Nurses know that efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to managing patient care over the course of a busy 12-hour shift. Scrambling for needed supplies is the last thing you want to do, especially in the case of an emergency. To avoid this, it is necessary to keep important supplies nearby and easy to access at all times.
From some of the most basic tools to more advanced medical equipment, here are some of the things you should be able to grab quickly when you need them.
Not to overstate the obvious, but as a nurse you simply must have your stethoscope at all times. Sure, you use it as part of your regular patient assessment, but think of all the times when you need it to address a concerning situation. What if you suddenly observe that your ICU patient has a tracing on his cardiac monitor that looks abnormal? A quick listen with your stethoscope can help you determine whether he is experiencing a true arrhythmia or whether it is just artifact from the patient’s movement or a misplaced lead. Or what if your patient looks like she is having increased work of breathing? That stethoscope will help you direct your interventions after taking a listen to her lungs.
The average person probably doesn’t realize it, but nurses do a lot of math! Whether you need to convert your patient’s weight from pounds to kilograms, check the correct dosage of a medication, or determine the proper rate to run your IV fluids, your calculator will make the job a lot easier. Many nurses will keep a small inexpensive calculator in the pocket of their scrubs just for this reason.
Goodbye paper charts! Most hospitals now have computerized charting and computerized order entry. If you are lucky, you may even have a computer at every bedside or several C.O.W’s (computers on wheels) on the unit. Having a computer handy allows you to multi-task. You can chart things in real-time, verify your orders and medications at the bedside,and pull up new lab results quickly.
Airway Management Tools
Back to the ABC’s, the airway is your first priority in an emergency. If your patient experiences a sudden event, you need to be able to clear the airway while you are waiting for other team members to arrive. Many hospitals will have in-wall suction, but protocols may vary regarding whether suction supplies are set up and ready to go, or if it will they will need to be assembled quickly. Either way, make sure you know where your suction regulator, canister, tubing, and suction catheters are kept for each patient.
If in-wall suction is not available at the bedside or isn’t functioning properly, you’ll need to grab your portable suction machine. Likely located on the top of your crash cart, be certain that you know how to use it and that it is properly charging when it is being stored. .
This is only a small portion of the many supplies that nurses use regularly. You’ll find that from unit to unit or from nurse to nurse, opinions will vary on what the most important ones are. Examine your own practice to determine which supplies you frequently use. Keep those nearby, and you’ll notice that your whole shift goes smoother.