How important is the ability to multitask in NS?

  1. Hi all,

    I'm taking my pre-reqs for NS (I have a BS in Psych also) and was wondering what an average student to patient ratio was in clinicals? I always thought I was better at focusing on one to two patients at a time instead of many. If I get my RN license, I plan to go into Lactation Consulting, School Nursing, or Disease Management. I don't think I would be great on a Med/Surg floor or other floor with high nurse: patient ratios. Did anyone else struggle with multitasking in NS? Has it affected where you decided to work after graduation?


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    Joined: Oct '07; Posts: 64; Likes: 6
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  3. by   bubbly
    It is very important to multi-task in nursing, especially when you are constantly under time constraints. In nursing school, I started out my first semester with a 1:1 nurse to patient ratio and transitioned to a 1:4+ nurse to patient ratio on a med/surg floor during my last semester. You say you don't like high nurse to patient ratios, but the jobs you mentioned (lactation consultant, school nursing, and disease management) can see many patients over the course of a day. I wasn't very good at multi-tasking before nursing school, but it was something that you just have to practice. I don't like high nurse to patient ratios either, so that is why I became a neonatal ICU nurse. I am in level 3 and only have 1 - 3 patients at a time. I still have to multi-task, because I never know if my patients will turn for the worse. But, I do like focusing on only a couple of patients the whole shift and really getting to understand their disease process and plan of treatment. Another low nurse to patient ratio job that I can think of is the OR and labor & delivery. Maybe other people have more suggestions. Who knows, maybe during nursing school you will find a nursing specialty you really enjoy! Good luck!
  4. by   Jen1228
    In my first and second semesters of nursing school, we had 1 patient per student in med-surg and OB. Third semester we occasionally had 2 in med surg. By fourth, we always had 2 and sometimes 3 also in med surg. We also did team leading in fourth semester. The clinical group was split into 2 groups of 3-4 students. Those students had 2-3 patients a piece, but the team leader had none. Team leaders were had to go the night before clinicals and gather all the patient info and give report to each student on their patients the morning of clinicals. They had to make sure all patients got meds, treaments, discharged, etc.
    Nurses on our units had patient ratios of 4-8. The main problem with multi-tasking I had in nursing school was instructor availability. There was one instructor overseeing 6-8 students. Since every medication you give had to be checked by the instructor, it could be very time consuming if there were a total of 15-20 patients. Sometimes I would wait for almost an hour and a half to pass meds. It's really difficult if the patient is requesting pain meds, so I would tell my instructor the patient was in pain or get the nurse to give it. It helped to offer pain meds before you went to get the regular scheduled meds so you could do it both at the same time.
    I would worry more about multi-tasking between lectures, skills lab, and clinicals combined, rather than just at clinicals. Usually, I would have a test on Monday, clinicals on Tuesday, lecture on Wednesday, and lab on Thursday. Throw in the required reading, practicing skills for checkoffs, all the paperwork for clinicals, and studying for a test. It's practically a full time job!
    Hope this helps and good luck!
  5. by   swee2000
    Maybe I'm wrong on this, and feel free to correct me if I am, but multi-tasking is one of those skills that will always be a part of a nurse's job, no matter what area he/she works in.

    The unfortunate part is that it's not a skill you can only/have to do a certain way(like putting in a foley) or that you'll be a pro at when you graduate nursing school. Rather, it takes time, patience, self-confidence, experience(especially when you enter the "real" world), and the ability to prioritize in order to "get the hang of it". And even then, things don't always go according to plan. Sometimes, regardless of whether you're taking care of 1 or 10 patients, a curveball can appear out-of-nowhere and turn your "perfect multi-tasking day" upside down or inside out. Using the example from Bubbly, who works in NICU and only cares for 1-3 patients at a time, she said: "I still have to multi-task, because I never know if my patients will turn for the worse".

    As far as student-patient ratios go, when I was in school, students were assigned one patient each at the beginning of each semester and, by week 2 or 3, most(if not all) were up to 2 patients. The instructors would never let us take more than that and, realistically, it was probably the right decision because it was hard enough trying to coordinate giving meds/doing dressing changes on time with having the instructor available. Also, the Med/Surg unit that I work on gets numerous clinical groups from different schools throughout each semester. And from an outsider's observation, I can honestly say I've never seen more than 2 patients assigned to each student at any given time.
  6. by   NickiLaughs
    It's probably one of the most important things to be a successful nurse. When one has a TB patient, you do not want to go back and forth into that room a million times, you want to make sure you have everything with you for one trip so you can limit your exposure.
    School nursing would not be for you if you are looking for small patient ratio. School Nurses usually have more than just one school, and they have many patients.
  7. by   swee2000
    Quote from NickiLaughs
    School Nurses usually have more than just one school, and they have many patients.
    This comment reminded me of a story I read today in the local newspaper about a flu-like outbreak that occurred at 2 elementary schools here in SE Wisconsin this week. The reason I mention the article is because of a quote in it that relates to the above comment and the OP questions. Here's the quote:

    "Around 2 p.m. Wednesday students began filing into their school nurses' offices. Starbuck, where 68 students got sick, was hardest hit, officials said. They were lining the hallway around the nurse's office, said Racine Unified interim superintendent Jackson Parker, who made a visit to Starbuck on Wednesday afternoon." (