Staying Organized: A Simple Guide to a Happy Shift

February 25th, 2015 by

Nurse With Patient ChartKeeping up with all the tasks in a work day is a challenge. For you overworked and exhausted nurses, here are a few simple methods you can employ for a smoother shift.

I have a recurring dream. I dream an entire 12 hour shift in the hospital. In this shift I run and scurry and bustle and work and I never get anything done.

I have a list of things to do, and I’m so busy trying to tackle the assorted problems that arise, that I can’t actually pass meds or do procedures! I wake up feeling tired and frustrated.

I don’t know about you, but keeping up with all the work in my day has always been a challenge, no matter what arena of nursing I’m working in.

Some days are slower than others, and occasionally I’d find myself “letting down” on those days and still forgetting tasks. Here are some ways I’ve found to help stay organized and make sure I don’t neglect any of my duties.

Write it Down

This, more than anything I have found, will save you the most headache and heartache in your day. How many times do you find yourself saying “Oh, I won’t forget that, it’s so obvious!” only to find yourself walking into a patient room an hour later to the unhappy patient who had requested a heating pad during rounds.

Most nurses have established a worksheet that they refer to during the day, but keeping a running to-do list will also help with the unplanned tasks that arise.

It may be hard to develop the habit, but it is truly helpful. Having great tools to complete the task may help motivate you to keep a list. Find a pen you love and treat yourself to it! The process of writing something down will help you remember, even if you forget to look at your list!

Do it Now

Don’t tell yourself you will do something later. If at all possible, do it now. If not, write it down for later. As tasks pile up, some will inevitably be neglected. If a patient asks you if the doctor has ordered their discharge yet, and you haven’t heard, call the doctor right then and there- from the room, if possible.

Not only will you be able to conquer that task, your patient will be much happier knowing that you are taking care of them. This idea of doing it now can be a double edged sword, however.  Unplanned tasks can take on a life of their own and suddenly you find you have been rushing around for 2 hours and you’re late with your patient’s meds. Which leads us to the next point….

Take your Time

This seems counter-intuitive in the middle of a busy day, but when you rush, you can get flustered and that can lead to mistakes. Stop once in a while to check your worksheet, look at your list, and reflect on your patients- really thinking about each one for just a few moments to prioritize needs.

Charting is a good time to do this, because as you chart- which I suggest you do throughout your shift, rather than all at once at the end- you are actually forced to stop moving.  Instead of just ticking off boxes, really think about your work and give yourself credit for the things that you do!

These are pretty straightforward ideas and not exactly new or cutting edge, but helpful none-the-less. Simplicity in approach is often a great way to break down a challenging shift into a manageable and, dare I say it, even pleasant experience.

About the Author:

Sarah Heroman

Sarah Heroman is an RN, BSN who has found her niche as a school nurse in Texas. With almost 20 years of experience, Sarah is still passionate about the nursing field and enjoys mentoring and helping nurses continue to find the joy in their careers. She believes that a good nurse is able to combine the science and the art of nursing and find fulfillment in providing the best care for their patients.

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