End of shift guilt

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As a per diem nurse my time management skills slip a bit. When you work on a regular basis, you of course create ‘rituals’ that I think we all can relate to. It’s the rituals and the ‘reflexive’ nature of our responsibilities that I sometimes lack.

This absence or lack-there-of always leads to what I call ‘shift spill-over’. I end up leaving tasks for the next shift inadvertently. I do my best to not ‘dump’ on anyone, so I make it a point to wrap up as much as I can before I officially clock out and leave.

The other day was one of those ‘off’ days for me. I just couldn’t stay in front of the 8-ball with my patients. Everything from ventilator weaning and extubation to med changes and of course the traditional admit and discharge right around the change of shift sure didn’t help.

On my way home, I began to wonder if I’m the only one that has that end of shift guilt? I mean it’s not something that was ‘taught’ during nursing school. And it surely wasn’t mentioned in ANY of my hospital orientations. Yet, every shift I work I’m circling through my head all the tasks that I didn’t get done and have to pass on to the next nurse.

I know, I know… nursing is a 24 hour-a-day job. (One of the many nursing pearls I teach and have been taught)

I guess I always remember what it feels like to get ‘dumped’ on. I’ve taken shift report from some pretty horrible nurses. Nurses who failed to chart meds from the beginning of their shift (8 or 12 hrs). I’ve cleaned up messes in patients rooms that were made at the beginning of their shift or even a previous shift. I’ve gotten my rear-end chewed out by a distraught family member because they weren’t called and updated properly on something I wasn’t even present for! And yes, I’ve had many physicians question my integrity because a med error was made or a med was missed on a previous shift.


I know I’m not dumping on anyone (at least I don’t think I am), but I can’t shake the feeling of it. Call me crazy, but that end of shift guilt keeps me on my toes throughout my shift. The last thing I want to do is let down a fellow co-worker.

I can’t say I’ve been approached or accused of ‘dumping’ – but that doesn’t mean the oncoming shift nurse didn’t feel that way.

One thing is for sure, I’d like to think I’m a fairly decent bedside nurse. It’s the nurses who don’t have even a shred of this guilt that scare me.

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