Registered nurses, as the eNotes essay a link to which is provided below points out, comprise the majority of health care professionals in the United States. They are vested with much responsibility in the organizations for which they work, and their functions can include triage and emergency care, administration of injections, supervision of medical staffs, and administrative responsibilities. Their education and training is such that they are counted on as the backbone of many medical clinics across the nation. As with physicians, because they are accustomed to being multitasked with both patient care and administrative responsibilities, including record keeping, they are a common site in school medical offices, often providing the only trained medical staff available, and in all manner of clinics.
Registered nurses often comprise the medical component of the Head Start Program, which attempts to address a range of issues pertaining to children from low-income families. In this capacity, they provide basic medical care, usually limited to treating and dressing wounds, lecturing students on health care issues including personal hygiene, and overseeing the administration of immunization vaccines and tuberculosis tests. They also work with the families of children in the Head Start Program on the need for proper nutrition for children as a vital component of the educational process, as well as providing information on the kinds of medical or health problems that can develop among schoolchildren, for example, communicable diseases that can spread throughout a classroom, or the ever-present danger of head lice.
In contrast, registered nurses employed in hospitals carry out many of the functions mentioned above with regard to the processing of patients entering the facility, support to attending physicians, oversight of the distribution of prescription medications, administration of intravenous medications, maintenance of patient records, and oversight of hospital support staff, including nurse trainees and others. In short, nurses in hospitals function within the institutions in which they are employed. Nurses in Head Start function outside of hospitals in direct support of community medical needs, and are more absorbed in the educational element of health care than those in hospitals.