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5 reasons you always “end up last”

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Every nurse has gone home at the end of a shift and had the thought: Another day without a moment to think about food or the bathroom! We sacrifice our personal needs for the needs of others each and every day. We’re the first to admit it. We put ourselves last when caring for our patients. Sooner or later, enough is enough.

Here are five big things that can eat up your time during a shift—and what you can do about it to stay on an even keel.

1. Budget cuts. Healthcare facilities may have fewer support staff due to budget cuts and people less willing to do menial jobs. Finding people who want to do direct patient care is difficult, which leaves nurses doing more. Many nurses work short-staffed and are expected to perform jobs that would normally be completed by a nursing assistant or housekeeping. Toileting a patient when your own bladder is full can be an experience in self-discipline. Many times nurses chuckle over the need for personal Foley catheters and caffeine drips as they run from patient to patient.

Solution: Try to do tasks in groups. Pass fresh water to all of your patients prior to passing medications. Once meal trays are passed, eat and use the restroom; most patients are busy eating and requests are few. You can restock gloves and necessary medical supplies when patients are at physical therapy, having procedures, sleeping or visiting with family.

2. Hourly rounds. This has become a common policy in many healthcare settings. Nurses are expected to enter a patient’s room hourly and ask the patient if she has needs or wants. The nurse is expected to fulfill each request and then move on to the next patient. Doing hourly patient checks is supposed to allow the nurse to have more free time and prevent patient falls, unless the nurse has a large patient assignment. No policy is foolproof.

Solution: Ask the CNA to round on your patients so you can document, take a break or run an errand. If a patient needs medication, the CNA can relay the message to you once you’re available. Nurses continue to have less time for meals and breaks with or without hourly rounding. If you get a break and leave the unit, keep your ear out for those dreaded overhead pages. Remember your patients come first!

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Candace Finch, BSN, RN

Candace Finch, BSN, RN is an orthopedic and bariatric nurse. Candace began her nursing career after the age of 40 and recently completed her BSN from Empire State College Distance Learning. She is a firm believer that it is never too late to reinvent yourself. As a mother of two children with Type 1 Diabetes, she has learned that whatever God gives you can be used to benefits others. She enjoys quiet time with her husband and family, reading non-fiction books, listening to contemporary Christian music and traveling with her daughter to Disney World.
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