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10 things that’ll surely happen five minutes before the end of a shift

Fuse | ThinkStock

Fuse | ThinkStock

Any nurse who’s been on the job for more than a couple of months knows all about “the witching hour.” You either hear about it, or you get the slap-in-face personal experience. It’s that time on your shift when things are more likely to be, well, bad. It’s that time on your shift when things are going to go wrong, no matter what you do.

This is notoriously the last leg of your shift. You can slice or dice it any way you like, but roughly 60 minutes (or less) prior to the so-called end of your shift, the “Code Brown hits the fan” (if you know what I mean).

You do your best to get all your ducks in a row, but it never fails. The witching hour always seems to toy with you. Here are 10 things that are sure to happen during the witching hour:

1. Your patient just had the worst Code Brown of your career: Get out the mop.
2. Your “stable” patient becomes not-so stable.
3. You realize there were tasks and/or orders you missed from the beginning of your shift.
4. Somebody just entered in two pages of new orders on your patient.
5. A Code Blue is called on your patient or unit.
6. A new admission just showed up–without a report–and there is another one on the way.
7. The unit secretary’s shift just ended…and the phone is ringing off the hook.
8. There was a massive power outage – and now you’re bagging your mechanically ventilated patient.
9. The EMR just went down – and you have charting to finish.
10. Your patient’s one and only IV access just blew and you have to give blood products.

I mean, you’re human, right? We all like getting out on time, don’t we? It just seems that the forces of the universe don’t usually allow nurses to get out on time. Am I the only one who thinks the universe has a sick sense of humor?

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Sean Dent

Sean Dent is a second-degree nurse who has worked in telemetry, orthopedics, surgical services, oncology and at times as a travel nurse. He is a CCRN certified critical care nurse where he's worked in cardiac, surgical as well as trauma intensive care nursing. After five years practicing as an RN, Sean pursued and attained his Masters of Science in Nursing. Sean currently practices as a Board Certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP-BC) in a Shock Trauma urban teaching hospital. He has been in healthcare for almost 20 years. He originally received a bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Science where he worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).
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