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What do nurses do?

What Nurses Do?

Registered Nurses


  • Perform physical exams and health histories
  • Provide health promotion, counseling and education
  • Administer medications, wound care, and numerous other personalized interventions
  • Interpret patient information and make critical decisions about needed actions
  • Coordinate care, in collaboration with a wide array of healthcare professionals
  • Direct and supervise care delivered by other healthcare personnel like LPNs and nurse aides
  • Conduct research in support of improved practice and patient outcomes

RNs practice in all healthcare settings: hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices, ambulatory care centers, community health centers, schools, and retail clinics. They also provide health care in more surprising locations such as camps, homeless shelters, prisons, sporting events and tourist destinations.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

Advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) is an umbrella term given to a registered nurse who has at least a Master’s educational and clinical practice requirements beyond the basic nursing education and licensing required of all RNs and who provides at least some level of direct care to patient populations. Under this umbrella fit the principal types of APRNs:

  • Nurse practitioner (NP)  – Working in clinics, nursing homes, hospitals, or private offices, nurse practitioners provide a wide range of primary and preventive health care services, prescribe medication, and diagnose and treat common minor illnesses and injuries.
  • Certified nurse-midwife (CNM) –  CNMs provide well-woman gynecological and low-risk obstetrical care in hospitals, birth centers, and homes.
  • Clinical nurse specialist (CNS) – Working in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, private offices, and community-based settings, CNSs handle a wide range of physical and mental health problems. They also work in consultation, research, education, and administration.
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) – The oldest of the advanced nursing specialties, CRNAs administer more than 65 percent of anesthetics given to patients each year.

Licensed Practical Nurses

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), also known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) in California and Texas, complement the healthcare team by providing basic and routine care consistent with their education under the direction of an RN, APRN, or MD/DO in a variety of settings.