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It is difficult to precisely define the full gamut of responsibilities covered by the general term, ‘Nursing’. A nurse’s duties are many. Nurses are responsible for the well–being of patients entrusted to their care. Their duties therefore, extend from establishing relationships with beside chores that ensure that the patients are clean and comfortable during their illness and convalesce, to assisting the physician, keeping accurate records, administering medication and helping during examinations and operations. Normally, every nurse, on each duty round, is given the care of a set number of patients. A nurse’s duties in this area include assessing, discussing and planning for each individual patient’s needs, putting these plans into operation, monitoring their progress, and if necessary changing them.

They have also to keep detailed notes to ensure continuity, as colleagues often have to take over when the patient’s own nurse is off duty. Nurses are also required to be present when consultants visit their patient, and to follow up on the treatment prescribed. They are expected to display a calm, perceptive approach during crises that are only to be expected in hospitals.

Most importantly, the nurse, being more in contact with the patient than any other member of the hospital staff, should be able to create a bond between the patient and the medical fraternity in order to facilitate recovery.

Major Tasks Performed
To carry out their duties efficiently, nurses are required to be skilled in a number of crucial, highly complex tasks. Some of these are:
Dispensing Medication
Including administering correct dosages of a vast array of drugs, ensuring that each patient receives the prescribed medication at the right time, and knowing what side–effects to watch out for.

Record Keeping
Such as temperature and other charts, monitoring patients, sometimes hourly, and knowing at all times the patient’s status, and what changes, if any, have occurred in their condition.

Setting up and operating equipment
From syringes and drips, to X–ray machines and life support systems. Calmness and precision are very essential in these situations. As many times, it could mean the difference between life and death. Nurses also have to know how to sterilize, store, and keep tools in order, placing them in the right sequence before an operation/examination, to be able to hand them to the surgeon/consultant the moment they are required.

Administration
Which includes keeping stock of drugs and equipment, ordering and checking supplies, making up duty rosters, supervising hospital staff.

Areas of Specialisation
Specialist skills are sometimes required in nursing, depending on the type of care required by patients. These include:
Public health
Through the National Health Scheme, nurses are employed in urban and rural areas to provide basic medicare services to the local population. Duties include provision of first–aid, referrals to the closest PHC/hospital in more serious cases, monitoring of maternal and child health, as well as organising immunisation and sanitation drives and providing advice on health–related subjects like nutrition and family planning.

Psychiatric Nursing
Involves working with patients suffering from emotional and psychological distress.

Paediatric Nursing
Is concerned with the care of sick babies and children.

Orthopaedic Nursing
Requires a knowledge of physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
Apart from these, specialist nursing skills are also required in places like the operations theatre, cardiac care unit, etc.