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The Perfect Nursing Shift

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By Kristen Smith, R.N.

Home: 5:30 AM

The alarm is beeping. Somehow I feel rested. I take what seems an eternity in the shower, expecting to run late. I dress quickly, grab my keys, and head out the door. As I pull out of my driveway, I notice the green glaring lights on the dashboard showing 6 AM — plenty of time for a coffee run!

The City: 6:15 AM

I am greeted with a smile by the attendant in the coffee shop drive-through line. She informs me my bill was paid by the customer in line ahead of me. I suppose they noticed the stethoscope hanging in my mirror. He or she must have felt the need to thank me for my public service by paying for my grande Caramel Macchiato with an extra shot of hazelnut!

The City: 6:27 AM

Feeling encouraged, I sip my coffee and continue on my way to work. I manage to zip through all six green lights. And what is this? A front-door parking spot in the garage!

A quick glance at my watch lets me know I’m right on time. I arrive at the time clock with a couple of minutes to spare. I notice members of the staff are sitting at the nurses’ station. That’s a good sign. I put away my bag, grab my nursey gadgets and head down the hall with newfound energy.

The 7th Floor: 6:50 AM

We are well staffed – a rarity! I receive the report from the previous shift. I have four patients, who are alert, oriented, and mobile (another rarity!). I greet each patient with a smile and receive a smile from each in return. After quick assessments and refilling ice pitchers, it’s time to get medications ready.

I enter the medication room, and I’m the only one there. No waiting in line! As I pull meds, I notice a pharmacy technician has stocked the bins. That saves much time and hassle.

The 7th Floor: 9:00 AM

Medications in tow, I make my way back down the hall to administer them. Medication pass goes smoothly because everyone swallows their medication whole with water. All patients are happy. I think I’ll finish my morning coffee. I’m greeted at the nurses’ station by smiling physicians. They must be having a great morning, too.

The 7th Floor: 12:17 PM

After charting my patient assessments, I continue with my day. A couple of new orders are entered for a patient discharge to home. This patient won’t need home health or rehab, so it’s a simple discharge. The ER isn’t busy, so the empty patient room will be empty a while longer. After the patient is in a wheelchair and leaving, it’s a good time for a lunch break!

The Cafeteria: 12:22 PM

The cafeteria is featuring a baked potato bar (my favorite!). I enjoy a quiet lunch in the break room. No one comes to get me or needs me, so an extra 10 minutes on break should be fine. It’s nice to have my feet up for a bit.

The 7th Floor: 2:25 PM

It’s time for another round of IV antibiotics. Fortunately, only one patient’s IV has infiltrated. I’m successful on the first stick and begin automatically administering the antibiotics. I stand in the hall a bit, waiting for an IV machine to beep. Nothing! It seems the pumps are all working well today.

The 7th Floor: 6:00 PM

The day continues to go smoothly until an hour before the end of my shift. I hear a Code Blue announced for our floor. The entire staff go running toward the room. I begin chest compressions on a 70-year-old male admitted with CHF exacerbation.

Our team works together seamlessly. Our quick intervention saved the man’s life. After only 10 minutes of CPR, the patient was revived and transported to the ICU. And just in time to hand off my end-of-shift report!

The 7th Floor: 7:00 PM

The same nurse from this morning is back for the evening shift. She is already familiar with the patients on our floor. I update her on each patient, and I’m free! Time to grab my bag and go home!

A Downstairs Hallway: 7:20 PM

On my way out, I hear a general announcement for Rapid Response on our hall. Just as I’m turning around to help, the call is canceled. Ahh…. It’s been a good day! I wish every day were like today, don’t you?


We all know a day like this rarely, if ever, occurs. Patient health problems are not simple matters. In fact, they are often confusingly complex.

A full staff caring for a light patient load is virtually unheard of in our profession. Doctors are busy, coffee gets spilled in the car, every red light takes forever, all the rooms are full, most patients are NOT ambulatory, and on and on and on it goes.

But we know these things and still show up and care for our patients. We hurry. We strain. We cry. We work. We’re late leaving most days. We don’t get paid for that. We don’t really do it for the pay.

But… A day like I imagined above would be nice once in awhile, right?

I am a full-time registered nurse, wife and new mom. I've recently started writing part-time and I love it! My family is my life. I enjoy spending time with them in my free time.

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