Nurse Duties and Responsibilities (in 10 Specialties)

Healthcare providers rely on nurses to care for patients appropriately and ensure that office administration runs smoothly and effectively. Nursing is a varied field that encompasses a range of medical care and support duties, with many nurses deciding to specialize in a particular area of care. Understanding the different responsibilities nurses have in their specialty can help you hire the right type of nurse for your institution. 


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What is a nurse?

A nurse is a healthcare professional who is responsible for preparing care plans for patients, administering medications and treatments, monitoring vital signs and maintaining medical records. They can work with patients in hospitals and clinics or provide in-home care. Some organizations, like schools, have nurses on-staff to assist in emergencies. Nurses collaborate with patients, their families, doctors, physical therapists and other healthcare providers to ensure that they provide attentive care at all times.


General nursing duties

Although nursing responsibilities can vary based on specialty, most nurses carry out a wide range of duties as part of their typical day. Nurses serve several concurrent roles in a healthcare setting, each with a variety of associated tasks:


Basic medical procedures

Nurses are directly involved with providing certain types of treatments and procedures for patients. Some nurses have more responsibilities than others depending on where they work and their level of training. Treatment-related tasks include:

  • Drawing blood and submitting samples for testing in the lab
  • Changing bandages and wound dressings
  • Inserting IVs
  • Giving patients their medication according to schedule
  • Monitoring heart rate and other vital signs
  • Removing stitches
  • Preparing patients for surgery


Patient support

Nurses are often a patient’s main point of contact with the healthcare system. They communicate directly with patients about their overall care plan and offer other kinds of ongoing support. Some of these tasks are:

  • Explaining what each diagnosis means
  • Interpreting care plans
  • Giving instructions for recovery
  • Connecting patients to support groups and other resources
  • Educating patients on healthy lifestyle habits
  • Advocating for patients to get the best care



Nurses serve a key administrative role, managing the interactions between doctors, technicians and other nurses. They perform a range of activities to keep the entire team coordinated when providing medical care to patients:

  • Updating details on each patient’s chart
  • Scheduling medical care
  • Communicating with doctors about their patient’s condition and medical history
  • Checking medical protocols
  • Calling insurance providers
  • Reaching out to emergency contacts
  • Preparing medical supplies and materials

Related: How to Hire a Charge Nurse


Types of nursing specialties

Here are ten of the most common nursing specialties and the duties associated with each position:


1. ER nurse

ER nurses work in emergency rooms to help patients resolve urgent health issues. They help stabilize patients’ vital signs so that doctors can provide treatment. ER nurses deal with a high volume of patients and often work as part of a large team of nurses.


2. Nurse practitioner

Nurse practitioners usually work at family medical practices, assisting general practitioners with their non-emergency patients. They talk to patients about their symptoms, conduct examinations and make sure that doctors see each of their appointments on time.


3. Home health nurse

Home health nurses travel to treat patients in their home. They help disabled patients maintain their hygiene, take necessary medications and complete physical therapy tasks. Home health nurses also provide hospice care to keep patients comfortable when they have a terminal condition.


4. Critical care nurse

Critical care nurses work in intensive care units and trauma wards to respond to serious injuries and illnesses. They work with patients on life support and treat severe wounds. Critical care nurses need to be highly experienced to deal with the fast-paced, stressful environment and make life-saving decisions.


5. Neonatal nurse

Neonatal nurses treat pregnant patients, assist during labor and provide care for babies and parents directly after birth. They specialize in understanding infant vital signs and care at different developmental stages. Neonatal nurses must have additional certifications such as neonatal resuscitation.


6. Pediatric nurse

Pediatric nurses specifically care for children. They can work in family clinics, schools and hospitals. They can work with a specific age level or with any patient under 18. Pediatric nurses need to have excellent bedside manner, be able to relate to children and communicate complex ideas in a way that kids can understand.


7. Ambulatory nurse

Ambulatory nurses provide emergency care in ambulances or accompany patients on helicopters when they are being transported from one hospital to another. They learn how to provide initial care using a limited array of tools in a constantly changing situation.


8. Nurse anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia and help patients manage pain through medication. They often assist with surgeries to ensure a patient is properly sedated. This is one of the nursing specialties that requires a masters’ degree in anesthesiology.


9. Psychiatric nurse

Psychiatric nurses provide mental health care to patients. They can work in psychiatric wards at hospitals, at mental health treatment centers or at a private practice with a psychiatrist. They have advanced knowledge of mental conditions, counseling and harm reduction strategies.


10. Public health nurse

Public health nurses focus on educating communities about common health issues. They can provide treatment at clinics, but most of their duties revolve around sharing information and making healthcare more accessible to the public.


How to hire a nurse

If you’re ready to hire a nurse as part of your care team, use this guide to attract and vet applicants:


Determine appropriate qualifications

Because nurses directly deal with medical procedures, it is important for you to understand their necessary qualifications and certifications. Based on the activities the nurse will need to perform, determine what education and training they should possess.


Create a clear and direct job posting

When writing a job description, be clear about the scope of the nursing position and what they should expect out of their daily duties. Outline their key responsibilities, including details about where and when they should report to work. If you need a nurse who is available overnight or for on-call shifts, mention this in the job description and posting. Include your expectations about their experience in nursing. 

Read more: How to Write a Registered Nurse RN Job Description Sample


Verify each applicant’s credentials

It is extremely important that you make sure everything on a nurse’s resume is accurate. Incorrect or misleading information could directly impact a patient’s health. Confirm each applicant’s references and check with various licensing boards to ensure their nursing certifications are up-to-date.


Pay attention to soft skills during the interview

When interviewing candidates, ask questions that focus on each employee’s soft skills. Ask them how they would handle challenging situations in the workplace or how they would discuss upsetting subjects with patients. As they answer each question, be mindful of their interpersonal communication skills.

Related: 7 Nurse Practitioner Interview Questions and Answers


Think about the team dynamic

Nurses work as part of a team every day, so think about how each candidate would fit in with the doctors and other medical professionals. Ask questions about how well the candidates work as a team and contribute to shared goals. Try to select qualified candidates whose skills and personality complement your current team.

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