This article, which forms part of the life sciences series and is the first of two articles on the endocrine system, examines the structure and function of the organs of the endocrine system. It is important that nurses understand how the endocrine system works and its role in maintaining health. The role of the endocrine system and the types, actions and control of hormones are explored. The gross structure of the pituitary and thyroid glands are described along with relevant physiology. Several disorders of the thyroid gland are outlined. The second article examines growth hormone, the pancreas and adrenal glands.