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How to pull it together when your shift gets crazy


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Crazy is as crazy does, sir.

You know crazy, don’t you? It’s a garden variety day for most staff nurses. ‘Crazy’ is probably the only constant thing that happens at work. It’s a guarantee that the ‘you-know-what’ will hit the fan inevitably. The question isn’t ‘if’ it will happen, the question is ‘when’ it will happen (more than likely at the change of shift). Not only ‘when’ will it happen, but what the heck do you do to get through it?

Seasoned nurses. When the ‘crazy’ happens – do you ever notice how the seasoned nurses never lose control? Their feathers never get ruffled. They very rarely are seen dashing from task to task. And if they are ‘losing it’, they should don’t let anyone know.

What’s their secret?

As a ‘newbie’ seasoned nurse I’ve picked up a couple things along they way. Here is what helps me keep my head above water when the hurricane hits:

Focus on the priorities

If you don’t know the answer to this one, you may want to go back to Nursing 101. The patient. The patient is the priority. Most of the time if you take care of your patient’s priorities, the rest of the ‘noise’ seems to fall in place. Answer the call bell before you answer the phone ringing. Secure a patient’s bed, before you dash to the med room. Patient safety first. Always first.

Rearrange your priorities

The worst part about the ‘crazy’ is that everything happens at once and all of a sudden you needed everything done yesterday. While you had a great plan of attack for the day, when the ‘crazy’ happens you need to juggle and prioritize between the ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ of the day and the moment. Learn to go with the flow.

Restore your confidence first

The worst part of the ‘crazy’ is that empty feeling of “I’ve have accomplished nothing so far”. Part of the ‘crazy’ is the amount of ‘fires’ you have to put out in order to accomplish anything you set out to do in the first place. Restore your confidence in your ability to solve problems by picking one task, just one task. Pick one task and finish it. See it through to completion. Once you do that, you’ll start to realize that the facility is not burning down, and that nasty ’empty’ feeling will pass.

Recruit help

I KNOW your not in the midst of ‘crazy’ by your lonesome. If I’m not mistaken all your coworkers are sharing the same dream (uh, I mean nightmare). Get into a team huddle and figure out who can help with what and start whittling down that endless to-do list. There is always strength and efficiency in numbers!

Stay cool

Do you think throwing gasoline on a fire helps put it out? Then why would you think running around like a chicken with your head cut off will help the ‘crazy’ situation. Barking and screaming will only add to the already tense and stressful situation. I remember in nursing school how they taught us to whisper to a patient (or doctor) who is screaming at you in anger (or distress). Whispering to them requires them to calm their voice, lower the noise level and eliminate the irrational behavior all together. Be sure to stay cool.

Always remember that many nurses before you and many nurses after you will walk (literally) in your shoes and they too survived, and will continue to survive. We deal in life and death everyday, but not every ‘crazy’ is life or death.

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