions they're supposed to follow or even the diagnoses they're given. Nurses play an important role in patient education, and their goal is to make sure all patients fully understand any information provided to them. Nurses listen carefully to their patients' concerns and answer any questions they -- or their family members -- have. Additionally, some nurses are highly active in their communities and may present seminars or workshops to the public covering various topics related to health.
Promoting a Safe Environment
Safety is important in any work environment, but it's especially important in medical settings. Doctors' offices, hospitals and similar settings are frequented by people who are sick and people with compromised immune systems, so it's essential that the environment is sterile and free of as many germs as possible. Nurses carefully observe their surroundings throughout their shifts and identify potential hazards so they can be dealt with quickly. They carefully sterilize equipment and follow safety guidelines at all times to minimize the risk of spreading contagions. Additionally, nurses look out for physical hazards, such as spills, blocked hallways or even emotionally unstable patients and visitors.
Evolving Professionally and Continuing Education
A nurse is never done learning in her career, as technology and medical knowledge are constantly evolving. It's important for nurses to stay up-to-date in order to continue providing patients with the best possible care. As a result, all nurses strive to hone their skills throughout their careers and continue their educations. Nurses often attend continuing education courses hosted by colleges and universities, as well as professional workshops and seminars. Many join professional organizations -- such as the American Nurses Association -- to gain access to exclusive training and education opportunities.
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