In the nursing profession, there are dozens of roles that are vitally important in any healthcare setting. Nursing jobs can vary by specialty; some nurses exclusively work in oncology, pediatrics, or mental health.
Nursing care roles can vary by education level, too. Nurses who have a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) can hold different roles than those with a master’s degree (MSN).
No matter what speciality you focus on or what career path you take after nursing school, there is a good chance that you’ll spend at least part of your career in bedside nursing.
What is Bedside Nursing?
Bedside nursing roles are for nurses who want to focus on patient care. These are the nurses you encounter in a healthcare setting who take your vital signs, provide critical care in the ICU, and take care of countless patient needs.
Throughout your nursing career, whether you’re a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner, or an advanced practice nurse, you will likely put in some years of experience providing direct patient care as a bedside nurse. Practice nurses, home care nurses, and emergency room nurses are all examples of bedside nursing jobs.
As a bedside nurse, you will provide quality care to aim for excellent patient outcomes, support accurate diagnoses, and help your patient develop and implement a good care plan. Helping to develop treatment plans is a large part of bedside nursing.
Non-bedside nursing jobs can include nurse managers, roles focusing on nursing education, school nurses, and nursing case managers.
The Vital Role of Bedside Nurses in Patient Care
Bedside nurses are the primary caregivers in hospitals and clinics. As nursing students graduate and officially become healthcare professionals, they assume the responsibility of providing high-quality care to every patient they treat.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, bedside nurses were on the front lines, prioritizing patient safety over their own well-being and implementing Australia’s public health initiatives. Even in a normal shift, nurses in most healthcare systems are putting patients first.
Whether you’re taking vitals, responding to a trauma, or explaining a treatment plan to a patient’s family, bedside nurses are critical to the patient care team.
Skills & Qualities of an Effective Bedside Nurse
When we look at the particular skills it takes to be a great bedside nurse, we think of them in terms of “hard skills” and “soft skills.”
Hard skills are the ones learned in school and training; these are the measurable skills that are required to do your job. Soft skills aren’t as easy to measure, but are equally important. They are the skills that many nurses are born with that serve them well in their careers.
Let’s take a look at some of the hard skills you need to effectively treat patients at their bedside:
- Taking vital signs
- Updating charts
- Performing life-saving interventions like CPR
- Treating infections
- Treating wounds and fractures
- Administering first aid
- Inserting IVs and catheters
- Using medical equipment like stethoscopes and blood pressure monitors
Complementary to the hard skills are soft skills needed for good nursing, which may include:
- Communication skills
- Critical thinking
- Ability to work as a team
- Friendly and calm disposition
- Organizational skills
- Attention to detail
Key Responsibilities & Tasks of a Bedside Nurse
Now that we’ve covered what skills it takes to be a bedside nurse, let’s talk about what specific tasks you might actually do on the job.
Evaluating patients’ symptoms
- Understanding what symptoms are critical and need immediate intervention - as compared to which ones don’t need urgent attention - can help you better treat your patient.
- While physicians will order the medication type and dose, you may be responsible for calculating the precise amount of medicine to give to your patient.
- Measuring vital signs is one of the first things you’ll do with each new patient. Gathering this baseline information will help with the diagnostic process.
These are just a few of the many responsibilities you may have as a bedside nurse.
Challenges and Rewards of Bedside Nursing: Real-Life Perspectives
We know that bedside nursing can be a rewarding career path, but it’s not without its difficulties. Let’s review some of the pros and cons of bedside nursing:Rewards of Bedside Nursing
- Competitive pay rates
- Opportunities for professional development
- Making a difference in patients’ lives
- High turnover rates
- Compassion fatigue
The best way to understand the real-life experiences of healthcare providers is to hear it from the source. We’ve rounded up a few thoughts from folks in clinical nursing that may help you understand their day-to-day:
On the challenges of being a bedside nurse: “The nursing shortage caused me to work harder and overtime.” - Aniese Nunn, RN
On why bedside nursing is the right choice for her: “I still really enjoy helping people. Yes, I know it sounds cheesy, but honestly, isn’t this why all of us got into nursing?” - Suzy Linville, BSN
Ross Pancho, RN, says his goal was to become a registered nurse in Australia, and that’s exactly what he did. “I guess with all the struggles that I have been through and up to the point of where I am now, I can honestly say I fulfilled my success story.”
Tips for Success in Bedside Nursing
How can you be successful in clinical practice without dealing with burnout and becoming overwhelmed?
- Maintain a healthy work-life balance
- Invest in self-care
- Make time for professional development and continuing education
- Ask for help when you need it
The Future of Bedside Nursing: Trends and Innovations
We’re constantly seeing new trends emerging that will change the way nursing is done in Australia and throughout the world. Innovations in medical equipment, safety protocols, and even medical scrubs are making a huge difference in the average nurse’s shift.
Clinical mobility allows nurses to use technology like tablets, smartphones, and portable computers in their patient care that can improve efficiency, add convenience, and make information more easily accessible between shifts.
As AI becomes more readily available, its use across many industries is spreading. Nursing is no exception. AI can be used to help determine care plans, make clinical decisions, and organize medical records.
Perhaps you’ve decided that bedside nursing is the right career path for you now that you have a clear idea of the role. This often difficult, always rewarding career is not for the faint of heart, but has limitless potential for adding value to your life.