15 Minutes in the Life of a Nurse

I wrote this yesterday after having a hard few days at work and it seems to have struck a chord on social media with many. Enjoy!


15 Minutes in the Life of a Nurse

It's 10am, I have been here for 3 hours and "all" I have managed to accomplish is making sure everyone has their medications. In the middle of pulling a locked narcotic that a patient needs now, the phone rings informing me that a patient has a critical lab needing called to the doctor.

This particular lab can be deadly so I pick up the phone to call the doctor....wait....what are the patient's vital signs?

Because we know he will ask that.

On my way to get the patient's vitals, I am stopped by therapy letting me know that there is a patient complaining of dizziness and her oxygen is dropping. I go to the therapy room to assess the patient and she is struggling. I am now diverted outside to grab some oxygen and get her vitals. Once she is stable, I remember that I have another patient needing immediate attention based on a lab result so I grab those vitals and pick up the phone to call the doctor.

Wait.....what med is this patient on causing this abnormal lab? What disease process could be causing this?

I grab her chart to quickly get more background information because I am required to know everything on ALL patients so that the doctor can make informed decisions. As I'm on the phone, I hear a bed alarm go off and my STNA is in a room changing another patient. I can either tell the doctor to wait, or find a patient on the floor, hope they are OK and now do frequent neuro checks.

I put the doctor on hold and get this patient to the bathroom reminding him that he must call us before he gets up....he laughs, I laugh and we both know that "education" will go nowhere.

I receive new orders from the physician (who is now yelling at me because the poor thing had to wait) and as I'm working on squading this patient out, the original patient who has been in pain reminds me of how I'm not "doing my job."

This is only 15 minutes of my day....the prioritizing and re-prioritizing. Worrying that any move you make or don't make could harm another life. Having patients ask you where their breakfast is, what time is their appointment today and do they have a ride, what is the pink pill they are taking, why are they not getting their pain pill on time, etc.

I have messages from the social worker and dietician, a patient who is a full feed which takes my STNA away from all other patient care, another doctor who just walked in writing orders for a STAT lab and a patient telling me if they don't get to the bathroom NOW, they are going to poop everywhere.

This is all happening and it's up to me to keep it straight.

All of this while being reminded from someone who works in an office somewhere that you are not "documenting things in a timely manner as they happen." Being told that more paperwork is required and more thorough documentation needed is maddening because I'm meant to be on the floor, not at a computer.

My charting and initialing of everything I do isn't saving lives, my presence on the floor is. Please stop requiring nurses to spend more and more time at a computer and then getting upset when patient quality of care scores go down.

You want quality care?

Get us some help because we are drowning.

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Specializes in SICU, trauma, neuro. Has 16 years experience.

Yuck! Reminds me of when I worked in subacute. One year our cansus was down -- and when I say "our," I mean that my unit had 3/20 empty beds, and the other unit had 12/20 empty beds. 20 empty beds = low census...never mind that they were two completely different floors. But since "our" census was low, I would have 17 pts with a TMA. Had the other floor been full, we would have had 2 nurses. It made no sense then and still makes no sense.

One great thing about the hospital I am at now, is the lab staff page the MD about critical results. The RN can't exactly intervene medically without orders, so this way eliminates the RN-middle man, and gets the pt the required orders faster.

Kitiger, RN

1,820 Posts

Specializes in Private Duty Pediatrics. Has 44 years experience.

"15 Minutes in the Life of a Nurse" is exactly why I do private duty home nursing. I have never looked back, because I love my job!

Specializes in ICU.

definately hit the nail on the head. I just would love to have my SO see what i do in a full shift

It is better to vent here than at work. As a nurse you will always be told to do more or better with less especially if you work at a hospital. On the other hand I am not homeless and it was my choice to get this degree so I share and accept my part in keeping this madness at the hospitals going, lol.

Specializes in OB. Has 7 years experience.

Great post! I wish doctors and administration could spend even 15 min in our shoes trying to manage all the things we do.


17 Posts

Nursing is all relative, I'm float pool, everyday is my monday with a new assignment, take it as it comes, never bored, highly recomend float pool if ever given the chance.

Think of it this way- in a 12 hour shift we do this scenario 48 times in one work day. And we are surprised when nurses burn out....

Specializes in MH, ED, ICU.

If you add to this calling pharmacy repeatedly because they refuse to send the proper drips from the list they were faxed by the unit secretary, you have my life. í ½í¸©

Specializes in LTC. Has 4 years experience.

I just left 5 years of long term care for the assisted living world. Wonderful, accurate post! I would/could add a few things though. On another note, there is a private school in my state currently advertising for an upcoming LPN class. The line that gets me is, "You're never too old to get an education. You can go to work and say, "Gee, I get paid for this?" Hell yeah, I get paid for this..........and not nearly enough!! As soon as I have a minute I will be emailing the school to let them know they have no business insinuating that LPNs don't work their fannies off!!

Specializes in Oncology/hematology. Has 5 years experience.
Here.I.Stand said:

One great thing about the hospital I am at now, is the lab staff page the MD about critical results. The RN can't exactly intervene medically without orders, so this way eliminates the RN-middle man, and gets the pt the required orders faster.

I disagree. If I get a call from the lab about crazy electrolights or dangerous CBC, it's much quicker to intervene. I can immediately stop a drug that can be causing more harm, open fluids, check vitals and then... I call the doc and notify him of the problem. There is a lot that needs to be done before a doc makes a decision. Like in a hematology patient with PLT of 15K, he may not requite platelets if he's not actively bleeding.

All that aside. This post describes my job to the T.


33 Posts

Oh my Chuck do I remember this feeling. It was basically how I was working in LTC. It was always fifty thousand things and then 50,001 would pop up. Hang in there and remember that this too shall pass. It might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass. Bless you for the work you do.