Getting to Know Nursing Roles

Nursing roles depict the activities performed by all nurses. Another way to look at them is that they are like facets or dimensions of nursing rather than actual job titles or positions. At any given time during the performance of their duties, nurses assume a particular role or combine multiple nursing roles.

Care Provider

This is the basic and the most recognizable role of nurses. They are expected to provide direct care to patients. These include maintaining hygiene, providing nutrition and administering medication. Patient care also includes assisting the patient in activities of daily living, providing them comfort and performing range of motion exercises. But this role goes beyond technical know-how and bedside skills. The essential thing for nurses is to have a caring attitude and demeanor in providing care. The caring component makes the care giving role effective.


Nurses determine the gaps in the health knowledge of the patient. From this assessment, the most appropriate teaching methods and techniques are employed by the nurse to close those gaps. The nurse then evaluates the effectiveness of teaching strategies and revises or reinforces them to effect learning. As health promotion and health prevention gain importance side by side with actual treatment, nurses and their health teaching will be a crucial resource for patients.

Client Advocate

Being a client advocate means nurses protect the rights of patients. By doing this, nurses promote a healthy environment for the patient. Advocating for patients will ensure no harm is done to patients while they receive the best care available based on their own decisions. Often, patients can get bewildered with the nature and options regarding treatment. It is comforting for them to know that nurses are there to always advocate for them.

Leader and Manager

These similar nursing roles make sure that patients get the optimal treatment they deserve. Every nurse is a leader, regardless of rank or position. Through interpersonal influence, he or she helps patients make decisions regarding their care. As managers, nurses direct and monitor resources of the nursing unit to achieve goals. Nurse managers supervise other nurses and evaluate how they provide patient care. As the head of the nursing unit, nurse managers are always looking to make the unit run more efficiently and effectively.


Communication is central to nursing. It facilitates all nursing activities and functions. When nurses document and report pertinent data, or when they establish rapport and explain procedures to patients, nurses display their role as communicators. This role is also evident in the collaborative process between all members of the health care team. Communication is also important for continuity of care, such as what happens during change-of-shift reporting, client rounds, unit transfers and discharge.


Gone are the days when nurses merely assist physicians. Nowadays, nurses’ unique position in the clinical area makes them suitable researchers. Nursing practice will advance through practice-based research. Nurse researchers strive to improve patient care and to add to the profession’s body of knowledge. Many beneficial interventions in the practice setting have been introduced based on the work of nurse researchers.

All nurses play these roles in the course of everyday work. These roles often work interdependently and simultaneously. For example, the nurse performs his or her role as communicator and teacher when discussing with the patient about changing wound dressings at home. By also involving a family care giver to ensure compliance, the nurse becomes an advocate and leader, always aiming for the best outcome for the patient. The most effective nurses seamlessly switch between these nursing roles.

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