Dr. Murphy dons mask and facial shield as part of his own preparation. Patients with central lines are protected from infections when doctors and nurses create a sterile environment that is similar to an operating room.
Photo: Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com
Photo: Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

10 life hacks every nurse should know

Nurses, you’ve probably heard of using coffee grounds to cover up those unwanted hospital smells. But there’s more where that came from.

Here are some veteran-approved hacks for new hires:

  • Johnson's Baby Wash “Johnson's Baby Wash for underarms, feet, and private areas help keep a patient feeling more human,” says Lauren Harting BSN, RN-BC. “A lot of our products have no scent and can be harsh on their skin. Johnson's is gentle and smells good. So we all like that better.”
  • Hydrogen peroxide “Hydrogen peroxide for blood. Comes out of my scrubs 100% of the time,” says nurse Rebecca Stoffel. It can be used on new and older bloodstains. Apply to the affected area, rinse and repeat until gone. Make sure to wash your scrubs immediately after treatment.
  • Oxygen masks The use of an oxygen mask tends to dry out the patient's lips, mouth, and nose. Use a water-based lubricant such as KY Jelly or aloe vera. DO NOT use oil-based lubricants such as Vaseline. If a humidifier attachment (water) is available, that is the best choice.
  • Rinse-free shower caps “One of the favorite things we used to have but lost in budget cuts was rinse-free shower caps,” says Stoffel. “You'll never see a patient smile wider than one who's had their hair washed and combed for them. Those need to come back.” Check with your local hospital regarding availability.
  • Feeding tubes Courtney Johnson, RN and BSN, says that “crushing meds, putting the powder in a specimen cup, and adding a little hot water, (then) put the lid back on and shake real well” is the “best way to dissolve meds to push in a small bowel feeding tube without clogging it.” 
  • Vick's VapoRub “Vick's VapoRub under the nose is great for masking offensive odors,” says nurse Margaret Fuller. Johnson adds “... and if you don't have that, get two masks and put a strip of toothpaste between the two to help with smells.” nurse Kim Gore agrees and says, “Burt's bees or toothpaste between two masks. That helps with odors when you're going in to clean someone up.”
  • Pens Harting says, “I carry extra throw-away pens my patients can keep to sign forms and make notes. I don't tell them it's because I don't want to share their germs.”
  • Waterproof mascara Harting is also a fan of wearing waterproof mascara. “You never know when you have to cry for yourself or with a family/patient, and you can't have it smeared all over your face when walking into the next room.”
  • The Trendelenburg Position Stephanie Vlasis, BSN, RN, says to “place male patients in this position if inserting a catheter is difficult. It can also be used when trying to lift heavier patients.”
  • Distraction Vlasis adds: “Give older patients with Alzheimer's or Dementia a task like folding towels. It gives them something to do and keeps their mind occupied. They tend to fidget. If you give them a job, they tend to do it instead of pulling on their IV's, etc.”

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