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Life Hacks for the Happy Nurse

August 5, 2015

In my opinion, there are 3 elements that can make or break a nurse’s 12 hour shift; the behaviors of his/her patients, the neediness of their family members and the overall health and well-being of the nurse. I have been a nurse for almost 10 years and have finally come to a place in my career where I can say that 90% of my shifts are relatively stress free.

I attribute this stress free nurse life to a few things; working night shift, sleeping plenty, not taking things personal, and developing certain routines that I can apply to all of my patients.  Because working nights and sleeping may not be an option for some of you, I have developed a few “nurse life hacks” that everyone can incorporate into their daily nursing lives.

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Being prepared for long work days will greatly improve your nursing life as a whole

  • Buy enough groceries and cook enough food to last you for all of your shifts – You will be eating leftovers for 3 days but I guarantee it will be healthier and cheaper than buying food at work.
  • Eat long acting carbohydrate foods – Foods such as fruit, vegetables, brown rice, beans, whole grain breads and sweet potatoes will help prevent you from hitting that dreaded 3 o’clock wall. This is especially important for night shift workers.
  • Make sure you eat throughout your shift – Take five or ten minutes in the morning and the evening to grab a quick healthy snack. This will help keep your blood sugar steady and you feeling good throughout the day.
  • Fill your water bottle before you get report – It is vital to stay hydrated so make sure you are not finding yourself taking your first drink of water at lunchtime.
  • When you get home from work stick your whole lunch bag, Tupperware and all, into the refrigerator – Eliminate the need to wash any dishes. You can refill your Tupperware with the same exact food you had in it the day before.
  • Try working one night on, next night off, then finishing your last two shifts or vice versa – This is especially effective f you are having a hard time with the night shift schedule.  You will have more time for the gym, sleeping or whatever else you do on your time off.

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Improving patient care will improve your personal care

Taking care of patients with certain diagnoses can be a challenge some days. Developing a routine on how you approach these patients will improve the quality of your life and the patients all at the same time.

  • Pain patients – Set up a pain schedule immediately upon introduction.  For chronic pain patients tell them exactly what you will be giving them and when. Write it down on the whiteboard and stick to the schedule. As long as they know you are coming with their Dilaudid they won’t call you every 5 minutes. For regular patients with pain, ask them what they take at home and if they would like to be woken up for a pain assessment. Remind them to not let the pain get out of control.
  • Restless Patients – Tylenol and a bath before bed usually does the trick. I have found that this combo helps people sleep.
  • Unruly Alcoholic Patients – For alcoholic patients who needs sublingual Zyprexa, get a mouth swab wet, stick the Zyprexa to the swab and insert into patient’s mouth.  This prevents any unnecessary biting.
  • ICU Patients – A good way to remember which drips require a weight with calculation think of the 3 D’s: Dopamine, Dobutamine and Diprovan.
  • Do hourly rounds – I’m sure you have heard this from administration and you find it really annoying but trust me it works. Peaking your head into your patient’s rooms every hour, and if they are awake, asking them if they need to go to the bathroom or need anything else, prevents falls and call lights.
  • Chart at the bedside as much as possible – This helps prevent forgetting anything and will refrain you from using your body as a notepad.
  • Make a plan with your CNA at the beginning of your shift – This is especially important if you have total care patients. Talk about your turning schedule and when you will be bathing them.

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Family care can be just as important

  • Keep your patients looking clean and comfortable – Nobody wants to see their loved one all disheveled or with blood on their sheets. Put a sheet over them regardless of their temperature. Modesty is important to most people.
  • Take two minutes at the beginning of your shift to introduce yourself and discuss the plan for the night – Most family members will go home once they know their loved one is in good hands.
  • Be open to answering questions no matter how trivial they seem – Family members like to be involved and know that you have the patience to teach them.
  • Fill out the whiteboard – Keep the family informed of answers to questions that someone might ask. Even if your patient is incapacitated keep the family as up to date on information as possible
  • Keep the room clean!

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Establishing a routine is one of the greatest Nurse Hacks

Learning tricks on how to insert foley catheters and NG tubes is an interesting and important part of nursing, however, I believe in the larger scheme of things.  Setting up a routine in your daily nursing life is a much more effective way to save time and energy. Initiating a routine will not only greatly improve your job satisfaction but will also help improve the quality of life of your patients and their families.

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By Crystal Gustafson, RN

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Crystal Gustafson is a Critical Care Registered Nurse who spent time as a travel nurse in various states including Arizona, Texas, Florida and California. She has recently accepted a system wide float pool position with Exempla Healthcare System in her hometown of Denver, Colorado and also has blog about prevention and education in healthcare. You can learn more about Crystal on her blog at http://grassrootsprevention.blogspot.com/.