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12 Tips to Help You Conquer Every Nursing Shift

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By Ana Pamela, RN

No matter what area in the hospital you are assigned in, if you are a nurse, you always feel like you are pulled into many different directions at the same time. This is especially true during the first six months to a year of being in the job. These are the times when you feel like you are just taking everything in and wondered how you ever survived.

What makes matters worse is when you look at your colleagues and they always seem calm and collected all throughout their shift. You then look at yourself; traumatized, dishevelled and haggard. Unfortunately, most of the tricks that somehow helped nurses minimize their ordeal are learned the hard way. It may be from a patient complaint, a reprimand from senior nurses and/or doctors or even personal or physical injury.

The following are some of the tricks of the trade; lessons that helped me minimize stress and made me enjoy nursing as it should be. [no_toc]

1. You cannot nurse on an empty stomach.

Before actually going to work, make sure you had a decent meal. As nurses, our eating habits are dictated by our workload. We cannot simply excuse ourselves in the middle of the code just because we are hungry. One of the most embarrassing experiences I had as a nursing student was when I passed out on the DR floor and waking up with an oxygen mask on my face. My classmates were grinning like crazy because I almost dived in between the legs of the patient having her curettage! We always encourage our patients to eat. And that includes you. So Eat!

2. Be early.

You wouldn’t want to be hyperventilating your way into the endorsement. One of the benefits of coming in early gives you the opportunity to mentally condition yourself before doing your job. This gives you a chance to think ahead and plan ahead. You may also want the time to perfect those eyebrows for your rounds, retouch that lip gloss, look for a decent pen, or even prepare the equipments you may need for a possible code blue.

3. Do not rush through your rounds.

Remember that patience is a virtue. Rushing and running in between patients are actually counterproductive. By doing so, you are not only wasting your precious energy, but you also end up failing to notice certain aspects in your care that may be very important. It is usually the covert cues that spell the difference between preventing the patient from deteriorating from actually doing your code. And in the long run, rushing may only cause you trouble and waste your precious little time.

4. Be proactive.

It is not uncommon for nurses to complain about patients who give countless demands. However, one sure way of preventing this is by asking the patient what he needs while you are still at the bedside. You may ask the patient if he wants additional pillows and blankets, if he wants to have the windows closed, the AC adjusted, the lights adjusted, or even as simple as ensuring that his water or tissue is within his reach so he doesn’t have to frequently call for you. If you do not want your documentation disturbed over the smallest things, master the art of anticipation.

5. Be empowered.

This means that you are expected to have a good grasp of the policies that govern your job. You should know your job description. This could prevent you from overstepping your boundaries, neglecting your responsibilities, or even causing harm to yourself or to your patients. Knowing the policies could prevent the likelihood of being easily intimidated by the various personalities in your workplace.

6. Study!

Learning doesn’t end once you graduate from nursing school. Make an effort to update your knowledge and skills. Lessons in pharmacology and medication computation, normal laboratory values and the disease processes should not be left in the distant memory. They should be like blood that runs through your veins. In our profession, it is our responsibility to continue educating ourselves. Earn a postgraduate degree if you must.

7. Ask questions.

Nobody likes a know-it-all in the workplace, especially those who end up screwing things up because of sheer arrogance. Learn the humility to ask questions, before it’s too late. Your mentors will appreciate honesty.

8. Make friends.

Yes! You are a professional nurse and you are expected to be no less than that. However, it wouldn’t hurt you to be nice to the people around you and get to know them. If someone needs help in certain tasks like an IV insertion, for instance, offer your help without being condescending. Nurses who go out of their way to help a colleague in need will have no difficulty asking for help when they need it the most. Remember, work as a team!

One of the greatest gifts that our profession has given me is the gift of friends. And just like me, your fellow nurses could be your bestest friends for life. Just make sure that when at work, you maintain the utmost level of professionalism.

When it comes to patients, call them by their name, not by bed or room numbers, or worst, their diagnoses! This will give them the idea of your sincerity and compassion towards them. And most of all, “smile,” it goes a long way. However, do not fail to consider making a conscious effort not to be over familiar with a patient or their families.

9. Have a sense of humor.

Learn to laugh at your mistakes and benefit from them in time. Considering the amount of stress we are in on a daily basis, nurses with no sense of humor ends up the most being tired the most. They are the ones who tend to complain a lot.

10. Learn from your mistakes.

For mentors, there is nothing more frustrating than having to say repeat the instructions over and over again.

11. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Breathe in…breathe out. Go to the bathroom and unload your bladder. Take the time to drink water. Feed yourself when you can. Nap when you can.

12. All’s well that ends well.

After the endorsement, when you leave the hospital, leave your worries in the hospital behind. Leave your germs in the hospital. Wash your hands, freshen up. Go home to your family and pets clean. Nobody said nursing is easy, if you believe you have done your best, pat your shoulders and congratulate yourself for a job well done! You deserve that.

So, what are your tricks and tips in surviving your nursing shift? 

Pamela is a Registered Nurse since 2005. An ICU Nurse, mother of three little monsters and a friend. In an imaginary world I would be walking barefoot in the park, but the real world I am a Nurse and I'm damn proud of it.

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