Nursing care is one of the most important types of care in the medical industry. Nurses act as patient advocates, keep patients comfortable, prevent the spread of disease, and provide ongoing care between visits with physicians. Nursing care is provided in a range of settings and in nearly every area of medical care from hospitals to in-home nursing.

Nursing homes provide skilled nursing care for patients who cannot live at home without 24-hours supervision, but who also do not need to be hospitalized. Stays in nursing homes may be lengthy or short-term, but making sure that patients get good quality care is essential for wellness, comfort, and overall health.

What is Nursing Care?

Nursing care refers to a range of care services provided by registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and certified nursing assistants. The work that nurses do helps keep patients healthy and comfortable, and also prevents worsening or new conditions. Nursing care is provided in hospitals, doctor’s offices, urgent care clinics, and residential facilities, like nursing homes. Nursing care can also be provided in the home. The services nursing care provides include many different things, but a few examples are administering intravenous fluids, inserting and changing catheters, and caring for wounds.

Regardless of specialty or type of nursing, all nurses follow a basic nursing process that forms the core of care for patients:

  • Assessment. Nurses first assess their patients by using all the information available. This includes medical data as well as psychological, economic, lifestyle, and cultural factors. Nurses can provide the best care only when they have a wide range of information about patients.
  • Diagnosis. Using the assessment, nurses then make clinical judgments about a patient’s symptoms, medical conditions, and needs. The diagnosis goes well beyond simply naming a condition and includes recognizing all issues and needs that the patient has.
  • Planning. The nurse then sets goals for the patient based on the assessment and clinical judgment, or diagnosis. A plan is formed to help the patient meet those goals, which may include reducing pain, increasing mobility, or addressing mental health needs.
  • Implementation. With a plan in place the nurse and the nurse’s team implements the plan and keeps a record of what is done for the patient and whether goals are met. The records are crucial for providing continuity of care.
  • Evaluation. Evaluation is an ongoing process that the nurse uses to determine if the patient is meeting goals and if the patient’s needs are met. The evaluation can be used to change the plan and how it is implemented.

Who Provides Nursing and Skilled Nursing Care?

Nursing care is a general term that may include very basic care, such as assistance with bathing, as well as more advanced medical care. The terms nursing care and skilled nursing care are often used interchangeably, but skilled nursing care may also refer to the work done by registered nurses that includes actual medical care.

There are several types of professionals that may provide nursing care. Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) help nurses do their work by providing basic care like bathing, moving patients, or dispensing medications. They work under the supervision of nurses and become certified after completing vocational courses. A licensed practical nurse, or LPN, can perform more services than a CNA and have more training but are still unable to provide all the services of a registered nurse.

A registered nurse is a nurse that has completed a degree program in nursing and is certified to provide more advanced medical services. They are also qualified to make nursing diagnoses and to supervise CNAs and LPNs. Registered nurses may also pursue advanced training to become nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, or nurse anesthetists. These nurses can provide more advanced medical care.

Where is Nursing Care Provided?

Nursing care provides services for patients in all medical settings: hospitals, medical centers and offices, community clinics, urgent care clinics, emergency rooms, nursing homes, and in the homes of individuals. The level of nursing care utilized in each setting depends on several factors, including patient needs. A typical doctor’s office may not need many nurses, while a nursing home or emergency room needs several nurses to provide services to patients with more serious medical needs.

The Importance of Nursing Care

Nursing care is used in all medical settings because it is a type of care that is important to overall patient wellness. They are on the frontline of caring for patients, assessing and diagnosing them often before a doctor is available to do the same. Nurses help keep patients comfortable and serve as their advocates. They provide emotional as well as physical comfort.

Because they spend more time with patients than doctors do, nurses are able to provide a more comprehensive assessment of patient needs. They play a big role in preventing illnesses from getting worse, in helping patients heal, and in preventing the spread of infections and illnesses. Nursing care is essential in maintaining high quality medical care in all settings.

Nursing Homes and Skilled Nursing Facilities

While nursing care is used in all medical settings, residential nursing care is one of the most important settings for good quality nursing care. There can be some confusion in terms used to describe this type of care, but nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities are the same. The terms can be used interchangeably, but the latter is the more up-to-date term.

A nursing home is a residential facility that provides 24-hour medical services and supervision for patients who need it. Nursing homes must have one or more registered nurses on staff, depending on the number of patients, but may also staff LPNs and CNAs as well as non-skilled staff to provide care. Anyone who needs nursing care but does not need to be hospitalized can benefit from nursing home care. This may include older adults and anyone who has an illness that requires care and supervision but not hospitalization. Nursing home care is not always permanent. Patients may be able to move to assisted living or back home after recovering from an illness or injury.

Nursing Care in the Home

Nursing care can also be provided in a patient’s home, although this can be more expensive than nursing home care. An in-home nurse can provide basic services, such as assistance with bathing and mobility, but also more advanced care like maintaining catheters or caring for wounds that are healing. In-home nursing care is a good option for anyone who needs more than basic assistance and personal care, but who does not want to go to a residential nursing facility.

Choosing Nursing Care

Selecting in-home or residential nursing care means making a choice that could affect the quality of care your loved one receives. It is a big decision that should be made carefully to ensure high quality services. For either an in-home service or a nursing home, check licensing, references, and experience. For a nursing home, make sure you are choosing a facility that is licensed by the state. The Medicare website has a search tool that will allow you to find and compare facilities by services, quality, and other factors.

Before making a final choice, narrow your options down by cost, what you can afford, location, and services offered. Then, visit each facility and meet the staff, patients, and families of patients. Ask as many questions as you need to before making a choice. Both you and your loved one who needs care should feel comfortable with the final decision.

Nursing care is a diverse set of services offered in a wide range of medical settings. It is an important type of care for maintaining individual and public health and for helping patients feel comfortable while getting needed medical care. While nursing care is important in all settings, it has a big impact in nursing homes. Getting the best possible care requires being and advocate for your loved one, making informed decisions about nursing care, and monitoring that care over time.