October 21, 2018

Being Efficient While Being Busy | Nursing Hacks # 7

I've been a bedside nurse for a while now and lately, I've been training new nurses more than usual. Everyone is different, but there was a general complaint that most new nurses have had and I wanted to comment on it. Regardless of the level of care (I get floated all over the hospital... medical-surgical, progressive care, intermediate care, inpatient psych, even PACU), all nurses understand being busy. Busy is a way of life for us. We are presented with enormous to-do lists, and we complete each every task while somehow making it home on time. We thrive in being busy. It's our home. But, some new nurses don't quite understand the importance of being comfortable in chaos and finding your focus nevertheless. Now, I'm not saying ALL new nurses have this problem. It's just something I see some new nurses struggle with understanding and I wanted to give some advice.

There are going to be many instances when you, as a new nurse, are faced with a task list that seems impossible. Instead of freaking out and getting flustered, you need to focus on what's important and work outward. Your unstable patient's condition is more important than you getting an unimportant form printed for something that won't happen for another eight hours. You must be able to determine what is stat, urgent, important and routine. You can't handle every task as critical. You are a nurse. You are capable of evaluation and classification. You need to sit down and prioritize what tasks need to be completed in which of the following levels:

- STAT: What needs to be done within 5 minutes
- URGENT: What needs to be done within 30 minutes 
- IMPORTANT: What needs to be done within 2 hours
- ROUTINE: What needs to be done BEFORE you leave

Some things can't wait, while some can. Don't allow stress to get the best of you. You are only one person, you have to prioritize things. You must learn to work effectively in chaos. A hospital is a place of organized chaos. Sick people are being routed to the proper medical settings for treatment, and things are happening rather quickly. This will not change, and this is the environment you have decided to work within. I tell new nurses that, "If you wanted all smiles and hugs, you probably should have gone to a pediatric outpatient office. Multisystem ICU is not smiles and hugs (normally). These people are sick, and their families are stressed. Understand your environment and find the good in what you do. You must be productive regardless."

Being a nurse in the hospital setting is intense. You chose this job role, and now it's time to find your groove and get moving. Don't stress about what you don't know. Training will get you there. But you can't teach someone emotional intelligence or the capacity to control their emotions in times of stress. You chose to do this, and now you're here. Take a deep breath and ask your preceptor how he or she successfully juggles tasks. I love my job, but I know it can be overwhelming for some. The key is to learn from people who are successfully balancing the job's demands. Focus on perfecting your performance and less on complaining about something you signed up for. You got this, but you have to get past the complaining about stuff phase. Your patients deserve better and so do you.

Note: There will be tasks that can wait for the next shift to perform or things you physically can't perform within your 12-hour shift. And that's fine too. Just make sure your choices are in your and your patient's best interest. You can't do everything always, I understand that. But the goal is to use your time wisely and focus.

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