What is Nursing?

The American Nurses Association describes nursing as: “The essence of nursing is that nurses combine the art of caring with the science of health care. Nursing places its focus not only on a particular health problem but on the whole patient and his or her response to treatment. Care of the patient and a firm base of scientific knowledge are indispensable elements. Nursing is the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations.”

There is a wide variety of nursing specialty areas including but not limited to surgery, emergency room (ER), pediatrics, psychiatry, public health, and nurse-midwifery. Some specializations may require additional experience, study, or certification.

Field Description


Nurses work in many different areas, but the common thread of nursing is the nursing process – the essential core of how a registered nurse delivers care. This process involves 5 steps:

  • Assessment: collecting and analyzing physical, psychological and sociocultural data about a patient.
  • Diagnosis: making a nursing diagnoses based on a patient’s physical, social and behavioral symptoms.
  • Planning: creating with the help of other medical professionals a plan of care and goals for a patient’s recovery.
  • Implementation: supervising and carrying out the actual treatment plan while documenting the patient’s progress.
  • Evaluation: continuous assessment of the plan of care, and adjustments to improve patient outcome.

Work Setting

Due to the various levels of education a nurse can receive, nurses can work in a variety of settings like hospitals, physicians’ offices, home healthcare services, and nursing care facilities. Others work in correctional facilities, schools, or serve in the military.

Related Careers

Medicine, physician assistant, dental hygiene, public health, hospital administration.

Nursing Programs
Nursing Degree Pathways in Hawai'i