2 greatest survival tips every nurse should (and will eventually) know


Survival is in our nature. In fact, surviving is not an option, it’s an expectation. The difference between surviving and drowning is how well you ride the “wave.” Only my fellow nurses will understand what I mean by the “wave.” You know — it’s that feeling you got when you first decided to become a nurse. It was that feeling you got your first experiences as a student nurse. Then, it was that feeling you got after graduation as a new graduate nurse. And it’s still that feeling you get whenever something new crosses your path, when you start a new job, encounter a new patient challenge, or simply just show up for work.

At the end of the day we all figure this out in our own way, and in our own time, but I thought it would be nice to share the only two survival tips that will actually determine your wave-riding ability!

Here they are:

When You Want To Run – Stop and Stand Still

That wave of emotions you get when the vice-grip of stress is beating you down during your shift and all of a sudden you’re being pulled in more directions than you can count. You have responsibilities piling up, you’re striving to do the very best you can and make that difference, so what better way to solve all the problems than to pick up the pace and run to get them all done, right?!


The very millisecond you recognize you’ve picked up the pace, or when you realize you are sprinting from one task to another you need to find the courage and the strength to stop in your tracks immediately. I know, I know. It sounds absolutely crazy, and horrendously counterproductive, but it’s the solution you need.  Running faster from task to task will only create more problems for yourself. When you hurry through a task you WILL miss something. When you rush through a responsibility something will be incomplete. When you whisk past another duty without giving it your full attention, someone or something will be neglected.

Remember, those details affect the safety of our patients and those we work with. When you want to run – stop and stand still. You’re missing something.

Cluster Your Care

I got this piece of advice from a former mentor and preceptor. I never really caught on to this concept until a couple of years into my career. This is a trait every nurse learns the hard way. We somehow always become so task-oriented that we forget the overall picture. I remember watching a young (less experienced) nurse walk in and out of her patient’s room so many times that I stopped counting after 15. She walked in to assess, then back out for some supplies. Walked back in to check vital signs and walked out to get more equipment. Then there was a dressing change, walked back for more supplies. Then linens for a bath, in and out, back and forth. This revolving door episode went on for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, she THEN started her assessment. Twenty minutes of her day just went *poof* — with nothing accomplished.

I was told later by a fellow co-worker that I had performed the same circus act when I first started! It was only after I’d had some experience under my belt that I caught on to “it” (by accident, on purpose or pure luck) — the concept of ‘thinking ahead’ or ‘planning ahead.’ Some call it “learning the art of anticipation.”

Cluster your care. Do as much as possible during one trip to minimize the number of trips. You’d be amazed what will happen with your time. (You know, that very thing you’re looking for in my first tip).

I still use and abuse these two concepts to this very day. In fact, I stopped in my tracks just this weekend to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

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13 Responses to 2 greatest survival tips every nurse should (and will eventually) know

  1. Good post, Sean…thanks!

    My first lesson in cluster care as a New Grad was after my 10th time of… “Why do they call for pain meds and when I show up with it, *then* they tell me they NEED MORE WATER TOO????!?” Now, its just habit to grab meds and a cup of water. =-) Afterwards, I take their empty pitcher out with me.

  2. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @ the Muse, RN Thanks! I’m glad you liked it!

  3. Mike

    I’ve been an RN for about 1 1/2 years.
    Thank You for this reminder.
    You’re so right re: tip #1. You’d think it would be counterproductive to stop in your tracks… But what I realized is that I can’t go any faster (when trying to). In the end, I actually end up “going slower”/wasting time w/ all the things I missed along the way or mistakes made.
    What’s nice is I have the opportunity to actually call some of my patients before going to their room and asking if they need anything (I work in Acute Physical Rehab).
    Thanks again!

  4. Terri

    I remember years ago when I was a nurses aide before becoming a nurse, I used to run in and out of a room a zillion times before having all of my supplies. I had an older wiser nurse tell me “what you do not keep in your head you will keep in your feet” in other words if you do not stop and think and plan, you will have a lot more miles on those poor feet by the end of the day. I was just a kid then and I have always remembered that.

  5. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @ Mike Glad you agree, and glad it helps!

  6. Lorna

    tahnks for sharing I’d been an RN since 1976..a Psych nurse..I prefer to be a bedside nurse rather than administrative nurse ..I can relate to all of your statements ..I think a lot of administrative nurses need this to boost their staff…can I share this to my work.?..thank you?

  7. Lestat

    To tell you frankly, this is the very first time that I have read others’ blog. And to my assessment, you truly captured the interest of the people in our field, health care workers. And in correlation to this article, I do strongly agree.

  8. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @ Lorna Absolutely share! Glad you liked it!

  9. Janice

    I agree. Sometimes the stress of being pulled in every direction is overwhelming! Both tips are absolutely true. I find myself going in and out too many times and it drives me absolutely crazy. Thanks. Janice

  10. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @ Janice You are welcome!

  11. amy mickschl

    mike, you are absolutely right. it is too bad they don’t start teaching new nursing students this from day one.

  12. beliefnhope Caption Contest

    Couldn’t agree more! I have had collegues laugh at me cause I will all the sudden stop in the middle of the hall, at a desk, in front of a patient’s room, in the middle of the office, etc and say “pause” while I recollect my thoughts and replan. They have learned to not interrupt a pause break and many of my collegues take them as well now.

  13. IzzyW

    During marksmanship training in my military days many of us would get in a rush and have trouble hitting the target. We were taught something that has helped me a lot.
    Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Basically the same thing as point one. Slow down and think about what you are doing and eliminate mistakes.
    Also agree with point two. Learning efficiency can be a great time booster.