Nursing Physical Demands | NorthWest Arkansas Community College

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Physical Demands

Careers within the field of nursing and health care can be physically demanding and require a variety of functional abilities. 

The following are some physical requirements asked of registered nurses. 

  • Move within confined spaces
  • Maintain balance in multiple positions
  • Reach above shoulders/overhead (IV poles, monitors, etc.)
  • Reach below the waist (electrical plugs, etc.)
  • Reach in front (assist patient with arms out)

  • Pick up objects with hands
  • Grasp small objects with hands (IV tubing, pencils, electrode patches, etc.)
  • Write with pen
  • Use computer (type)
  • Pinch/pick or otherwise work with fingers (use syringe, etc.)
  • Twist at waist
  • Twist wrists/hands (turn objects/knobs using hands)
  • Squeeze with fingers (eye droppers, bulb syringes, ear bulb, etc.)


  • Walk long distances (transfer patient, etc.)
  • Stand (at patient's side during surgery or therapeutic procedure, etc.)
  • Sustain repetitive movement (CPR compressions, bagging, etc.)
  • Maintain physical tolerance (stand/walk/work on your feet for 8-12 hours at a time with minimal breaks)


  • Push and pull 50 pounds (position patient, move equipment, etc.)
  • Support 50 pounds of weight (ambulate patient, assist to bedside toilet, etc.)
  • Lift 50 pounds (pick up a child, transfer a patient, etc.)
  • Carry equipment/supplies
  • Use upper body strength (CPR, physically restrain patient, etc.)
  • Squeeze with hands (operate fire extinguisher)


  • Twist
  • Bend
  • Stoop/squat
  • Move quickly (respond to emergency)
  • Climb stairs
  • Walk
  • Stand


  • Hear normal speaking level sounds (person-to-person)
  • Hear faint voices
  • Hear faint body sounds (blood pressures, lung sounds, heart sounds, placement of tubes)
  • Hear in situations when not able to see mouth (when masks are being used)
  • Hear alarms (monitors, fire alarms, code alarms, call light)


  • See information up to 24 inches away (monitors, computer screens, skin conditions)
  • See objects up to 20 feet away (patient in room)
  • Use depth perception
  • Use of peripheral vision
  • Distinguish color and color intensity (flushed, as colored, or pale skin, color of labels)


  • Feel vibrations (pulses)
  • Detect temperature (temperature of skin, IV solutions, etc.)
  • Feel differences in characteristics of skin (rash, turgor, etc.)
  • Feel difference in sizes, shapes (palpate veins, body landmarks)
  • Detect environmental temperatures


  • Detect odors (drainage, alcohol, smoke, gasses, etc.)


  • Tolerate strong soaps
  • Tolerate strong odors
  • Tolerate disturbing sounds (vomiting, diarrhea, coughing from trach)


  • Read and understand written documents (charts, orders, flow sheets, graphics)
  • Read digital displays


  • Comprehend and interpret graphic trends
  • Calibrate equipment
  • Convert to and from metric system, apothecaries' and American system (dosage calculations)
  • Tell time
  • Measure time (CPR, contractions)
  • Count rates (drip rates, pulse)
  • Read and interpret measurement tools (measure tapes and scales)
  • Add, subtract, multiply, and divide
  • Compute fractions and decimals (dosage calculations)
  • Document numbers in records using computerized database

  • Establish professional relationships
  • Provide emotional support (patient and families)
  • Adapt to changing environments/stress
  • Deal with the unexpected (patient crash, death, etc.)
  • Focus attention on task
  • Cope with your own emotions
  • Multitask
  • Cope with strong emotions in others (family grieving, patient upset, etc.)

  • Transfer knowledge from one situation to another
  • Process and interpret information from multiple sources
  • Analyze and interpret abstract and concrete data
  • Evaluate outcomes
  • Problem-solve
  • Prioritize tasks
  • Use long-term memory
  • Use short-term memory
  • Synthesize knowledge and skills
  • Sequence information
  • Independent decision making
  • Adapt decisions based on new information

  • Ask questions
  • Gather relevant information
  • Think through solutions and conclusions
  • Consider alternative systems of thought
  • Communicate effectively
  • Admit when wrong or when they don’t know the answer

Interpersonal Skills:

  • Establish rapport with families, patient, and health care team
  • Respect/value cultural differences
  • Negotiate interpersonal conflict

Communication Skills:

  • Teach (patient and family)
  • Influence people
  • Direct/manage/delegate activities to others
  • Speak in English
  • Write in English
  • Listen/comprehend spoken/written work
  • Collaborate with others
  • Manage information