What to Do If You Accidentally Forget Your Nursing Shift

You're Late!

You’re Late!

By C. Barkley, RN

It happens to every nurse sometime during his or her career: You’re sleeping in or drinking a morning cup of Joe when the phone rings. You recognize your charge nurse’s voice on the other end of the phone, “Are you okay?”

At this point, your heart drops to your stomach, or you need further explanation, “Yeah, I’m fine. Why?”

“Because we were expecting you at work twenty minutes ago!”

Quickly, you find your work schedule, and “Oh crap!” you are supposed to be there, how could you have missed it? It doesn’t matter. Here’s how to recover:

  1. Unless there is absolutely nowhere to safely leave your children, or you have drunk alcohol before you get this call, you have to go in. Since the mistake is yours, so is the accountability. Taking responsibility is your saving grace with your manager and coworkers.
  2. Use an abbreviated form of your regular ‘get ready for work’ routine, despite being late. While this is not the time to contemplate a new hairstyle, taking a few minutes to shower, shave, or put on your regular make up has the benefit of calming you down, and telling your brain, “We’re going to work now.” You want to arrive centered and ready to take over  your assignment, not as a hot mess of frazzled nerves.
  3. Obey all traffic laws. Speeding to work because you’re late, thereby putting yourself and others at risk of injury is not justifiable. Studies have proven that running red lights, and darting in and out of lanes hazardously does not improve arrival times. In fact, if you’re stopped by a police officer, you’ll be even later than you already are!

Arriving late for a missed shift is no fun, but accountability and a sense of humor will help you recover.


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