By the time nursing students are seniors, they should know how to do the tasks of being a nurse - assessments, medication administration, wound and trach care, etc. However, successful nurses know that to be a good nurse, you must also know how to connect the dots.
Connecting the dots involves completing the tasks while finding the time to check labs, round with physicians, consider discharge plans and actually educate patients to ensure they leave the hospital with more knowledge than they did when they arrived. It’s about time management and prioritization. It’s about considering the needs of the patient beyond the shift.
Tips to connect the dots
Follow through – Once you discover an actual or potential problem, don’t allow the end of your shift to come without resolving that problem. I always ask my students to give me report after they’ve done their initial assessment. I use this opportunity to help develop their critical thinking skills by challenging them (in a supportive way).
Example: I once asked a student how she would prevent pneumonia. Her response was that she would have the patient deep breath using an incentive spirometer. When I asked if the patient had one, she said no. Then nothing - end of conversation.
I then had a similar conversation with another student and asked if the patient had an incentive spirometer, she said no. But then replied that she looked in the supply closet for one, didn’t see any (bin was empty) so she asked the unit secretary to order one from central supply and had just received a call that it was on it’s way.
Which nurse would you want caring for you?
Act as if – A common statement I hear from students is, “I’ll tell the nurse.” Or “I don’t know. I’ll get the nurse.” Although the nurse assigned to the patient needs to be informed of everything, it’s important to remember that you will be the nurse soon. As a student, it’s important to start thinking about how you would handle situations if you really were the nurse. One way to do that is to “act as if.”
Example: I was with senior students on a busy neurosurgical step-down unit. A patient’s IV pump alarmed. The pump stated “volume infused” but there was still at least 100 cc’s left in the bag. I asked the student what she should do next and her answer was to let the nurse know. The nurse was at lunch and the student’s plan was just to keep silencing the alarm until the nurse returned from lunch. Not very practical, especially since she had another patient to care for and not nice for the patient and patient’s family to keep hearing the alarm beep every 90 seconds!
I then said, “If you were the nurse, what would YOU do?”
Every time you are about to ask your nurse for something, first think about what you would do if you actually were the nurse. You will be before you know it!
Anybody can task. It’s not the tasks that make you a nurse. It’s the ability to connect the dots that truly makes you a nurse.
Thanks for choosing to become a nurse! I’m cheering for your success.
Take care and stay connected.
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