The Slowdown: How to Maximize Your Downtime at Work

In my work as a clinical assistant, there are times during my twelve hour shift where I cannot sit down due to the amount of work to be done, bustling from patient to patient in an effort to ensure everything gets done well and in a timely manner. But when patients are discharged and the unit activity slows to a crawl, the temptation to take out my phone and browse the Internet to kill time is strong, especially when other colleagues are also taking advantage of downtime to catch up on holiday shopping. But these slow times at work provide co-op students with several unique opportunities and should not be wasted. Here are my top tips to make downtime work to your advantage!

1.       Ask Questions!

In a field like nursing, knowledge is passed down in a generational way, with older nurses often eager to tell younger nurses about their experiences. I’ve found that waiting to ask questions about particular patient diagnoses until the unit is quiet allows for the nurse to give a more in-depth answer. This signals to them that you are interested in their opinions and are receptive to teaching, which could lead to greater opportunities for learning later. For example, a patient was admitted recently with a complicated diagnosis. The unit was bustling, so instead of asking the nurse about the situation while she was busy, I waited until a slower period. She eagerly explained the disease itself and also its treatment. Then, later on, she remembered my interest and asked if I wanted to watch a procedure being done on that patient. Now, she often invites me into the room to watch her work and will explain various aspects of her care to me. I have learned so much that I never would have known if I hadn’t used my downtime to ask questions.

2.       Offer Help!

There is nothing worse than seeing a colleague who has finished his or her work for the day sitting idly at the nurses’ station as you rush by, trying to keep your head above water. If everyone else is busy and you are not, offer your help! Even simple tasks like gathering supplies for a procedure or assisting with a complicated patient can ease the workload of your coworkers- and believe me, they’ll remember it! Helping your colleagues might seem like a no-brainer, but I have seen so many students answer calls for help with “But that’s not what I do” or simply sighing theatrically before giving aid. Don’t let your coworkers get to the point where they are interrupting your Facebook session to ask for your help- just offer it, no strings attached. They’ll be grateful and remember you as a dependable, motivated colleague.

3.       Do Something Extra!

When I first started my current job, I never thought I would end up being my pediatric unit’s resident arts and crafts provider. But early in the fall, my charge nurse asked if anyone wanted to decorate the unit for back to school season. None of the nurses enjoyed decorating and dreaded the task. Since I wasn’t busy, I volunteered for the task, and now I am responsible for adding cute holiday touches to our various decorations. There are owls dressed as elves next to colorful stockings and mittens with names of all our nurses on them. I’ll admit it, I might have gone overboard with the crafting! But now everyone on my unit knows me as the “cute crafts” girl, and visitors are always commenting on the new touches that are added every few weeks. Going above and beyond will always get you noticed, not to mention help you build relationships!

4.       Research, Research, Research!

One of my necessary items at work is paper and a pen for writing down illnesses, procedures, or equipment that I’ve never encountered. Then, during slow periods, I can search each one on Google, jotting down interesting facts or why a certain procedure might be done versus another. I also subscribe to several nursing and medical newsletters, and use the time to catch up on reading them. The information you gather from researching your field will serve you well in the workplace, making you informed and a valued team member. But it will also help you in classes by reinforcing what you are learning, and even adding context to the concepts outlined in class.

Overall, your downtime is a learning experience that should be valued. It is easy to look like a team player when everything is busy, but when things are slow it becomes painfully obvious when someone isn’t contributing their fair share. Raise your own personal bar, and you’ll find that you will get much more satisfaction out of your work! 

Julia Thompson is a second year Nursing major in the Bouve College of Health Sciences. She works as a nursing assistant at South Shore Hospital and is currently on her first co-op at Boston Children’s Hospital. She is the secretary of the Northeastern University Student Nurses’ Association and is also involved with Bouve Fellows. Feel free to contact her at thompson.jul@husky.neu.edu with any questions. You can follow her on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/juliavthompson) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/juliavthompson).

Making it Count

This is the first reflection entry written by current student, Manuj Goyal. Manuj will be sharing his journey with us as he travel abroad in India as part of his own self-directed Global Co-op focusing on the development work for his company, Turing Robotics.

Nike challenges us all to “Make it Count!” and as I sit here 30,000 feet off the ground, I wonder how I have come here. How am I going to make this count?

Sitting wrapped in a thick brown checkered blanket in the early hours of the day, I explain to a friend a simple feeling which ends up turning my world on its head. A feeling of empowerment, a feeling of longing, a feeling of love, a whirlwind of melancholy and utter bliss. That morning I realized my purpose, my drive, my power all came from a perplexingly simple word, love. A love for you, a love for me, a love for all my brothers and sisters, and for this beautiful life and world we have been given.

Acting on this feeling, surrendering to the fate the universe had decided for me, I bought a plane ticket to go half way around the world. I explained my journey to others, trying to figure it out myself. Am I backpacking, am I doing service, am I researching, is this really a co-op? How am I making it count? How am I taking this six month opportunity and creating an experience of a lifetime and getting invaluable insight and learning while sharing my love and serving my people?

black-and-white-flight-man-personAs I travel to India to learn about my country, serve the people of the world which has sculpted my life so profoundly, and to build a nonprofit organization to reduce child labor in the most rural areas of the globe, follow my journey as I answer these questions. Join me in giving back, in celebrating diversity, in expanding our potential and our world. Join me in a journey of discovery, service, and learning. Let’s make it count.

Waiting Room Do’s and Don’t’s

So imagine this: you are at a job interview, about 5-10 minutes early and are now in the interview waiting room, waiting for your interviewer to come down to meet you. This time waiting can actually affect your interview, so what you do (and don’t do) might have an impact on how your professionalism appears to the interviewer.

interviewing, waiting room, interview waiting room

Do: Look over your resume. I remember being told in my co-op class to bring multiple copies of my resume in a fancy portfolio to interviews to provide interviewers with. Since your resume is most likely the only piece of paper they’ll have of yours, you better know what your own resume says! Hopefully you’ve reviewed it before, but a quick read over in the waiting area shows whoever might be watching you that you are committed to this interview.

Do: Have good posture. This carries over into the interview as well, but sitting up straight is important. The way you are sitting may be the first time your interviewer sees you and this also may impact how your reflection of professionalism. It’s not too long of a time frame, so straighten that back a bit!

Don’t: Play on your phone. I feel as if this varies. I’m the kind of person who says its a no, but we’re all entitled to our own opinion. Being on your phone can show that you are preoccupied with something else, such as emails, text messages, your social media, or myabe the latest level of Candy Crush. Tuck that phone away (on silent!) in your bag or pocket when you walk into the waiting area. You’ll look ten times more professional and can use the time to focus on the interview, not on other aspects of your life. (I promise they’ll still be there when you’re finished with interviewing.)

Photo courtesy of ASDA.