A Helpful Guide to Time Management for Nurses

Tursing is a busy and dynamic profession. It requires flawless organization, excellent communication skills and proficiency in time management. All in one shift, professionals must assess patients’ conditions, keep track of their medical histories and current symptoms and administer the correct medicines and treatments. They must also report to physicians and other medical staff, which is why it is critically important to be efficient and focused. This guide to time management for nurses will help care providers brush up on their skill set. With this advice in mind, registered nurses (RNs) can become better at accomplishing everything on their to-do list.

doctor and nurse checking data on computer

Start Your Day Strong

The way you begin your day will set the tone for your entire shift. Whether you work overnight or during regular business hours, your mind will be much more clear when you arrive at the hospital if you prepare for your shift ahead of time. Before you go to bed, lay out a clean uniform along with your slip-resistant shoes, jacket and bag. Make sure your car keys, protective gear and lunch are also ready.

If there are essential tasks you need to handle the next day, consider writing them in a notebook beforehand. If you are out and about when you think of something important, you can jot down notes in your smartphone. When you get to the facility, you will not have to use so much brain power to remember everything on your to-do list. Eat a healthy breakfast or an afternoon meal and be sure to stay hydrated. Most adults need to consume at least three to four liters of water daily, with more needed if you are constantly moving at the hospital, work outside, in a warm climate or have a faster metabolism.

Finally, use the rest of your morning to set reminders for yourself on your watch or your phone. Include an audible alert to call a physician or look into an issue with medical equipment. You can even leave yourself reminders if you think you will forget to call a family member or run an errand after work. The less you are worrying about the demands of home life, the easier it will be to focus on your patients.

nurse writing down schedule for time management

Prioritize Goals and Tasks

With so many responsibilities and patients, it can be easy to feel flustered or overwhelmed. The easiest way to eliminate unnecessary stress is to clearly prioritize your tasks. Many nurses are visual learners, so it may help to color code the to-dos on your list. For example, you can use a red pen, font or symbol for the tasks you must complete before you end your day. Orange can be used for the items that you want to finish soon, but do not necessarily have to complete before the day is done. Green is designated for things that you are thinking about but can definitely be tabled for another time.

Another way is to write down a list of what you need to accomplish, crossing out what is not due the same day. With this approach, you will focus your energy on the patients, treatments and meetings that must be attended to. Everything else that you crossed out but still end up finishing will be an extra accomplishment.

Learn How to Say No

Nurses are caregivers by nature. For this reason, it can be difficult to say no to coworkers, supervisors or patients. It may even be challenging to prioritize yourself at home. Practice saying “no” within reason. If you have been working hard and are too tired to take on extra shifts, speak with your nurse manager about how you can help in other ways. If your children or your partner need something that can wait, let them know about your demands at work and ask if you can complete the task another day.

It is easy to use up all of your energy in the intense hallways of a hospital. This is why it is important to replace some of the tasks you do for others with your own self-care. Get a weekly massage, spend an hour playing team sports with friends or enjoy a nightly meditation and reading session.

medical staff having discussion at hospital

Managing Time and Your Nursing Career

The time management skills you gain in your current role will only continue to help you in the nursing field. While you will become a better care provider, you will also gain new skills that will help you to earn promotions in the future. You may even find that you are using the tips and advice at home.

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