When I first starting working my first job as an RN, I hated working day shifts on weekdays. Working 7am to 7pm during the week means the whole interprofessional team is at work. Doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists. Patient tests, discharges, admissions, transfers. New orders, medications to give, and assessments to do. One nurse, 4-6 patients. Each patient with their own set of needs and wants. Basically, it’s busy. Really, really busy.
You never really know what’s coming your way on a Medicine Unit, and I actually really love that about my job. I could be getting an ICU transfer who requires lots of attention, or I could be providing comfort to a palliative patient and their family. I like the variety, but it can make for an exhausting day.
I get up at 5am. I get ready, eat breakfast, and drink my coffee while watching 15 minutes of a show on Netflix in the dark kitchen. I’m out the door to drive to the hospital by 6:10am. I have to leave early because the parking is down the street and I have to walk 10 minutes to get to the hospital. I’m on my unit putting my things in my locker by 6:30am, and I’m at the nurses station getting report by 6:35am.
All nurses are different. Some pull their 8am medications from the med room before seeing their patients. Some sit by the nursing station and do patient research before anything else. I prefer to peek in on my patients and introduce myself before I do anything else. I say I do this so I can start to develop that therapeutic relationship, but honestly I do this mostly to check for safety of the patients. Are they breathing? Are they still in bed? If they have restraints, are they on and secure? These patients are my responsibility for the day and I like to make sure that everyone is okay before I do anything else.
Then it’s assessment time. Each patient gets their vital signs taken, then a full head-to-toe done. I listen to their lungs and bellies, feel for pulses on their feet and swelling to their ankles, and I ask about pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or headaches. I listen to anything the patient is saying that might be concerning, and I make sure they have a chance to ask me questions or express their concerns. I always see all my patients and complete all these assessments before doing anything else.
Then it’s medication time. Most people have medications due at 8am. I give all their pills and injections, and check blood sugars as required. I get everyone up into their bedside chair for breakfast, or at least get them propped up in bed. By the time I’m done all this, it’s usually past 9am and time for my breakfast break.
I give report to another nurse who will cover my patients and head to the break room for some coffee. If I am assigned to 2nd or 3rd break, I will have to wait to take my break and spend this time checking on my patients and my “partner” nurse’s patients (who I cover for while they are on break), answering call bells, and charting.
The day continues like this for another 6-8 hours. Medications, assessments as needed for changing conditions, more medications, then rounds with the team, phone calls, more medications, dressing changes, more phone calls, discharges, admissions, medications, more assessments, more charting, medications… It can be never ending.
Then it’s 5pm and it’s time to start wrapping things up. I finish up any charting I haven’t completed yet, and write my notes about anything significant that occurred during the day. I empty catheter bags and clear IV pumps for a fresh start for the next shift. I also like to help out the next shift by hanging new bags of IV fluids on the IV poles so that night shift does not have to scramble for a new bag when the pump starts beeping.
Then the next set of nurses arrives. It is a very welcome sight. I give report, and then I leave to go home.
This is only what a non-eventful day looks like. If anything goes wrong with one of my patients, or any other nurse’s patients, then things can definitely hit the fan. It happens all the time, and while I do love when things are happening and we all have to jump into action, it can be exhausting and overwhelming. There have been times that I have taken the long way home from work just to have another 10 minutes to process the day’s events before getting home. It is a long day, both physically and mentally, and especially busy or stressful days can be totally exhausting. I go home tired, hungry, and weary. I shower, eat, have a cup of herbal tea, and go to bed. Then it all starts again the next morning.
I love what I do. I love nursing and caring for others. It is so rewarding to be able to provide comfort to someone on one of their worst days, and to be able to help someone on their journey to recovery. Day shifts are exhausting; they’re tough and demanding, but satisfying and rewarding at the same time. The longer I work as an RN, the more I have come to accept and like Day shifts. I have grown to like interacting with physicians and completing new orders. It can be difficult and test my skills at times, but I enjoy learning and growing. I am excited for the future to see how much more I can grow as a nurse and as a person, and I think working more Day shifts will play a big part in my ability to reach my goals.