By Crystal Norris, R.N.
Most people, when deciding to go to nursing school, feel like they know what it is like to be a nurse. They develop their perception of nursing from family and friends who may be nurses, or even television or the movies. Let me tell you though - real nursing isn't like what you see on Grey's Anatomy. That's a good thing, though! Who needs all the drama? In this article, we will discuss how to plan, prepare, and prioritize your shift to ensure that you are getting the most out of your 12-hours.
Planning starts before your feet hit the unit floor. The night (or day for all our night shifters out there - see our "Night Shift Nursing Survival Guide" article) before your shift, make sure you have your nursing bag packed with all your essentials including an extra pair of scrubs for unexpected incidents! It is always a great idea to include high protein snacks (in case of an emergency, and you don't get to eat lunch!). Also, plan to get adequate sleep the night before.
Once you get to work and receive report from the off-going shift, use the information you obtain to prioritize care. Do you have patients that are going for testing during your shift? Who needs blood glucose checks before breakfast? Any critical labs slip by the previous shift nurse that you need to give to the doctor? Any potential discharges on the horizon? Use your first hour to review your patient load and prepare for the day ahead.
Once you have your game plan, then it is time for action. The next few hours will more than likely be one of the busiest parts of your day. Go see your most urgent patients first for shift assessment and then work your way down the list. Anticipate needs before exiting each room and cluster care as much as you can. If you are doing a dressing change or other procedure, make sure you have all the equipment needed before you start. Bring medications that may be due during this time with you as you see patients. Focus on the patient at hand, but always be thinking about the next thing you need to do.
Once you see everyone, find a cozy place to review charting, make any notes that you need for your patients, and update care plans accordingly. Doctors usually make rounds in the first few hours of the shift, so review and make sure that no new orders have suddenly appeared.
The next few hours will consist of taking care of patient needs that may come up, reviewing and following doctor's orders, and charting. Once everyone is settled, and you find a spare minute - take some time to take care of yourself. Use the restroom and have lunch. These instructions may sound obvious, but reminders are still needed!
As the day winds down, make sure you round on every patient and meeting any immediate needs they have. Nothing is worse than being the nurse known for leaving things for the next shift. Make sure your charting is complete and accurate. The next nurse should be able to review your charting and see the whole story of what happened during your shift. Give clear, concise report to the on-coming nurse (at the bedside with the patient if possible!). Say goodbye to all your patients and get ready to do it all over again tomorrow!
If you use these tips to plan, prepare, and prioritize your shift, with a little practice, you will have this routine down to a science. Nursing is a profession where you need to be ready for anything. The more organized and ready to roll you are, the better your day will go - no matter what challenges you face. You have the tools and the know-how - now go out there and get it done!
About The Author
Crystal Lynn Norris RN - Crystal has been a Registered Nurse specializing in Labor & Delivery for the past three years. Her favorite part of her profession is being able to help women to find their strength bringing new life into the world. Crystal is a wife and mother to her sweet daughter Ruby. In her free time, she enjoys writing, traveling, and spending time with family.
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