Oh, Organization!

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

New nurses have several developmental tasks they have to accomplish, in my thinking. Fresh out of school, a nurse learns to adapt to stress, learns how to work in a team, figures out how to deal with doctors, other nurses, patients–the list goes on. And for myself, one of the most important and ongoing learning tasks has been to get and stay organized!

I remember my first few months as a GN on the unit and how I was incredibly scattered. My pockets were full of paper, pens, trash, gum, tools, etc. I’d lose stuff when I got flustered. Whenever I would bend over to pick something up, all my stuff would land on the floor, hopefully! (Yes, I did have an instance when all my stuff landed in a full urine cylinder as I was bending over while emptying a catheter, but that’s a story for another time.)

What does organization look like for me now with some experience under my belt? Well, my pockets are now super-tidy. I use my pockets more like a filing system where things are used and immediately returned to their place. My pens always go in the same pocket with alcohol wipes and my brain, my tools hang out in their own pocket, and garbage goes in the trash. I never loose my brain now, always have tape at hand, and my pen hasn’t gotten stolen in months and months. Also, I’m not one to lend my stuff out–especially my stethescope, which stays firmly planted around my neck.

Tending to keep what I carry on me pretty simple, I carry all my extra stuff in a bag to work that stays at the nurses station with me in a drawer. I’ve got a drug reference book in there with extra supplies, bottled water, a snack (something I can cram in a hurry like granola bars), extra brain sheets, etc. My bag stays packed and ready to go.

As for a “brain”–yes I use one outside my head! A brain is basically a report sheet where nurses record all the info about their shift in one nifty place. I created my own brain but some units have brains that are universal. I write all my patients pertinent info on this paper and everything I need to do for them. Then I keep tabs of whatever comes up; brains are essential to my staying organized and aid in my communicating with docs and other nurses. Color coding my brain and its tasks works well for me and I love using one of those four color pens for doing so.

My routine is another way I stay organized. Because I work in an area where anything can happen at any moment, I order my actions so that I can get things done and stay current and ready for an emergency. For example, I always start of with my assessments, getting together supplies, checking my equipment, and setting up the procedures I’ll need to do. Then I chart as I go–preferably at the bedside. Putting off charting can lead to having massive amounts of stuff to record at the end of the shift, which makes a nurse very late out of work. I have rarely had to stay late after work to chart–the few times it has happened was because I was on orientation and learning a routine.

My motto where routine is concerned is to “always adapt.” I love incorporating other nurses methods into my own practice. In fact, an older nurse just taught me to always place a strip of paper tape on my scrubs in the OR to record times for charting later. Little tips like this keep me evolving and make me a better nurse. Being organized keeps me sane, safe and allows me to give great, timely care to my patients. It’s definitely worth the work!

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. Tape all your lines perpendicular to the same tongue depressor. Label just above or below.
    Organize your thinking and report. I like a systems approach- cardiac, resp, renal, GI, Neuro, ms/integumentary, psych, social, etc. Use the same organization every time. Even fold your report sheet so each square is dedicated to one patient.


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