Nurses working in a small hospital often wear many hats. While a large, metropolitan hospital will often have a full staff of physicians, ancillary and support staff on-site around the clock, a small hospital may not have that luxury. This is especially evident during the “off-shifts” of evenings, nights and weekends.
By keeping certain supplies on hand, however, a nurse at a small hospital can make sure that he/she is prepared to deliver patient care across all shifts. Let’s take a look at some of the most important ones.
Drug Reference Manual
Have a question about a drug interaction? Does a dose of an antibiotic seem too high? Are you unsure what this newly ordered medication does? Medication errors are unfortunately way too common, and at a small hospital, a pharmacist may not be available to answer your questions. Having an up to date drug reference manual will give you the confidence to know that you are properly administering your patient’s medications. Taking those few extra seconds to double check your medications can go a long way to prevent a dangerous outcome.
Watch with a Second Hand
Taking a patient’s vital signs is one of the first and most basic things you learn in nursing school, yet it serves as the foundation for determining most of your nursing interventions for your patient. When your patient is not on cardiac and respiratory monitors, you will need to assess his heart rate and respiratory rate manually, so having a watch is essential.
Additionally, with a full patient load and many important tasks to accomplish, your watch will help you stay timely in your care.
Portable Pulse Oximeter
If your patient’s suddenly looks pale or his work of breathing seems to be increasing, being able to slide a pulse ox on his finger and determine his oxygen saturation will provide you will some useful data to help round out his assessment. As a nurse, you know that when you page the doctor on call, you better be prepared to supply the doctor with all the information he needs. Does your patient need to be started on oxygen? Does he need a chest X-ray? Being able to provide a thorough clinical picture will ensure that the doctor is able to order the appropriate tests, procedures and interventions.
Portable Suction Machine
In a small hospital, you might not have in-wall suction available every bedside. If there is an airway emergency and you are the first one responding, you will need your portable suction machine to quickly clear that airway.
Hospital-Issued Cell Phone (or other means of quick communication)
With a small staff spread out over a large unit, nurses need to have a way to communicate with others when needed. More and more, even small hospitals are issuing cell phones to their nurses to be used during a shift. These phones can be used in an emergency to call other staff for assistance, to reach a physician with a question, and may even be linked to the patient’s call system, allowing patients to speak to their nurse quickly.
Working in a small hospital presents its own set of challenges. By prepping themselves with the right supplies, nurses will find that they have the proper tools to manage the increased autonomy and responsibility that comes with their role.