Feeling frazzled? These organization tips for nurses will help you maintain your sanity and stay in control.
I know how it feels when it seems like everything is spinning out of control. Life is moving on and you are just holding on, trying to keep up. And it happens to all of us, not just the new nurses!
That’s why I put these organization tips together. I hope they help you out as much as they helped me.
Organization Tips For New Nurses
I’ll be honest. I’m still using these tips as a seasoned nurse. All of these organization tips are super helpful, no matter how long you’ve been a nurse.
#1 Do A Quick Pre-Report Chart Review
I try to do a quick chart review before chatting with the off-going nurse mainly to ensure there are no loose ends. It’s not to dive into the chart at that time; save that for later.
Before you get the report, check if your patients have any overdue medications and if they have any wildly off labs or vitals. The rest can wait for you to do a deeper dive; these things cannot. The reason for this is, if you wait until after the report to sit down and look at these aspects of the chart, the off-going nurse could be halfway home.
You’d have to stop, find their number, try to call them, and hope they answer. I’ve been in that position before. It sucks trying to contact someone after a shift to clarify something you should have already known. You start late and may or may not get the answer.
Before you get a report, just check those 3 things – it can take less than a minute. You don’t need to write it down. Just peek to ensure meds are caught up, vitals are stable and within range, and there aren’t any alert lab values.
#2 Set Up Your Report Sheets The Same Way
My second tip will keep you organized during the report too.
Set up your report sheets the same way. Don’t scribble everywhere. You want to make a report sheet so you can quickly reference info.
Have a consistent place to note clarifying questions for the rounding physician, new vitals, labs, reminders, etc.
Keep the patients straight! It’s harder to do but do it systematically so you don’t miss anything, much like your assessment.
I had a routine where I could open my report sheets and quickly get a glance at what I needed to do. I didn’t need to flip pages. (See video for my report sheet and routine.)
#3 Review Your Patient’s Chart Before You See Them
Sit down for a few minutes to make sure you know what’s going on with your patients before you see them.
Verify report information, look up more specifics like med times, and just make sure you have all your information so you aren’t caught off guard with questions.
An important thing to remember about a report is that it’s like a long game of telephone. Information can get mixed up, communicated wrong or incompletely – I like to verify the major details of what I’ve been told with the H&P and latest physician notes to ensure I’ve got the full and accurate picture.
I try to be concise – I only write down med times, not spending time to handwrite all meds that are due. I’ve seen people do that. It takes way too long and throughout the shift, meds get changed. Don’t waste your time with that. Write the time down, and then when it’s time to go give it, verify in the chart the meds you need to pull because it will be more up to date than your sheet of paper you wrote on horse earlier.
How I do it:
- Essentials: name, age, gender, code status, doctors, allergies
- Pertinent past medical history – ensure off going nurse didn’t miss anything
- Latest physician progress note and ED admit note from ED provider, if applicable
- Latest labs last 24-48 hours (only writing down the pertinent abnormals)
- Vitals – latest set if abnormal and noting trends
- Meds – writing down the times only
#4 Plan Your Day
My biggest tip for staying organized is to allow your plans to change without it stressing you out. This is tough, I know. But it’s so important.
Remember, this will change. Don’t dwell on having the perfect plan because it will change. Hold it loosely in your expectations and be able to flex around changes.
You will forget things – make sure you’ve got a good checklist on your report sheet so you remember everything.
What you put on your checklist will depend on your unit.
Here is what my checklist looks like:
- Care plan
- Telemetry strip
- I&O (done around 1600 / 0400)
#5 Keep Your Pockets Organized
I’ve seen people carry a ton around with them. Less is better.
Keep the same things in the same pockets each shift, if possible so you can quickly grab them.
For example, I always had my alcohol swabs in my left pant’s pocket, report sheet in the cargo pant pocket. Meds would go in the left top pocket, pen attached to my report sheet. Penlight on my badge reel. Scope I only carried around when I did my assessments at the beginning of the shift. My right top pocket was for different things throughout the shift.
Just knowing where things were kept me from patting myself down multiple times a shift to find something. It sounds like it only saves a little bit of time, but collectively that makes you much more efficient.
And don’t carry a ton around with you. Unnecessary. Have the minimum in your pockets and have a bag you keep at the nurse’s station with less frequently used but important things.
My station-bag had:
- Lip balm
- Essential oil blend
- Saline flushes
- Alcohol swabs
- Gum / mints
- Hand lotion
- My phone
#6 Stay Organized At Home
Finally, I encourage all new nurses to try and stay organized at home too. You can cut down how long it takes you to get ready and get to work just by creating a few routines.
I love routines. You can literally go through your entire routine half asleep, it’s awesome.
Create a morning routine and an after-work routine. Some people like to print out their routine at first until it becomes a habit.
And always make “morning routine prep” a part of your nightly routine. Get as much done the night before as you can.
Don’t forget to use the tools that are out there. Set up reminders on your phone. Use a paper planner. Set up a command center where you store your keys, badge, and bag.
Do what works for you and keep your home life organized so that your work life can be organized too.
Organization Tips for New Nurses: Make Your Own Plan
These tips are fantastic for both new nurses and seasoned nurses. Try out some or all of my tips and then create a system that works for you. Staying organized is such a personal thing that you have to do what works best for yourself.
More Resources on Organization Tips:
- Time Management Tips for New Nurses
- Nursing Time Management when you are Totally Overwhelmed
- Nursing Time Management Tips
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