Just hearing those words can make many of us cringe and flood us with a multitude of memories, whether it was studying the Krebs Cycle until 3 a.m. only to have to show up for clinicals at 7 a.m., or being convinced that you were going to be diagnosed with whatever disease process you were currently learning. All fond memories aside, nursing school was just that: school.
It gave me a foundation, but it didn’t give me the experience I was going to need to survive in the real world. We all talk about real world vs. textbook nursing. But it isn’t until you are on the floor – by yourself – that you really learn what being a nurse is all about and how to manage your time.
Time management is a critical component for any nurse to master. We must figure out how to be in six to eight patient rooms at nearly the same time and ensure we are providing personal, high quality, safe care. So, to “clone” ourselves, we learn to create shortcuts. Some of them are OK, but they often go against established hospital policy. One of the shortcuts I developed was “batched vitals”.
Batched vitals is a process I used when I would have a patient return from a procedure or who would require frequent vital signs monitoring. Knowing that I could not be in the room every 15 minutes, I would program the vitals machine to take measurements according to the doctor’s order and would promise myself to return and check on the patient, peek at the vitals, and then go on my way and repeat the process. Once I could steal away 15 uninterrupted minutes, I would wheel my computer in and manually enter the vitals in to the flow sheet from the vitals machine.
Is this shortcut safe? Have you ever “batched” your vitals?
I ask because I am truly curious as to what other nurses are doing. What is their real world practice as compared to textbook nursing? As a vendor who is out in the field, I get a lot of feedback from nurses and I have found that batched vitals seem to be a general practice. I am not saying that it is right or wrong (although I’m slightly comforted that I am not on an island of my own). But what I am asking is do we need to look at what the impact is on patient care by following this process?
I have read a few studies, but nothing says in bright red letters: “you must be at the bedside every 15 minutes”. But, if this is the case, does technology need to support real nursing practice and allow for sending validated batches of vitals? Or, should we continue with business as usual and embrace the adage of “we’ve always done it this way”?