A Day in the Life of a TCU Nurse

I’ve been working in the TCU (Transitional Care Unit) at UPMC Montefiore for 27 years. What keeps me coming back day after day is the variety of patients I get to interact with, and the moments of compassionate care I get to provide. Each 12-hour shift I work brings its own challenges and rewards, and is full of activity and interaction.

Here’s a glimpse into a day in my life as a TCU nurse with UPMC!

5:00 a.m. When my alarm goes off, it’s go-time! Before I can head to work, I get my six-year-old son up and ready for school, and drop him off at his grandma’s before I head off to begin my shift. I work three 12-hour shifts per week, which means I get lots of time to spend with my son on my days off. I love that aspect!

6:30 a.m. I make my way through the early-morning traffic of Pittsburgh and park in our employee lot where I’ll catch the shuttle to the hospital. Hopefully the shuttle is on time so I don’t have to deal with Pittsburgh’s brisk morning temperatures!

6:50 a.m. The shuttle drops us off in front of the hospital and we scan in for the day. In addition to being an RN on the floor, I also have responsibilities related to my role as an RNAC, or Registered Nurse Assessment Coordinator. If there’s a higher count of patients on the floor, I assist with direct patient care and set aside the paperwork associated with my role as a RNAC to complete later.

7:00 a.m. If I’m on the floor for the morning, I will start my room-to-room report first thing to get patient updates from the previous night shift. I also check to see how many nursing assistants I have for the day, which determines what tasks I’m taking on. Each day, I’m never sure what situation or tasks await me at work, but the variety keeps me on my toes.

7:30 a.m. — I take a look at my ADL list (Activities of Daily Living) that we get from the Occupational Therapists involved in our patients’ care. The schedule the OTs set also helps set my schedule, too, as I have to make sure my patients have their needs taken care of before their rehabilitation sessions.

8:00 a.m. — We jump in to distributing medications and taking care of patient needs like wound care, vitals, and checking blood sugar levels. Like I said before, our patient load in the TCU is full of variety! Some folks are recovering from strokes, amputations, transplants, or surgeries, to name a few examples. We also have to be mindful about a patient’s upcoming tests and physical therapy sessions.

10:30 a.m —  I spend some moments charting information on patients’ current states of health, and putting it into our system.

Noon— Lunch! (that is—for my patients!) By this point in the day, I’ve gotten back patient test results and have discussed reports with doctors in the unit. I’ve also helped patients who may need more assistance with daily tasks, like putting on lotion, moving around in bed, and eating their meals.

2:00 p.m.— I usually take lunch around this time because the morning is so busy. On weekend shifts, me and my co-workers love to order out for lunch. There are many awesome places to order food here in Oakland, and I love the team I work with—they are like family!

2:30 p.m. — I walk past a patient’s room and see a nurse playing the Wii with him! Activities like Wii Sports help a patient practice everyday movements, and advances their healing process…and it doesn’t hurt that it’s fun, too!

Throughout the day—

Morning or afternoon, part of my job includes building relationships with my patients. Being a patient, compassionate, and caring person is a very important quality for nurses in the TCU, and I strive to demonstrate these qualities every single shift. My co-worker and friend Melvina demonstrated these qualities during her shift last Christmas when she bought gifts for all the patients in the TCU to help them have a nice holiday. It’s moments of compassionate care and personal sacrifice like these and people like my co-worker Melvina that really make the TCU a special place to work.

Listening is also a huge part of my job throughout the day. Hearing a patient out, and listening to their concerns, problems, or even nostalgic recollections is an important and simple way to show qualities of caring and compassion. This practice also contextualizes decisions that have to be surrounding a patient’s course of care, and helps me take a more holistic approach to medicine in the TCU.

6:00 p.m. —  At this point in the day, the last of medications for the day shift have been distributed, and preparation for the night shift has begun. It’s important for me to stay organized so that I can be ready for the next nurse on the TCU to care for their assigned patient load as needed. I pass along information about test results, and upcoming tasks or care plans while the next nurse and I do room-to-room reports.

7:00 p.m. —  My 12-hour shift is over! I gather my things, head to the shuttle, and make my way home. I go to my mom’s house to pick up my son, and am greeted with a warm hug and a home cooked meal. It’s been a busy day at the TCU, so I think I’ll sleep well tonight!

I hope you better understand now what it means to be a TCU nurse. My days always go by very quick, and the variety of patients makes me feel like I’m always learning something new. If you love interacting with patients, and making an impact in their healing process, then the TCU could be a great fit for you!

Vernice England, TCU Nurse: UPMC Montefiore

Are you ready to take on a role that changes lives and helps others? Explore the unique nursing opportunities available to you in one of UPMC’s state-of-the-art Transitional Care Units.  

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