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Nursing is one of the largest employment sectors in the UK, with over 300,000 nurses specialising in various areas of healthcare.
Nurses are caregivers in the widest sense. They look after people who are injured, unwell or who suffer from physical or mental disorders. Their roles can be extremely varied and day to day activities will depend largely on the specific area in which they specialise.
Work is generally carried out in hospitals and healthcare practices, although nurses specialising in other areas of nursing, such as midwifery or community nursing, might spend a large portion of their time attending to patients in their homes. Military nurses will often work in army barracks, or abroad in conflict zones.
As with all medical professionals, their primary responsibility is to identify, diagnose and treat problems experienced by patients through a variety of examinations, tests, medical procedures and prescription of medication. It is also their job to ensure that the patient is fully aware of courses of treatment and procedures available to them so that they can play a role in, and have some control over, the care they receive.
Nurses keep and update patients’ medical records and make sure necessary records are passed on to other medical professionals who also deal with the patient.
Nurses work closely with patients and their families, doctors, surgeons and other medical professionals, to devise the best treatment strategies. They are actively involved in practical areas of healthcare, performing duties such as checking patients’ vital signs, cleaning and dressing wounds, connecting IVs (the tubes which are attached to a drip), administering vaccinations and medications and advising patients on the best ways to maintain a healthy and hygienic lifestyle. They often assist more senior healthcare professionals in performing surgical or complex procedures.
People will look to nurses for advice in other areas related to healthcare and general wellbeing, such as diet, family planning and contraception. They are also responsible for providing emotional support to patients and their families.