Whether you’re a new graduate nurse or a seasoned pro, time management in nursing is a constant challenge. Sometimes our numerous duties in a hectic workplace can get the best of us.
When you find yourself in the weeds more often than you’d like, try some of these tips for finding your way out.
- Start your day with organization: Lay out your clothes before your shift. Pack a lunch ahead of time. Make sure you have your work ID, stethoscope, car keys and anything else you may need at your door. After your morning report, take a few minutes to organize your day in your head. You may know you need to take a patient down to CT at 11 or need to discharge two patients before noon. Marking those larger tasks can help structure the rest of your day.
- Delegate: Delegation often is underused due to barriers such as fear of someone making an error or the notion that you prefer doing the work yourself. But delegation can be a useful time saving tool. You don’t need to do it all! Unsure of what exactly to delegate? Check out the American Association of Critical Care Nurses Delegation Handbook for a handy overview of delegation principles, the Five Rights, and suggestions for tasks that are considered appropriate to delegate.
- Take a break: It may seem counter-intuitive when you feel swamped with work, but regularly scheduled breaks can allow you to decompress, regroup and just plain give your brain some down time! Breaks can be tough to come by, especially in a busy unit. But a group of Massachusetts General Hospital Nurses proved that it is possible. And necessary! If you have a particularly hard day and a formal break just isn’t in the cards, even a few minutes of deep breathing can optimize your oxygenation and help you de-stress.
- Develop a routine: Is there an area of your practice that often pulls you into the time waste trap? Maybe you miss parts of your patient assessments at the beginning of the shift or you’re always forgetting to document your I’s & O’s. Deciding on a routine, then practicing that routine will reinforce the habits that you may be missing. On a higher clinical plane, perhaps there’s an area, like admissions, that could be streamlined with the development of a standardized tool. Creating such a tool can be instrumental in helping many on your unit beat those time management saboteurs.
- Prioritize: Good prioritization skills take practice, but even experienced nurses can struggle with this at times. If you find yourself getting sucked into the Vortex of Endless Tasks and Demands, try to pull back for a moment to re-evaluate. Write a list and scale from 1-3 (1 being the highest priority). This is also a good time to see if something — ANYthing — can be delegated.
- Stay flexible and readjust: Don’t let changes derail you. Having a plan is a great way to stay on track, but when other needs come up, you may need to devise a new on. Try not to get stuck in the way you think your day should go. Healthcare is nothing if not unpredictable! Stay aware and envision yourself riding the wave of your clinical day. Of course you want to get to shore, but it’s the wave that will decide how you get there.
- Use downtime wisely: Have a few minutes? Sure, sneaking onto Facebook can be tempting. But using those precious quiet minutes to organize the rest of your day, get started on your notes, or review new orders can make a big difference in how your day unfolds.
What’s your best time-management tip?