You go into work hoping for a good night, but when you look at the assignment sheet you realize you are short staffed… Again! Unfortunately, this happens far too often to nurses in all areas of the profession.
Short staffing can be a function of the facility not hiring enough staff, or expecting high ratios on a regular basis. In many cases, though, it is because one or more nurses have called in sick.
It is easy to get frustrated when you are worked to the bone because there aren’t enough nurses to go around. Patients suffer, your work suffers, and it tends to lead to burnout more quickly.
If you find yourself short staffed more often than not, here are some suggestions for getting through it. If it happens all the time, you may need to bring your concerns to management.
1. Rely on Teamwork
The only way you are going to get through this situation is to rely on the team. Although your team may not be as large as you’d like, marshal the resources you do have.
Everyone needs to pull together and no one should be sitting at the station while others are scrambling. When you see a nurse in need and you have a second, give them a hand.
Also rely on your ancillary staff. Sometimes they take the brunt of being short staffed because their jobs are so basic and vital.
Try to give your aides what you can, but don’t overload them. This will create resentment, a loss of teamwork, and more work for everyone in the end.
2. Get Organized
Nurses always need to be organized and manage their time, but it is even more important when they are short staffed. Unfortunately, you are going to have to plan just about every moment of you shift, and then react as needed for emergencies.
The important part is to come back to your schedule after the inevitable interruption. You set yourself tasks to accomplish, maybe write them on a piece of paper, and then check them off when you are done.
When you are interrupted, put the paper away, take care of your patient, and then come back to the paper. By staying organized, you will ensure that you don’t miss anything important, like a dressing change, and can get all of your work done.
Unfortunately, no matter how organized you are, you may have to stay after the shift to get work done. There are only so many hours in a shift, and if you are interrupted repeatedly, the important work may not get done within those scheduled hours.
3. Stay Positive
It is so easy to get down when you are short staffed all the time, but this will not help you through the shift any easier. Instead of complaining about it to anyone who will listen, try to be confident that you are up to the task.
Sometimes, anger becomes an issue too, because you are stressed and the patients are potentially in danger. By staying positive, you can let go of counterproductive energy that will only make matters worse.
Don’t be falsely positive… approach negativity a hurdle that can easily be overcome, and use that energy to drive you forward. Instead of embracing the suck, look at it as a challenge to your nursing skills, and something you can be proud of when you get to the other side.
Kicking butt is often a great cure for being short staffed.