What You Need to Know About Bedside Nursing

Bedside nursing is quickly becoming just one of many occupational areas of nursing. Due to a push towards an increased need for mid-level providers (advanced practice nurses) and nurse burnout, fewer nurses choose to stay at the bedside long-term. This may become problematic as the nursing shortage continues to rapidly increase.

Bedside nursing is available in many specialty areas (critical care, pediatrics, oncology, etc.), and it comes with its own challenges and rewards. Below are things to consider when deciding is bedside nursing is for you.

What Does Bedside Nursing Involve?

“Bedside nursing” is a term used to describe the jobs in nursing that include face-to-face patient interaction that occurs in a hospital or other in-patient facility. Bedside nurses administer medications, change linens, take vital signs, work with providers, and care for the patient’s acute needs. Generally, these needs are physical, but a competent bedside nurse will also address the emotional needs of patients. Bedside nursing involves patient care coordination and being a patient’s educator and advocate.

The Bedside Nurse as a Care Coordinator

Perhaps one of the main roles of a bedside nurse is that of a coordinator for patients between various medical providers, therapists, and other care givers. Because nurses spend the most time with patients than any other health care specialty, they are the most familiar with their patients’ current condition and needs. Bedside nurses must have excellent communication skills and will relay information to other hospital personnel that are involved in the patient’s care.

The Bedside Nurse as Educator

Along with providing care for patients, the bedside nurse also has the important task of educating the patient and their family about their care, their health, and any lifestyle changes that need to be made. From medical and nursing diagnoses to treatments and medication, a bedside nurse needs to be able to translate medical jargon to laymen’s terms in order to effectively help the patient understand their care. Nurses also help make sure that the patient and their family understand what they are to do after discharge and how they are to follow-up with treatment and therapy.

The Bedside Nurse and Compassion Fatigue

Most nurses are familiar with the term “compassion fatigue.” If this is new to you, this is a type of emotional burnout that often appears as depression. Because nurses are expected to offer compassionate care at all times, amidst incredibly difficulty situations, they often suffer from simply not being able to give any more of themselves to others. Bedside nurses are at particular risk of this because he or she works continuously face-to-face with patients who often require incredible amounts of empathy and patience. Working directly with patients in this way can be emotionally challenging, and without any kind of respite, many nurses will not be able to continue without facing fatigue and burnout.

Bedside Nurses Are at Risk for Injury

Bedside nursing is one of the most physically demanding areas of nursing to work in. They routinely physically lift patients to transfer them from bed to chair or to another bed, along with rolling and holding appendages. Even with mechanical lifts, bedside nursing requires the use of one’s entire body. Bedside nurses, and nursing aids, are often relied heavily upon for this sort of task, and with the nursing shortage, sometimes there are not enough nurses and aids available to safety move a patient. This leads to many bedside nurses attempting to lift or move a patient alone, resulting in back or knee injury, or even chronic pain.

The Bedside Shortage

There was a shortage before the COVID-19 pandemic and has only gotten worse. Many nurses are either leaving the bedside or leaving the profession all together due to the increasing stress and scrutiny brought on by the pandemic. Bedside nursing can be a very rewarding job, however, nurses need to be aware of their own mental and emotional health while working in this capacity.

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Dr. Jenna Liphart Rhoads, Ph.D, RN, CNE

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 Ph.D. 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.