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What Is Bedside Nursing?

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Jan 22, 2024
Bedside nurse sitting with a patient in a medical facility.

What Is Bedside Nursing?

Nurses play an essential role in daily patient care. According to a study by the International Council of Nurses, about 80% of hands-on care in health care facilities is delivered by nurses. While there are many roles in the industry that work directly with patients, one that’s becoming increasingly important is that of the bedside nurse. Those interested in these roles should know what bedside nursing is, how to become qualified, and the responsibilities of the career. 

What Is Bedside Nursing? Responsibilities and More

Bedside nursing describes jobs where nurses work face-to-face with patients. Bedside nurses perform in various clinical settings, but the term is mainly used to describe those who work directly with patients. Nurses in this role may work in a hospital or other inpatient facility, and a range of specialty areas. 

Some examples of bedside nursing specialty areas include:

  • Oncology
  • Pediatrics
  • Critical care

Many duties are physical, but bedside nurses can also expect to provide emotional support to patients and assist patients in understanding their care and options. 

Physical Duties

From changing linens and administering medications to taking vital signs and communicating with other health care providers, bedside nurses perform many hands-on, face-to-face duties at the patient’s bedside. A typical shift can include some of the following duties.

  • Introducing nursing staff and accessing medical records
  • Conducting a verbal report with the patient and/or family
  • Visually assessing the patient
  • Administering medications
  • Asking the patient about concerns and goals

In all of these duties, bedside nurses are expected to practice within the limits of their professional licensure, education, and scope of practice. Administering and prescribing medications may vary based on the practice authority of the state in which a nurse works.

Care Coordination

Physicians and specialists aren’t physically present with patients as much as bedside nurses, so the role of bedside nurses usually involves coordination between health care professionals and patients. Coordinating care ensures everyone is on the same page and understands the various facets of the patient’s care plan.

Patient Education and Advocacy

Bedside nurses communicate with patients to help them understand the medical situation and learn about their desired goals. They must relay this information clearly and effectively to other health care professionals. Patients may feel confused or anxious about a situation, diagnosis, or treatment, so bedside nurses can encourage them, advocate for them, and provide agency.

The Importance of Bedside Manner

Bedside nurses can impact the outcome of a patient’s treatment plan. While the specific duties associated with bedside nursing are varied depending on the area and specialty, here are some key benefits that show why bedside nursing plays an essential role in the health care industry.

Building Trust

Bedside nurses can be integral in building trust between patients and providers. Physicians don’t always have time for sustained conversations and relationship building with patients, which may cause miscommunication or make it difficult to build a rapport. Bedside nurses remove that barrier by communicating empathetically with patients and fostering trust.

Reducing Stress

A sound bedside manner can also reduce the levels of stress and anxiety a patient may be feeling. Bedside nurses can provide clarity on potentially confusing or distressing diagnoses and can communicate with family members to provide reassurance in stressful situations.

Improving the Overall Patient Experience

From providing information about diagnoses, to fielding questions about treatment options, bedside nurses can have a significant effect on the overall patient experience. Patients may be dealing with symptoms, emotions, and treatment steps that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable. A bedside nurse can be a reassuring voice and a familiar face to help advocate for patients’ needs.

Career Pathways for Bedside Nurses

For many graduates of nursing programs, bedside nursing is a common career option, or the first step in a journey to non-bedside nursing jobs. Different types of bedside nursing positions require different qualifications, including being a registered nurse (RN), or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).

Registered Nurse

An RN assumes bedside duties that range from providing health assessments to operating medical equipment. They work closely with other health care professionals in areas including oncology, addiction, critical care, and genetics. Before becoming a licensed RN, graduates need either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing degree (BSN).

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

APRNs work to create treatment plans, diagnose illnesses, and sometimes prescribe medications. A career as an APRN can include working in pediatric or psychiatric settings. Most APRNs require an RN license and a master’s degree in nursing.

Clinical Nurse Leader

After five or more years of clinical nursing experience, a bedside nurse can pursue a career as a clinical nurse leader. Lead nurses continue to provide bedside care but also delegate tasks, supervise other nurses, and monitor overall patient care in a unit.

Take the Next Step in Your Nursing Career

Bedside nursing is an integral part of effective patient care and can improve health care outcomes. See how you can prepare for this rewarding career with the online Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program offered at The University of Tulsa. TU’s ABSN program offers an efficient, accessible, and streamlined avenue for earning your bachelor’s in nursing. 

Find out how this program can prepare you for a career in bedside nursing.

Recommended Readings:

A Nurse Educator’s Role in the Future of Nursing

The Most Important Leadership Skills for Nurses

The Benefits of Making a Career Change to Nursing

Source List

Nurse Together, “What You Need to Know About Bedside Nursing

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Bedside Shift Report Checklist

Covalon Technologies, “What Is Bedside Nursing?

News-Medical, “Roles of a Nurse”

Patient Experience Journal, “Doctor behaviors that impact patient satisfaction”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

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