Nursing Brain Sheets for Beginners

Nursing Brain sheets are summaries that help nurses remember their patient’s particulars. Most veteran nurses already have brain sheets that they depend on, but new grads need to work to make their sheet as customized for them as possible.

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Nursing Brain Sheets for Beginners

Nursing brain sheets go by many names. They are called report sheets, security blankets, flowcharts, to-do lists and everything in between. What are they exactly? Nursing brain sheets are those papers that have all of the information on your patient. You will have your history, diagnosis, meds, lab values, and so much more. In fact, brain sheets are like fingerprints. No two seem to be the same. Some hospitals are forcing nurses to use standardized brain sheets, but you can still make them work if you take some steps to customize them.

Your brain sheets will help you out throughout your shift. Just by looking at them, you can easily recall to mind who a patient is, what they need, and what you need to watch for. It is easy to forget when you have six patients. When you have two, such as in the ICU, there is so much to remember on each patient that you almost have to have a more detailed brain sheet. Essentially, these brain sheets are your ability to admit you are human. They help with report, it is true, but their number one usage is keeping you organized throughout your shift.

Your First Nursing Brain Sheet

When new nurses hit the floor, they usually don't have brain sheets. Most don't even know that such a thing exists. Although you may be able to get by with a notebook, that will quickly become confusing, messy, and completely unhelpful in an emergency. But what do you need to know? One of the best ways of breaking into brain sheets is using your preceptor's sheet. This way, you will be keeping the same information that they are, and you will be sure to follow along.

This brain sheet may not work for you, and that's okay. Maybe you like more emphasis on labs than on history. It is a very personal thing. As you get to know your coworkers, take a peek at their brain sheets. Some of them may have items that you want to include in your own. Most nurses are more than happy to give you a blank copy of their sheet. You really want to get a sheet from a nurse who seems really organized and knows what they are doing. Usually, preceptors are the model for this, but becoming a working nurse means finding what works for you.

Modifying Nursing Brain Sheets

Once you've collected a few nursing brain sheets, you may be tempted to make your own. This is a great impulse, and you should follow up on it. The first thing you will need is some sort of word processing or spreadsheet program. If you don't have Microsoft Office, you can download a free program called Open Office that will essentially do the same thing. Don't overlook Google Docs, either, as they have a great deal of the same capabilities. They may not be as robust, but they can help you make your sheet.

You have to make some decisions when coming up with your first brain sheet. The first choice is which program to use, and that's going to depend on how comfortable you are. Spreadsheets are awesome for tables, and that's what you are going to be making. However, spreadsheets can intimidate some people, and they would prefer to use a word processor. If you feel you are better at making tables and formatting data in the word processor, then go for it. The second thing you need to decide is what to put on your brain sheet. Look at your samples. Make a list of what you need. If you find you are always scrambling to remember when meds are due, then make a checklist of the times on your shift that you will pass meds.

Also, give some consideration to the space that you have for this information. It may be great to have a comprehensive sheet, but that's going to take up a good deal of room, necessitate writing down all the information, and then carrying those papers throughout the day. In short, the smaller you can get it, the better it is. Remember: you almost always have a computer that is on hand that can allow you to look up results and histories. Maybe keep a few important or out of range labs on your sheet, but there is no reason to write them all. You have to be picky about what goes on your brain sheet.

Coming to Terms with Your Nursing Brain Sheet

As with most of nursing, brain sheets are a journey. You may need to adjust the sheet many times before you get something that makes sense to you. That's why you probably don't want to stay with any nurse's personal sheet. It is designed to help them remember what they usually forget, and you need a sheet that is tailored to your specific brain blind spots. Keep the file that you use to make your sheet handy. You will be back to it to make changes in how the document looks.

In the end, your brain sheet is your best friend. There is nothing better than having a brain sheet in a code when a doctor walks in and wants to know all about the patient. If you are ever going to forget, it is at this moment. You can fall back on your sheets, provided they are comprehensive and filled out, to help you manage the emergency. They will also keep your patient safe. Every nurse has blind spots, and these papers are like side mirrors that keep you aware of your surroundings. Take your time to formulate the sheet so that you can keep yourself organized. Also, take care to shred your used brain sheets at the end of the day, because they can be a HIPAA violation if they manage to come home with you. One day, you may be surprised when a new grad or coworker asks for a copy of your sheet for their usage.

If you've had any helpful nursing tips passed down to you from preceptors, share them in the comments with new nurses who may need the help. You can even share your brain sheets if you have them handy.

Nursing Brain Sheet Examples

All Nurses; Share Your Brain Sheets


Lynda is a freelance medical writer with experience in telemetry, med-surg, and ICU.

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