Become Your Patients’ Superhero
By Nacole Riccaboni RN, BSN, PCCN, CCRN, TNCC
Nurse Nacole is a board certified registered nurse, blogging about advanced nursing education and being a new nurse. On her self entitled blog, Nurse Nacole posts daily nursing tips, along with advice on nursing academics, licensing exams, professionalism and nursing school success. Nacole is currently in school to become a Nurse Practitioner.
Scenario: You’ve passed the NCLEX-RN examination and you are now on the floor, taking care of patients. You’re a new grad, with a few months in on your first nursing job. As a nurse you have a huge knowledge base in your arsenal, but you’re still learning how to access it and use it. You want to be the best nurse you can be, but you’re still learning the ropes and could use some expert advice.
Let’s take a step back, then, and assess the situation.
Nursing allows us to care for patients across the lifespan who experience a wide variety of conditions. With that opportunity comes great responsibility. As a nurse who is caring for someone, you are their lifeline- literally. You are their advocate and their leader. It is up to you to keep them safe. It is you who they call when something is wrong.
In short, even if you’re not wearing a cape: You are your patients’ superhero!
As a travel nurse, I’ve work on various floors and interacted with various patient populations. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that when caring for a variety of patients, you must know what to expect.
You need to know about expected medication outcomes, what hemodynamic parameters are expected post intervention, what kinds of complications to look for and more. Your nursing career revolves around assessing, evaluating and reassessing- looking for anomalies and clues about what is going on within your patients.
Nursing is not just being proficient at one task nor is it being able to deftly perform one action. Nursing is an accumulation of choices and decisions made by you, in response to what is happening with your patients.
Whether you are in long-term care, psych or med-surg, nursing requires you to be astute and in tune to a plethora of lab results, monitoring thresholds, assessment parameters and anticipated outcomes. It can be a lot to handle, and you may wish you had superpowers at times. Since you don’t have x-ray vision, you’re going to need to pack your super nurse utility belt with all the tools you need to save lives.
Expert Advice for New Nurses: Know What to Expect
If you don’t know what to look for, be prepared. If you’re a new nurse, you have no experience to fall back on, so you need to bring the tools you need to succeed on the floor. With a reference guide that you can create yourself, you will have those tools with you everyday.
As a new graduate nurse, my reference guide was my bible! I carried it around everywhere. It had the common medications I gave on my floor, procedural information including what supplies the provider would need, expected outcomes in relation to disease processes, vital signs information and tons of other things I couldn’t expect myself to have memorized right away. It helped every day and allowed me to be more productive as I took care of five patients all at once.
Fast-forward to today, and my reference guide is still with me- with a few modifications of course. Even in the intensive care setting, reference guides help you. From PA pressures, to chest tubes and drains, this book keeps me aware of what is expected and when to seek the help of a medical provider (NP, PA, MD, DO).
Nothing is worse than assuming something is normal, then realizing at shift change that your patient has been in distress for 12 hours without your knowledge. Not all adverse events start as an easily assessed deviation from normal, and it’s easy to miss things that you are not looking for as a new nurse.
Even as an experienced nurse, your brain can only hold so much information—especially in stressful situations. That’s why superheroes don’t depend on their superpowers alone. They have sidekicks, gadgets, tricked out cars and high tech communication systems.
So do yourself a favor and get a binder, add some paper and make a guide that holds an amazing amount of lifesaving information, ready and at your fingertips right when you need it.
In worst-case scenarios (and yes, as a nurse you are going to face many worst case scenarios), you’re going to wish you had superpowers, or at least a super nursing reference guide like this. In nursing, we are each other’s sidekicks, but sometimes everyone is busy at the same time! Sometimes feedback, advice or that extra set of hands and eyes just aren’t available. This is why reference guides are super powerful allies. It’s like carrying a veteran nurse in your pocket, even when you’re the most experienced nurse on the unit.
Many new graduate nurses ask, “What type of nursing reference guide should I have?”
My answer is that you should have one that you create and customize yourself. Your floor or department is unique and therefore buying a ready-made guide might not be in your best interest. Talk to your manager and the expert nurses on your floor; get a list of commonly given medications, common floor procedures and other pertinent information to include.
Being a superhero means you are ready for anything and that requires preparation on your end. Using resources doesn’t make you weak or incompetent. Did Batman feel inadequate because he drove the Batmobile? Did Ironman feel weak because he made his own suit? No.
By providing yourself with the things you need to save lives, you are displaying your intelligence and dedication to the safety and well-being of your patients. It means you’re smart enough to know when to seek help and that you have prepared for this exact situation.
So as you traverse through your super hero, aka nursing career, your best tools are those that will help you thoroughly prepare and teach you to recognize what it happening with your patients- inside and out.
And as a veteran nurse who still brings her utility belt to every shift, that’s my best nursing advice for becoming the superhero your patients need you to be!
If you want to learn more about becoming a nurse superhero, contact the schools below to learn more.