10 Cures for Frazzled Nurses: Shortcuts for an Easier Day

By Cynthia Dusseault

A day simply isn’t long enough to get everything done, right? Or is it?

If you’re stressed out before you even get to work, or if you race through your shift at a frenetic pace and still feel as if you didn’t accomplish everything you were supposed to or wanted to—and subsequently didn’t give as much attention to your patients as you would have liked—then maybe you need to use some shortcuts to make your days more productive and less hectic.

1. Get ready for work ahead of time, no matter how tired or busy you are. Pack your lunch, make sure your uniform or whatever you’ll be wearing is all set to go, get the coffee maker ready (use the timer if it has one) and fill your vehicle with gas. If you’ll be showering before you head out the door, lay out everything that you’ll need in the bathroom. If you make the whole getting-ready-for-work process easier, you’ll be less stressed out when you do arrive, and you’ll be able to focus on your job much quicker.

2. Make a “to do” list the day before or the night before of what you need to accomplish on your next workday or shift. If you have goals and a plan, you’re more likely to get things done.

3. Run any errands right before or right after your shift, if you can. Of course, if you’re working a night shift, you might just need to get home to bed, and that’s understandable. But if you can, package your errands into your travel to and from work, so you won’t have to dip into the time you should be relaxing at home or doing things with your family and friends. And get everything ready for those errands ahead of time—your shopping list, your dry cleaning stub, the letters or packages you have to mail—with your work gear, so you can just grab everything quickly and head out the door.

4. As soon as you get to work, stock your uniform or lab coat pockets with the items you use the most. Think about the items you’re always chasing down: tape, a pen light, dressing scissors, alcohol pads, IV parts. Those items should be in your pockets.

5. Take notes during report and keep them in your pocket. Consider this your “cheat sheet” of important things and add to it as the day progresses. When you’re on the night shift and are super tired, you won’t have to worry about relying totally on your memory because it will all be there. Just be sure to shred your cheat sheet or lock it safely in your locker before you head home.

6. Hang onto that pen! Seriously, don’t lend it to anyone or you’ll likely never see it again. Plus, you’ll waste time looking for another one.

7. If your facility isn’t using a “bedside handover” system, suggest it. Conducting bedside handovers from off-going nurses to on-coming nurses saves time because it enables patient safety assessment and allows nurses to respond early in their shifts to the needs of patients. It also keeps patients and families more involved in the plans of care.

8. Do “real time documentation.” In other words, don’t leave your charting until the end of your shift. Sit at that computer and do your documenting right away so you don’t waste time later trying to remember what you did.

9. Learn how to remove yourself politely. Although patients love to talk, sometimes you have to pull yourself away from a long story—that you don’t really need to hear—so that you can do what needs to be done. You don’t want to seem rude or uncaring, so it may take a little practice to get good at this. Try saying things like, “I’m so sorry. I have to go and take of another patient, but I’m not far if you need me, and I’ll come back if I have a free moment and we can continue talking.”

10. Eat for energy and don’t skip meals. The best energy combination is a carbohydrate plus a protein because carbohydrates give you energy, and proteins prevent your blood sugar from spiking after eating those carbohydrates, so they get more staying power, which translates into sustained energy. And you know that the minute your energy level starts to drop, so does your productivity.

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July 15, 2011 9:06 pm Published by