You’ve heard of Life Hacks? Well, here are 35+ clever nurse hacks that will save your sanity on those really long shifts.
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Nurse Hacks That Will Save Your Sanity
I have some life-changing nurse hacks that you’ll definitely use. You might not use all of them, but I bet you’ll find at least one or two that you love.
And these are more than just “get more sleep.” These hacks are smart ways my nurse friends and I have found to make our job so much easier.
(Note: This is for entertainment and informational purposes only. Always follow your hospital’s policies and procedures, as those superseded anything found here. Please see our Disclaimer page for more details.)
#1 Saline for Mascara
Put 1-2 drops of normal saline (from one of the hundreds of flushes you accidentally bring home) in your mascara that’s starting to dry out. That’ll moisten it up and make it last longer.
#2 Irrigate Your Eyes
Contacts hurting or dry at work? Grab a flush and irrigate your eye. It’s the same as your solution at home, minus some of the extra ingredients to clean the contacts overnight.
#3 Protect Your Scrubs
Isolation gowns are great for protecting your scrubs during messy meals.
#4 Use All The Gloves
Double or triple glove when heading into a serious code brown situation. When one set gets too soiled, simply remove the top layer and dive right back in!
#5 Ask for a Save
If you have a really chatty patient or family member and are in a big-time crunch because your other patients need you, ask someone to come in and grab you after ten minutes. I’ve used this once or twice (ok a lot more than that), it’s a huge time-saver. You’re able to kindly exit the room without hurting their feelings.
#6 Save Time on X-Rays
Patient getting a bedside central line and feeding tube placed? See if you can time it so you can do both x-rays at once. Saves the radiology team a trip and you can page the provider once to view both images.
#7 Give Morning Meds Together
0700, 0800, and 0900 meds? Ask the patient if they normally take them together at home – if they do, give them all at the same time and chart patient requests for the reason you’re giving them early.
Use nursing judgment though; some meds are purposefully scheduled that way (blood pressure meds staggered or meds that must be given on an empty stomach or with meals).
#8 Coffee Grounds Absorb Odors
Coffee grounds can absorb even the stinkiest of stinkies. Throw a bag of coffee grounds in one of those useless tiny emesis basins and set it in the room to be sneaky about your odor absorption tactic.
#9 Soak the Dobhoff Tube
Soak your Dobhoff tube in ice water for a few minutes before insertion; it stiffens it up and allows it to glide through their nasal passages easier.
#10 Use a Warm Moist Washcloth to Find Veins
Can’t find a vein? Warm-up a moist washcloth and set it on their skin for a few minutes. This can make veins pop better than a tourniquet! It’s also soothing rather than uncomfortable, which relaxes people.
#11 Arrange a Visit With a Therapy Dog
Super sad or grumpy patient? Many hospitals have therapy dogs. See if the patient likes pups and arrange a surprise visit! You could even see if you can get a dog that is similar to one they may have at home. This is especially helpful for patients who have been stuck in the hospital for a very long time.
#12 Female Foley Hack
Can’t get a female foley? Have someone hold a pen light, aim high, and if you don’t get return – just leave it in place and grab another and aim higher! If you’re worried you won’t get it, bring a few extra in the room before you start.
#13 02 Sats Hacks
O2 sat won’t pick up? Try the earlobes or toes (if your hospital policy allows)! The neonatal O2 probes are awesome on adults.
They stick better and are less bulky. You can also grab some warm blankets to wrap their hands in. Their extremities may be too cold to pick up a reading, especially if they already have known vascular issues.
#14 Get A Manual Blood Pressure
Can’t get a blood pressure on a patient in afib with an elevated heart rate? Get a manual pressure. Uncontrolled afib (HR over 100) is hard for those automatic cuffs to read properly and probably isn’t accurate anyway.
#15 Don’t Speak
Family and/or patient very emotional or upset and don’t know what to say? Your presence can speak louder than words. Just being there with a reassuring shoulder pat or taking really, really good care of their loved one will mean just as much, if not more, than saying the perfect thing.
#16 Use Activity Aprons on “Picky” Patients
Confused patient picking at EVERYTHING? Activity aprons are a Godsend. Move the O2 probe to their foot. Put their ECG leads on their back (not for an extended period of time due to skin breakdown). Give them something to do, like fold washcloths.
PS – If you’re looking for some tips on EKG lead placement, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Click here for tips on 5 lead EKG placement.
