Managing Unpredictable Nursing Shifts

Health Carousel Travel Nursing
October 16, 2016
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While unpredictability can be an exciting advantage of the nursing field, it can also be quite overwhelming, especially for new nurses. Most nurses begin their days with a strict focus and plan to follow their premeditated schedules. However, this does not always work out, and nurses often find themselves reacting to hectic, unforeseen circumstances.

There are ways to reduce the negative impact that unpredictability can sometimes carry. By forming three very useful habits, some nurses have seen a reduction in the intensity associated with unplanned events ranging from dealing with incomplete paperwork to treating high-risk patients.

Habit 1: Create a Standardized Routine for Gathering Patient Information.

  • Gathering information about your patients before administering care can save a great deal of time.
  • Information such as lab data, recent tests, medications, and consults can help predict the type of care the patient may require.
  • Patient history is not always readily available, so some nurses have found it useful to arrive about 20 minutes early.

Habit 2: Set a routine for performing assessments, administering medications, and documentation.

  • Some nurses prefer to visit each of their patients before making assessments and providing medication.
  • Other nurses focus on completing all avenues of care for each patient before moving onto the next one.
  • There is no one best way for everyone. You need to establish what fits best for you and repeat that process.

Habit 3: Create a running tab of your shift responsibilities and requirements.

  • As you gather patient information, create a list of tasks that must be completed before you leave.
  • This can include, but is not limited to wound care, blood draws, IV tubing changes, tube feed changes, patient teaching, and specimen collections.
  • By making a list, you can better establish priority among your current activities as well as new ones that may arise.

Why does this work?

  • Forming habits make it easier to establish an equilibrium when chaos ensues.
  • For example, after you made your rounds; you have a patient injure themselves, a new patient arrives, and another patient needs to be taken to Radiology for an X-ray.
  • If you have your habits established, it can be easier to manage these unexpected occurrences allowing you to take control of your shift.

The full article was published by and can be found at

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