Before I became a nurse, I always wondered what “a day in the life of a nurse” was like, what a 12 hour shift was like, and what type of things I would be doing on the job daily. In this article, I want to share with you how a typical day would be for me as a nurse.
The day I going to describe is a typical day for a day shift floor nurse working on a progressive care, telemetry, or medical surgical floor. I wanted to describe a typical day for these specialties of nurses because these are the main areas new nurses start out in.
I hope this article gives you a better understanding on what a nurse does and I recommend that after you read this article that you take the fun quiz “Will I make a Good Nurse?” This quiz will assess your organization and people skills, and help you determine if you’ll make a good nurse.
I am going to describe hour-by-hour what you can expect during a 12 hour shift as a nurse. If you want to watch a video of me talking about “What it is like to work as a Registered Nurse”, you can view it below:
A Day in the Life of a Nurse
A day shift starts usually at 0700-1900 (7a-7p)
0700- Receiving report on patients and reviewing how your day is going to go. For example, which:
- Patients are having testing or procedures done
- Are they ready and prepped for their test or procedure?
- Do you have any morning labs that are critical that you need to call the doctor about?
- Which patients may be potentially discharged?
- During this hour you are going to be developing a plan on how to accomplish your day and be prepared for the day ahead.
0800-1000– This is a very busy part of the day. During this time, you are going to be:
- Meeting your patients and conducting head-to-toe body assessments
- Addressing your patient’s needs and assisting them with ADL’s (activities of daily living). When you wake your patients in the morning this is the time when they want to get up out of bed, brush their teeth, sit in the chair, etc. This is usually a big time when call lights are going off.
- Setting patients up for breakfast and assisting them with eating
- Checking blood sugars prior to breakfast on diabetic patients
- Administering medications (insulin prior to breakfast and completing the morning medication pass of 1000 medications (an extensive medication pass))
- Charting your assessments, updating care plans, and other paperwork
- Following out doctor’s orders. This is normally the time doctors round on the floor to see your patient and orders start coming in. For instance, orders for blood transfusions, discharges, lab draws, new medications, etc.
*Majority of a nurses day is giving medications, charting, completing doctor’s orders, and taking care of any patient issues that arise throughout the shift)
1100-1300-During this time you are going to be shifting gears to the following things:
- Setting patients up for lunch and assisting them with eating
- Checking blood sugars prior to lunch on diabetic patients
- Again giving medications
- Drawing ordered labs
- Trying to catch-up on charting
- Calling doctors with patient issues
- Discharging patients and admitting new ones
- Last but not least (SUPER IMPORTANT) trying to get lunch yourself…this is sometimes easier said than done, but it is so crucial that you do this and take your full break because you will need the energy to get through the second half of your day.
1400-1600-This is catch-up hour and to expect the unexpected:
- Catching up on charting. For example, completing any discharge paperwork and new admission paperwork, along with your morning paperwork.
- During this time you will probably be discharging and admitting patients if you didn’t do so during the 1100 to 1300 hours.
- Catching up on tasks: Starting new IVs because the other one has expired, changing wound dressings, ambulating patients, changing expired tubing, changing central line dressings etc.
- Giving medications. Some patients are due medication during these hours, but you find you will also be giving PRN (as needed medications) during this time as well.
- Following out new doctor’s orders
1700-1800– Wrapping things up! This is the time where you are going to make sure you have everything done before the next shift comes in. You will be doing the following:
- Giving your last big medication pass
- Making sure all your charting is completed
- Checking blood sugars prior to dinner on diabetic patients
- Setting patients up for dinner and assisting them with eating
- Wrapping up any new discharge or admissions you get.
1845-1900– Finally you’re done! You will give report to the next shift during this time and leave. You will be exhausted, hungry, and ready for a hot bath and bed!
It is important to note this is what is required that you do as a nurse during your shift, but there will be days that will be so hectic because the unexpected has happened. It is very important you stay organized and try to prepare as much as in advance as possible.