Crowdsourced Nursing Hacks
At the start of the year, I asked on Facebook what some of your best Nurse Hacks were. As usual, the responses were amazing. They were all so valuable that they just had to become a blog post!
Nurse Hacks From Experienced Nurses
When removing tegaderm stretch it and it releases from the skin like one of those 3m hooks on the wall!! It’s amazing!!! *Bre Harris
I always keep a post-it note card on my badge–then when I’m in a patients room and I notice things like tubing due to be changed, fluids running low, pain meds are due at such time I write it down and look at my badge before coming back…helps cut down on my trips! *Ryann Elder
Signal boost these!
Mark the vein where you are going to stick with the IV needle cap. Just gently press and it leaves a non permanent mark for a couple minutes that doesn’t go away when you wipe with alcohol. If the vein is prone to rolling this will also let you see which direction it will go when it rolls. *Taylor Rutherford
Instead of writing on skin, stick a tegaderm to the inside of your wrist and then write on that. Doesn’t come off when you wash your hands. Erase with an alcohol pad. *Taylor Rutherford
(Writing on a glove is also a great nurse hack. Plus your hospital materials management team will probably be happier about this one.)
A good attitude. Period. There is no mishap that can tear apart a team or a shift like a person who shows up pre-grumpy. And multicolored pens. Always have multicolored pens. *Ju D Anjos
To save time and money, I bring all three of my lunches at the beginning of the week. Usually three frozen meals and then a lunch bag of healthy snacks. Keeps me healthy and away from vending and cafeteria on stressful days. *Julia Williams
This is a great nurse life hack! Meal prep is a life-saver for busy nurses. If you can’t meal prep, at least have some frozen meals and a side of fresh fruit and veggies. This nursing hack also doubles as a health and wealth hack if you do it right! Eating healthy during 12 hours shifts is tough, but not impossible.
Always keep flushes, alcohol swabs and caps in your pockets. You WILL need it and if you don’t guarantee a co-worker will. *Angela Cbey
Pro Tip: Always check your pockets before you leave work so you don’t take them all home.
Use a basin as trash bucket. It is amazing how much trash is generated when starting an IV or hanging IV meds. *Sarah Miller
This is a GREAT IV starting hack. I also like having the patient relax their arm and dangle it off the side of the bed to get those veins to plump up.
Words to live by, y’all:
Never pass up a chance to pee. Even if you don’t feel the urge. You may not get another chance that shift. *Katherine Enderby
I’d like to get this one cross stitched and framed. No truer words of wisdom have ever been spoken in the nursing vernacular. This is probably my favorite nursing hack. Your bladder health with thank you for it.
While I love the idea of stashing snacks, I’d also recommend that they be healthy ones. You don’t want to sabotage your body with sugar. You’ll just pay for it at the end your shift and over the years.
Make sure there’s a spare sick bowl in every room at start of shift. Quick easy access is a lifesaver! And saves the sheets too… *Josh Ditte
Learn the correct way to chart and do it as you go, if possible. Don’t save it for the end of shift. Share your talents with others, too, and your whole team will be happy. – Colleen
Here is an oldie but goodie. Use Surgilube to secure the black band to your nurse’s cap. A thin bead of the gooey stuff will keep your band in place for the whole shift.
A more useful contemporary hack is use the sticky side of any tape to pick up all those loose hairs after a preop shave.Old Fool RN
Always mark the ventricular lead of an epicardial pacing wire connection with 2″ silk tape marked with a “V” at the end that connects with the pacemaker. Don’t mark both–hard to tell V from A in an emergency. Mark V because, when the emergency occurs, ventricular pacing is what you need.Jennifer Leckie
Eyeglasses tend to become misplaced in our nursing home where many of the residents are living with some form of dementia. Upon admission, we make a photocopy of the glasses and place the picture in a binder along with the resident’s name. When a stray pair of eyeglasses is found, we can flip through the binder and easily identify the owner of the glasses.Diane
Know who your RN and Social Work case managers are if you work on a PCU. they are the ones who will have your back with patients family’s, get you parking passes and meal vouchers and will eventually DC your patients.Brian Drourr
For even more Nurse Hacks check out the Facebook post.
What Nurse Hack do you have to add?
What other nurse hacks do you have to add to the list? Tweet me / pin / Tumblr post some of your favorite nurse hacks with the #nursehacks hashtag! I’ll make an awesome master list to reference.
More Nurse Life Reads
What’s next? How about one of these nurse life posts. I bet you’ll enjoy them too!