There are two kinds of nurses…those who do the least amount possible and those who do as much as they can for their patients. You’ll recognize the two types pretty quickly.

The former spend most of their shift at the nurse’s station, complain when they have to get up and do actual patient care, leave their rooms a mess, leave their patients a mess and have piles of unorganized paperwork cluttering up their work area. When they give report, you’ll hear a lot of excuses about how busy they were and notice that several of  your patient’s needs were not addressed (because that would entail more work.)

The latter spend most of their time in their patient’s rooms, leave their patients clean, ensure their rooms are tidy and keep their paperwork organized. When they give report, they’ll talk about what actually GOT done and make solid recommendations for what the patient’s ongoing needs are. The choice you have is which kind of nurse you want to be…and if you’re reading this it’s because you want to be the best nurse you possibly can…good for you!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into my patient’s room in the morning and found a mess. Discarded alcohol swabs and end caps on the floor, a cluttered bedside table, overflowing garbage bins, filthy suction tubing, crusty Yankauers, dinner trays that have been sitting there all night, half empty water cups, empty juice containers, full sharps containers, lines a tangled (and unlabeled) mess, linens on every available surface and a plethora of supplies stacked here and there. Not to mention the paperwork that’s just piled haphazardly in the nurse’s work area, rather than filed away neatly in the bedside binder. Sound like any rooms you’ve seen lately?

Leaving your work space an absolute disaster conveys a message, and probably not the one you want to convey. It says that you don’t take pride in your work, don’t care about the comfort or dignity of  your patient and basically that you’re lazy. Granted, there are busy shifts where the shilolah does hit the fan…but that should be the exception and not the rule.

By keeping things tidy, you’re showing respect for your work and respect for your patient who deserves a room free of clutter and overflowing, odorous garbage bins. Granted, a lot of times the clutter is brought in by the family. When this occurs, I always try to designated a “family stuff” area and a “nursing stuff” area….and yes, I will throw out half empty soda bottles that have been sitting there for more than 12 hours, because that’s just gross. If family questions why I am rearranging things, I always say that “an organized room is a safe room” and no one can argue with wanting their family member to be safe! Imagine a room full of clutter and a room organized with the essentials…which nurse do you think is more prepared to react quickly and efficiently?

So how do you fit all this tidying-up into your already busy day? I always try to do a little first thing in the morning, before things get intense. At the very least I’ll label my lines when I’m doing my initial assessment (since verifying lines is part of your assessment, ya’ll). Then, throughout the morning I’ll do a little each time I go in…and if I have time to commit 15 minutes to it, I’ll just take care of it all at once. After that, it’s easy to keep your room clean…you just CYAG (clean as  you go) and voila…the end of your shift arrives and your patient and room like as fresh and tidy as a new admit! Next thing you know, nurses look forward to following you from shift to shift 🙂

Oliver says, "I can't bear to see the mess!"

Oliver says, “I can’t bear to see the mess!”

So what about when things DO hit the fan? A code or emergent bedside procedure can leave things in your room an absolute horrific disaster. Take care of the patient first, but if you work in a supportive unit, someone will come by and ask how they can help. If you’ve got patient care handled then don’t be shy asking someone to tidy up the room. When I offer help and the room is a mess, I’ll often go in and tidy things up, label lines, change bloody gowns, file paperwork….you’d be amazed at how much these little things help  your coworkers, so be helpful and don’t be too shy to ask for help when you need it. By doing so,  you promote a culture of organization and helpfulness…I always say, “be the change you want to see in the world!”

So, which kind of nurse are you going to be today?