Sherrie Dornberger, RNC, CDONA, FACDONA, executive director, NADONA

I love going to conferences and I learn a lot, but it seems like they always put me in a hole at work, both before and after. What can I do?

Oh, how true. I think we all find this to be the reason attending conferences and going on vacations are a double-edged sword!

If there is anything like a report or schedule you can turn in early, do it before you leave for vacation or the conference. That way you are not looking at completing the entire project when you return.

I always find anything that may have broken, like a pulse oximeter, glucometer, slings from the lifts, broken dentures — you know, anything that someone does not know what to do with — gets put on the nurse leader’s desk when she’s gone. And I do mean everything!

That’s why, on my last day before vacation I would put a basket on my chair. I put a note saying any items that appeared broken, needed homes, etc. should go in the basket. This kept my desk free of “stuff” so it would not appear so full when I returned. 

I would delegate some smaller items — infection control reports, minutes or meeting notices — to the medical staff. 

Then I created tabbed folders before I left. Time-off requests, notes from families, mail or other reports and notes went in the labeled folders. It would be sorted when I returned, and allowed me to prioritize.

(Also, leave a small Starbucks gift card or candy bar for the person that is going to be putting items in the folders as a thank you. If you put it in a folder, they’ll know you did not forget about the facility while you were gone.) 

When you engage others and share your job, even if it’s just keeping your desk clear, it makes returning that much better and less stressful. Try it.