What Important Roles do Nurses Play in Healthcare?

Nurses are universally understood to be the backbone of the healthcare industry. Without nurses, medical care facilities would be inundated with patients and struggle to meet their needs. With the current nursing shortage, this is becoming more apparent every day. As the Baby Boomer generation ages and requires more attentive medical care, this shortage is only expected to grow worse and worse.

With around 3 million nurses currently employed across the country, it may be hard to believe that they still play such a vital role in healthcare. The need for nurses is nowhere near met, though, and when you take a look at all the roles nurses to play in healthcare, it’s easier to see why this is.

Main Roles of Nurses in Healthcare

You likely imagine nurses working in hospitals, but this is not the only place they work. While their roles remain relatively the same wherever they work, there are a few differences between some areas of work, such as senior care centers and pediatrics where the patient needs are rather different.

#1. Nurses as Caregivers

No matter where nurses are stationed, their primary role is as a caregiver. Nurses take care of patients for the full duration of their visit, whether this is to administer medication or vaccines, ensure their vitals are where they should be, care for healing wounds, change dressings, and so much else.

Nurses provide all the essential care that patients need while in a hospital, senior living center, or another medical facility. When patients cannot bathe, feed, or move, it is nurses that take care of the patient needs. In many cases, nurses may also provide emotional care and support to patients in their care.

As caregivers, nurses need to be compassionate and understanding of a patient’s concerns and fears. They’re there to help ease fears as best they can and ensure the patient feels like they are in good hands.

#2. Nurses as Intermediary

During a patient’s treatment, it is often the nurses that are in contact with a patient and their family. They may also act as the intermediary between families and physicians. It is nurses that talk with a patient and their families about their treatment and help educate them about their diagnosis. 

A huge part of nurses working as an intermediary is to understand a patient’s concerns and help them communicate these concerns with the physician. Nurses are the primary point of contact for patients which gives them the difficult role of speaking with a family when bad news needs to be delivered, but also the joy of delivering the good news.

As an intermediary, nurses must ensure that all treatment follows a patient’s religious, cultural, or personal beliefs. If a nurse knows that the proposed care will not be acceptable for a patient, it is their job to speak up and ensure that the patient’s concerns have been heard and their values are taken into consideration.

#3. Nurses as Decision-Makers

Since it is nurses that get to know a patient and their families best, they often need to make decisions regarding what is best for their patients. While this isn’t always an easy choice, it is a big part of working as a nurse. Some decisions are too difficult for families to make, so it is the nurses that must make them and guide a family to do the same.

#4. Nurses as Educators

Understandably, not everyone is a medical professional. Families and patients that are in a nurse’s care may have many questions about a diagnosis or treatment plan. It’s up to nurses to educate their patients and their family about what has been proposed.

Without proper knowledge and education about their care, a patient will have a harder time following a doctor’s orders. To ensure that their patients can follow instructions and understand their situation, it’s up to nurses to inform them about everything from what their diagnosis means to the frequency of their treatment.

Many nurses may also work as researchers to help advance healthcare and medicine. These nurses play a critical role in the development of medical care and help assure quality care for all of their patients, no matter their race, gender alignment, or sexuality.

Nurses may also work with their community to inform community members about their health. They may join campaigns to educate others about how to better take care of their health and advocate for better healthcare opportunities. 

Also read: Pros and Cons of Nursing Career

Education Required to Become a Nurse

Education Required to Become a Nurse

Becoming a nurse means committing to several years of schooling. While nursing is a very sought-after career and there is a need for nurses, it’s still a good idea to get the best schooling your can to have a successful career.

The first step to becoming a nurse is to get your BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). Make sure to choose an accredited nursing program for your BSN as this will make transferring credits and finding a job much easier in the future. 

There are many nursing degrees and specialties you can choose from. Depending on what type of nursing you want to go into, one specialty or degree may be better than the other. However, you can never go wrong with a traditional nursing degree. Likewise, advanced nursing positions will require advanced nursing degrees like MSN or DNP. Luckily, there are many accelerated programs for existing nursing to fast-track to an advanced degree like the BSN to DNP program, among many others.

After you earn your nursing degree, the next step is to obtain your license. Again, depending on which state you reside in and on your chosen nursing field, this may vary. For registered nurses, this will be the NCLEX-RN. 

With your degree and license in hand, you can now start your practice! If you want to continue your education or specialize in your interests, though, there are always opportunities to do so.

If you’re interested in learning more about your career, but don’t want to take time away from your new career, the American Nurses Association offers many webinars that are helpful in your future career and are only one hour long. They also offer additional online courses for anyone looking to complete an online certification while working. 


Although they may sometimes be viewed as inferior to doctors or physicians, nurses are truly the backbone of healthcare. They take on multiple roles to ensure a patient has the best care possible and working as a nurse is both very rewarding and very difficult. If you’re interested in a nursing career, there’s no better time than now to get started!

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