I’ve been a nurse for three years and am six months into my position as a neuro nurse. So why not time for a day in the life!

I went into nursing school thinking I would go immediately into a nurse practitioner (NP) program, the RN license being a checkpoint in the four year process. But in nursing school I had multiple well-loved, accomplished professors tell me to work as an RN before committing to the NP program and I decided they knew what they were talking about more than my inexperienced self did.

And I’m happy I listened. Instead of being in school full-time until just about now, I’ve lived three of my favorite, free years on earth. I’ve traveled and adventured in the way I thought about doing for much of my youth. I worked at Barnes and Noble in high school and got a giant world map for free [slash borrowed it forever?]. I hung it on the wall adjacent to my bed and lay for hours just staring it and listening to music. Sometimes I wish I felt this urgency and longing for other, more socially accepted endeavors, so that I could feel satisfaction in climbing a generic corporate ladder and making more money so we could retire earlier, and not be constantly thinking that I’m doing things all wrong. But there’s also something gratifying in thinking you’re a special snowflake, so I won’t pretend to be some hapless victim to middle America.

Mt Sneffels 14er hike summit
Mt. Sneffels Colorado 14er in 2017
Iceline Trail Yoho National Park
Yoho NP Canada 2016
The Maze District, Canyonlands Utah 2016
Backpacking to Machu Picchu in 2015

And maybe it’s the short term glow talking that will burn off and give way to a long term regret of not going back to school, but I like what I do. And I don’t like what I see doctors and NPs doing at work. They seem to spend most of their time on their computer. They do a lot of the intellectual heavy lifting which is the [obvious] giant piece in shepherding the patients back to health. But they spend <10 minutes/day with each patient. I like that I spend more time, and really, the most intimate parts of my patients’ low points with them.

Annnnd also I’m a human and like my time off. Working as a nurse = not working a 9-5. I get five days off every two weeks and revel in that. I like road trips and the mountains and the desert and flying home and blah blah blah and nursing gives me that. Anyways, at this stage in my life I’m grateful to have the time to travel and to still feel like I’m “making a difference” [barf].

Example of a Non-Chaotic Day

9:30 AM: wake up. Since training has stopped for my 100k DNF, my sleep has been incredible and I wake up feel joyful that I slept through the night.

10 AM: make breakfast and read. I’ve compulsively read about five “psychological thrillers” in the last month, all within the beach read genre and all so addicting, just as they’re meant for! The last one was “Behind Her Eyes” – what a ridiculous ending! I loved being surprised.

11 AM: go for a run and visit my goat friend. Just need to plan how transport him to our house, i.e. save him. I love running again. Also, August has been rainy and cooler so…I love running again!

Goat cat

12 PM: shower and make lunch. Eat lunch with Dan and watch “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. That show is hit or miss for us, but today it’s a semi hit.

1:30 PM: leave for work. Listen to a podcast in the car.

2:30 PM: work start time. I’m floated to a random unit, as is usual at this point. I’m a “house float” and get paid more to do this job that no one really likes to do. Most people have the same set of patients everyday.

I get report on my patients which always takes at minimum 30 minutes. Today I have five patients, and also a new nurse training with me. I still feel new so having someone train with me feels like I should be calling a manager and asking “are you sure”. Oh well. Anyways, I usually have four to five patients, so today is a little heavier but not crazy.

3 PM: give report to each of my techs (or nurse assistants) and see what they need. Then round on my patients and make sure they are all alive.  Just kidding, this isn’t the ICU. But people die here! After I make sure everyone is ok, I look up vitals, labs, and imaging done during the day to make sure everything is ok. I also check for any new orders (labs, med changes, etc) and work on them.

4-6 PM: PM med pass. Give scheduled medications and pain meds. Give tube feeding blouses, which can take a little while. Talk with patients and their families and sort out whatever issues have popped up for them. Coordinate care with physical and occupational therapists, talk with pharmacy to clarify medications, round with doctors on their patients, etc. Do wound care for a few patients after they shower. Unexpectedly [to me], over the last few years I’ve enjoyed wound care so much I’ve considered getting a certification in it.

6 PM: find out I’m floating at 6:30 shift change (now normal to me, but in my first few months this was horrible) so I walk over to my new unit and try to get report early so that I don’t start the evening med pass off late by being in double report (the whole giving and getting report rapid fire). This only happens if I get everything done before 6 which happens ~50% of the time. Report is 30 minutes.

6:30 PM: give report for 30 minutes on the patients I had for 3.5 hours. Being in report for 2/9 hours (30 minutes on the back end too) sucks. Let’s play telephone and see how many things slip through the cracks!! Just a point of reference, most nurses at my hospital work 12 hours with the same patients. Woe is me. I will say, sometimes I REALLY want to float away from my assignment so it works out in my favor 😉

7 PM: on my new unit and ready to go. The major med passes are at 7 AM and 9 PM, +/-1 hour. And if I’m lucky and out of report at 7 PM then I can start prepping things for the night. Sometimes I’m not out of report until 8 PM and then am on the struggle bus all night. But tonight I’m out on time. I have four patients, two “lighter” and two “heavier” in needs – the second two will take up 90% of my time, so I plan for that. Those elusive intangibles talked about in nursing school – prioritization and time management – are things I see improving over the months.

I give my techs report, and round on my patients to see how they’re doing. Then I have 20 minutes to talk with my coworkers. I love 95% of them, and I feel lucky. They make me laugh, we get to complain to each other with mutual understanding for the plight, and we help each other all the time.

8 PM: AND GO! Night med pass starts now, the most chaotic part of my shift. Give meds, night tube feed blouses, IVs, change wound dressings, educate patients and their families, head-to-toe assess everyone, etc. And that’s if everyone is stable. But if  someone isn’t, then in their room for most of the night. Help the techs with their work in showering and doing other basic cares for people. The fastest way to have techs on your side is to help them whenever possible.

10:30 PM: I should be giving report at this time but it almost never happens. Either I’m still finishing up with patients before they go to bed (= large fallacy – there is no going to bed) or the nurse I’m giving report to is. But tonight I’m done on time so I give report in 30 minutes. Then I chart for 30 minutes and eat dinner. Clock out and mind-scream SEE YA as I walk out the door. Just kidding, I quietly say goodbye and slip into the unseasonably cool August night. If I don’t have a security guard with me then I walk/run to my car via the poorly lit sidewalk, compulsively checking behind me until I lock myself in my car and feel my heart beating like I’m in some stupid thriller movie. Wonder when I will find my first grey hair. Drive home listening to the same five songs on Spotify.

11:45 PM get home and try to unwind. Talk with Dan for about an hour and/or read compulsively again. Lights out by 1 AM usually.

Best case scenario shift, woo.



  1. I say as long as you have plan for your retirement (when you can no longer work, not when you don’t want to work), do what you love. About the grey hair, once you find your first, there are probably many more to disturbingly discover until you get over it. 😔

    • ashleyoutside Reply

      Haha Keng, when is the getting-over-it part?? 30% grey hair head coverage? 50%? And then at that point there are probably other discoveries. Dammit..

  2. Ashley, it’s wonderful that you have found work that you love and were smart to listen and take the advice of your profs (I hope my son will make informed choices and keep an open mind as he works toward his university degree). Thanks for your interesting “day in the life” post!

Leave a Reply