4 Roles Nurses Play that Truly Make Them the Heart of Healthcare

Nurses are often thought of as the “heart” of healthcare because nurses give their all day in and out taking care of patients. In today’s media, physicians often have the starring role in patient care, but in reality, it is nurses who spend the most time at the bedside connecting with patients. Nurses have four roles that make them the heart of healthcare.


This considered is the primary role and duty of a nurse. As caregivers, nurses are responsible for attending to the various needs of patients. Some may assume that nurses only do things that are directly overseen by the physician. That could not be further from the truth. Nurses are responsible for total care of the patient, including giving medications, assessing different body systems, changing dressings, caring for wounds, providing education to patients, feeding, toileting, lifting, moving – all of these are duties that a nurse has to do to fulfill her job as caregiver.

On a deeper level, nurses also tend to a patients emotional and spiritual needs. As the healthcare provider most in contact with the patient, it is often necessary to engage in conversation, address fears, or simply listen to the patient. A nurse must also be aware of cultural or religious issues that could come into play during treatment and act accordingly.


A nurse’s critical thinking will be her most important skill when it comes to caring for patients. Often a nurse has to use her best judgment to decide what is best for the patient or their family. This means that a nurse has to use her scientific knowledge in combination with her understanding of the patient holistically. It can be difficult, but, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, nurses are able to put together the pieces of information they have on hand to make the right decisions for care.


No one works more closely or consistently with individual patients than nurses do. Therefore, nurses are very familiar with the patient’s values, beliefs, and cultural practices. Nurses must properly advocate for their patients to make sure they receive the correct treatments and best available care. Sometimes this means stepping out of their comfort zone in order to seek the best possible outcomes for their patients.


When a patient is discharged from a facility, there is often some type of care that needs to be done at home. It is the nurse’s responsibility to educate the patient and their family members on proper at-home care. Similarly, in the hospital nurses have to educate patients and their family members about diagnoses or medications. Education helps the patients understand what is happening, why it is happening, and what the patient needs to do in order to heal. It is also the nurse’s role to educate the patient or their family about confusing procedures or complex treatments.

Final Thoughts

Nurses are an integral part of any healthcare team and the roles of teacher, advocate, decision-maker, and caregivers showcase why nurses are considered the “heart” of healthcare.

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Dr. Jenna Liphart Rhoads is a registered nurse and a nurse educator. She earned a BSN from Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing and an MS in nursing education from Northern Illinois University. Jenna earned a PhD in education with a concentration in nursing education from Capella University where she researched the moderation effects of emotional intelligence on the relationship of stress and GPA in military veteran nursing students.