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A Day in the Life of an Acute Care Registered Nurse

Jan 15, 2020 3:48:32 PM / by General Healthcare Resources

The workday for an acute care registered nurse (RN) is frequently a busy, but rewarding one. The unpredictable nature of patient care and medicine makes creating a detailed minute-by-minute schedule of activities hard to pin down. However, all acute care RNs spend a large part of their workday assessing, checking, developing, administering and monitoring.


The assessment and management of patient conditions are the primary responsibility of an acute care RN and are essential for the planning and delivery of patient care. A typical shift may include an admission assessment that takes place when a patient arrives at the unit or floor. This assessment includes taking medical history, vital signs, a description of the patient’s general appearance and a physical evaluation.

A shift assessment occurs every shift and includes an evaluation of every patient. The information from the assessment helps develop a plan of care. Depending on where an RN works, the day may also include a focused assessment of a particular body system such as cardiac, respiratory or neurological.


A portion of the RN’s day includes checking patient symptoms and vital signs, and arranging diagnostic tests. He or she will typically check a patient’s symptoms and vital signs every 2 to 4 hours. Several healthcare specialties are usually competing for a patient’s time on any given day. As such, navigating around the full schedule of the patient to order a diagnostic test requires skill.


The development of an on-going care plan for a patient is a significant responsibility for the acute care RN. The care plan will outline the plan of action for a patient’s medical care. An RN completes a plan of care following the detailed assessment to act with the patient and to fulfill the goals and objectives of the plan.


When you imagine what a typical day looks like for an RN, this one probably comes to mind. Duties like administering medications and intravenous drips are a considerable part of an RN’s workday. Although these tasks are common, it is crucial for patient benefit. RNs must also use precision in administering medications through multiple routes, including oral, sublingual, rectal, topical and parenteral.nurse and doc


An acute care facility is full of specialized equipment like monitors and mechanical ventilators. The monitoring of these devices often falls to the RN. Patients on mechanical ventilators and those who are on cardiac and other types of monitors require frequent checks. The acute care RN must check that these medical devices are functioning correctly as well as closely watch the patient’s condition while they are on a monitor.

Whether you are a brand new graduate or a seasoned acute care RN who is looking for an exciting work opportunity, check out what GHR can do for you.

Topics: Acute Care