A Day in the Life of a Medsurg RN in Portland

downtown Portland near the water
December 11, 2023

A Day in the Life of an RN in Portland

Your alarm goes off with your favorite song; then, you put the coffee maker to work, and you jump in the shower to help yourself wake up. As you go for your freshly brewed cup of joe, you hear the sound of an ambulance siren, reminding you that your coming shift as a registered nurse (RN) in Portland will be exciting, intense, demanding, and challenging.

What Does a Typical Day for a MedSurg Nurse Look Like? 

This article is an example of how any day in the shoes of a registered nurse in Portland, Oregon, could look. Some nurses still opt for the 9 to 5 positions, such as jobs in outpatient surgery centers or clinics, but for decades, the 12-hour shift has been the most popular among nurses, especially those who work on Medsurg units.

7:00–10:00 Your shift starts in the medical-surgical unit. You must receive the night shift nurse handoff report and examine the physicians’ notes to know what your assigned patients require. After reviewing the report, checking the patient’s needs, and the changes in their status, you will start your rounds by visiting the patients, performing a physical assessment, checking vital signs, starting new IVs, and administering treatments ordered for the am. Those are some of your first responsibilities as your shift starts. 

A crucial change nurses will begin to observe in Oregon over the following months is standardization and generally a decrease in the number of patients they care for. The state recently passed a groundbreaking law regulating nurse-to-patient ratios in various acute care settings, including med-surg. By June 1, 2024, medical-surgical nurses will only be able to care for five patients at a time, and by June 1, 2026, the maximum number will drop to four patients.

Even on a busy day, nurses should help coordinate so they can eat lunch away from the unit and recharge.

10:00–13:00 At this time, you will need to have everything ready for patients who have scheduled surgeries and help other patients with their activities of daily living, like assisting them with eating or bathing. Then comes the med-pass time, when you will administer patients’ medications. As an RN, you may be required to perform these tasks on your own; you might help out in a team nursing setting, or a licensed practical nurse (LPN) might pass the medication, and a certified nursing assistant (CNA) may help with eating and/or bathing. Midday is always a chaotic time on medsurg units for nurses as this is when people receive insulin and mealtime medications again, and physicians often pop in for rounds just after noon.

At this point, you will need to discharge patients and admit others. For this reason, you must have your charting with all the documentation ready. Catching up with your charting can be challenging, so leave enough time for this task and remember to seize every opportunity to chart as you go throughout your shift.

After completing the documentation, the afternoon will be around the corner, and if you have the time, you will sit down to eat lunch. Coordinate your lunch breaks with other nurses to do your best to take your lunch off the floor if possible so that you have time to decompress, rejuvenate, and return to the floor, ready to go.

13:00–16:00, you will complete your set of rounds and assessments, and you might discharge and/or admit more patients, ensuring they and their families understand their treatment plans and diagnoses. Some of these admissions come directly from surgery and will require a couple of hours of more intensive monitoring. 

In addition, you need to ensure every patient has their medications. You also must attend to needs that arise and new orders that come in, coordinate with visitors and other departments for your patients’ schedules and follow through with their nursing care plans.

Again, you will check vitals, and after lunch is a great time to perform any needed dressing changes - but always assess the status of patient bandages and devices continually and apply treatments per physician orders.

16:00–19:00 You are in the final stretch of your shift, so you must find time for charting to ensure you have everything documented. In addition, you will set patients up for dinner and assist them with eating or delegate that task to a team member. 

Around this time, you will give your last round of medication to your patients, and some new admissions may come in. Also, you have to make sure that families have updates on the patients’ conditions, explaining all about the care that patients will need and answering possible questions.

You will check on some post-surgical patients needing your attention to make them feel more comfortable. Processing orders from surgeons and other physicians, you will help to set up their subsequent tests and procedures.

The evening arrives, and you will pass your end-of-shift report to the night shift nurse. This part is essential so the night shift team can continue giving patients safe care; after this, you will be free to return home and have the resting time you deserve.

Why Become a Nurse?

Nurses have hectic days, and it is a demanding profession. That is why nurses need to have empathy, care about people, have excellent problem-solving skills, and enjoy learning. Like Val Saintsbury said, “Nurses dispense comfort, compassion, and caring without even a prescription.”

Those are common attributes that nurses have, so if you identify with these characteristics and have a desire to help others, nursing may be the perfect fit. If you are interested in becoming a nurse, the following list shows some excellent RN programs in Portland:

  • Clackamas Community College
  • Portland Community College
  • Walla Walla University
  • Concordia University

Why Choose to Live in Portland?

If you have an eco-friendly tendency, Oregon is among the country’s greenest states, with people who have a high conservation awareness. In addition, Oregon has many options for outdoor activities to enjoy with friends or by yourself.

Besides, Oregon has important medical centers where you can broaden your skills by learning from other nurses and physicians. 

What Do Nurses Want to Change in the Nursing Profession?

Reducing administrative responsibility is the most common answer that nurses give when asked what they would change in the profession. Nurses generally love being there for patients and try to provide a humanized healthcare service by spending more time at the bedside. Therefore, the usage of technology and the automatization of different administrative tasks can make it possible for nurses to focus more on patients.  

What Are the Most Challenging Things That Nurses Face? 

Patients are stressed, afraid, and have countless doubts about their conditions. Therefore, some individuals can be challenging, so nurses need to have thick skin not to take people’s reactions personally and give the patients the calm they need.

Sometimes, workloads can be extremely challenging physically and mentally. Nevertheless, nurses must adapt and continue giving their best since patients depend on them. Patients are nurses’ strength and motivation.

Registered nurse in Portland standing near waterfall during hike after work.

What Are Per Diem Nursing Jobs?

Per diem means “per day.” In this job model, you can pick up shifts in different facilities and decide from the shifts available which one fits more with your schedule and preferences. 

Flexibility is one characteristic of this type of job since you can choose when and where you want to work. Nursa can help you find per diem RN jobs in Portland since it’s an open nurse market where registered nurses in Oregon or other states can pick up shifts.

By choosing per diem nursing jobs in Portland or in a different city in Oregon, you can significantly change your life. For example, if you have previous experience in the emergency department, you can pick shifts as an ER nurse and make a higher wage per hour than a regular ER nurse's wages. Browse Nursa for high-paying per diem shifts near you.

Guillermo Gainsborg, MA
Blog published on:
December 11, 2023

Meet Guillermo, a contributing copywriter for Nursa who specializes in writing nursing content about finances, licensing, technology, and staffing solutions.

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