How do you prepare for casual shift work?


I just finished my first year of nursing and was hired as a personal support worker (maybe the Canadian equivalent of a CNA or similar) for the summer in a long term care facility. Since I have a temporary position I am constantly rotating between floors and residents as I pick up shifts. I finished the four day orientation and have my first 7-3pm shift tomorrow. To prepare for my first shift I went to my assigned floor and spoke with the PSW I was covering to find out which residents I was responsible for. Next I looked through the care plans and took notes on the schedules and needs of each residents. All the staff who encountered me thought this was extremely overboard and told me I usually won't know my floor or residents until morning report!! Since the PSWs work in partners they told me relying on my partner would be enough preparation. Looking through the care plans took me around 2 hours for ten residents and I don't want to repeat it for every shifts (4/week). What do you think and how do you prepare for casual shifts with different residents and floors?


33 Posts

As someone who floated around for a year I can tell you - knowing residents will make you feel better and work faster but there is no way i'd have this much time to prepare like you did there.

If i'm on a different floor I'd spend first half an hour (or however their breakfast time allows me to prep for breakfast) walking into the rooms. I'd drop off towels and stuff i'm gonna need for showers, open blinds etc... and also look at any frames, walkers etc to see the mobility. If there is nothing I'd take a peak into care plans and try to remember. At hospital my ratios are to big to remember though so I'd have to ask the pt at some point: how do you usually do this/that? And it's ok. Most of them don't mind.

During report dot down mobility, continence and sore parts of pts/res. Nothing worse than finding out they have a sore shoulder after I helped with getting nightie off with not enough caution and caused pain.

If you get a partner that's much easier. They'll tell who takes longest, who is demanding, you can't find that stuff from care plans anyway really.

The more you float around the easier it'll get, good luck


176 Posts

Overboard isn't even the word for

this! You aren't a nursing student preparing for clinical. This is real life here, and not preparing to be a nurse. You get report each morning. During this, ask who needs what in regards to mobility. Ask who is continent, and who is blood sugars. There will be lists for shower/bath days, and in regards to diet. Spending two hours going over care plans is insane, and a good way to make it seem like you are stepping outside your lane at work. I don't mean that to be harsh when I say, stay in your lane. This will prevent unnecessary drama at work. Trust me when I say this!

Has 13 years experience.

I fully understand your desire to be prepared. It's not a bad thing. I just don't agree with volunteering your time to your employer. Hopefully there is a change of shift report given between aides so you can have a heads up. You can even use a "nursing" brain sheet- just edit it to fit your job (showers, vitals, mobility, etc). As you grow into your job your skills and confidence will increase. Best of luck with school!


3 Posts

Thank you all for your responses. I thought I would follow up (two years later!) with this post in case any other students in my position are reading it. To give some perspective, this was my first job ever at age 18 and I had only had 25 hours of clinical experience in a LTC which was completely inadequate (mostly spent in conference and not actually interacting with residents). For those who commented, yes you were absolutely correct that I was insane to spend so much time at work without being paid. Although, preparing for the shifts really alleviated anxiety and helped me work faster, so I would recommend it for a few shifts for anyone who is in my position. Don't spend as much time as me though, just quickly jot down the level of assistance for each resident and their diet fifteen minutes before your shift. I ended up working two summers at this job and it never really got easier. I was always anxious before every shift, and I never felt that I had enough time to do things safely. On heavy floors where almost every resident required a mechanical lift it was impossible to always have someone to spot you because of how understaffed we were. I think this is probably a sad reality for many LTC facilities. It was really draining feeling like I was compromising safety just to complete tasks. To add to that, I never felt supported by my coworkers and could not ask them for anything. I thought that if I did favors for them and constantly offered to spot lifts I would be able to have a good relationship with them were I could get help too. It never worked like that and really quickly I started to resent everyone. As the one commenter said, stay in your lane. Be a team player, but don't let other people take advantage of you. Many users will disagree with me, and even I hate that I did this, but I would stay after shift without pay for maybe an hour just so I could slow down and feel better about what I was doing or to finish charting. If someone needed to use the bathroom or be changed ten minutes before the end of the shift there was no way that I would leave that for the next shift or else it would not be done for another hour. Not to mention, if you did leave something like that for the next shift, and even if you spoke to the oncoming PSW about it, you could expect to eventually hear some mean things said behind your back. It was a really toxic environment to work in and was a huge shock for me since I had never worked before. To any students in this position, I don't regret any of it even though I was miserable. It benefited me so much for upcoming clinical in terms of time management and communicating with residents and staff. And of course, there were many happy moments spent with residents that were very rewarding! If your a student with any questions feel free to post here as I still have lots to pass on. :)