I struggle with managing stress and time management. How can I improve these skills?

By | 2022-02-11T11:29:49-05:00 March 29th, 2010|0 Comments


Dear Donna,

I have been working as an RN for two years in a med/surg unit. I love bedside nursing – the relational aspect, the challenges of learning new skills, and adapting to new situations and problem-solving opportunities that benefit the patient.

However, it has been difficult to manage stress and leave work behind when I’m off-duty. I wake up at night sometimes thinking of a patient or questioning my actions. Being a detailed person, time management can be difficult for me. As a result, I often find myself working overtime, which puts a strain on my family. I have found that some other nurses also are struggling with the desire to deliver good care versus time constraints. However, others are quicker and usually finish on time. Should I consider changing jobs to less acute care?


Dear Donna replies:

Dear Florence,

The challenges you mentioned – stress and time management – are two of the biggest challenges faced by newer nurses. They also can be challenges for more experienced nurses, but many have learned techniques to manage or master them both.

Stress in an ongoing challenge for any nurse, and self-care and stress management must be incorporated into your life. Read “First Things First” (http://www.dcardillo.com/articles/firstthingsfirst.html).

Being detail-oriented has nothing to do with an inability to manage time. In other words, it is a learned skill. Time management in the clinical setting (or any setting for that matter) is something you learn and develop with experience, knowledge, the right tools and mentoring. Talk to more experienced nurses, including your manager or supervisor, about their best tips for managing time. Some nurses have developed forms and systems to be more efficient. There also is the matter of managing priorities, setting time limits for certain things, delegating and asking for help when needed.

If you haven’t already, join and get active in your state chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.ana.org). You need to immerse yourself in the community of nursing and build a support system for yourself. This is a great way to find role models and mentors, mingle with other nurses, and get great advice and tips for being successful in nursing. You also should get/stay in touch with former classmates and instructors for advice and support and to gain perspective. You cannot stay isolated in this profession or you will fail. Read “Lean on Me” (http://www.dcardillo.com/articles/leanonme.html).

All that being said, med/surg may not be the specialty for you or you may need to find a unit/facility/specialty that has better staffing, differing case loads, more support, different patient flow and acuity, and so on. Just don’t confuse the need to learn more with the need to work elsewhere. Because you say you love bedside nursing, I would give this job your best shot by doing all the things I mention here and in the referenced article and book.

Even though you have been in nursing for two years, I urge you to read or re-read Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional (www.Nurse.com/ce/7010). Sometimes you have to take a step back to take two steps forward.

Best wishes,


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