Time Management for Nurses
Published: 06 May 2019
Published: 06 May 2019
Whether it is the number of patients, too many call bells or the needs of coworkers, nurses deal with many different types of stress and have to know how to juggle all of these wildly different tasks clamouring for their attention.
Sometimes life outside of work can also test a nurse’s time management, however, the skills you learn at work can often help make home life flow more smoothly.
To master these stressful and busy waters, a nurse needs to deftly organise the information coming at them, prioritise it by the most important tasks first, and learn to roll with the inevitable interruptions.
One of the hallmark ways to manage your time is to work to a schedule, and many nurses do this by using a worksheet to mark down important information about their patients.
A time management sheet may have spaces for lab work, new orders, medication times and other important information that a nurse needs to remember throughout the day. Ask more experienced nurses for blank copies of their sheets and use them for a few days. Once you have an idea of what works and does not work for you, sit down with a word processor or spreadsheet program and make a flowchart of your own that organises all the important information you need on each patient for the shift.
It takes a trial and error process to get a sheet that works right for you, but once you find the right combination, your days will run a lot smoother.
When you start your shift, you will have a list of tasks that you need to do, and those tasks probably have a ranking in your head telling you which is the most important.
When you prioritise, you systematically pick the task or patient that is the most important and see to them first. This has to be a conscious decision. Patients with critical lab work or abnormal vital signs must take priority over routine tasks, for example.
This may seem like common sense, but it can get tricky in a high-stress situation but patient safety is always your best bet when prioritising tasks.
If a patient’s safety is not in question, then you have to prioritise via other criteria, such as patient need, the potential for patient safety, or time-sensitivity of a task. Even when there is no critical issue at stake, knowing which tasks need doing first helps you navigate the sheer volume that you have to face when you start your shift.
Despite your best-laid plans, you will meet many interruptions.
Having a plan to go back to after you are done dealing with an interruption is essential. The trick is to not get so attached to the time management plan that any deviation makes you shrivel up into a ball.
You need to deal with the interruption – a code blue, a fall, a doctor’s call – and then calmly go back to your other duties, reprioritise what needs to be done and start from the beginning again.
Lynda is a registered nurse with three years experience on a busy surgical floor in a city hospital. She graduated with an Associates degree in Nursing from Mercyhurst College Northeast in 2007 and lives in Erie, Pennsylvania in the United States. In her work, she took care of patients post operatively from open heart surgery, immediately post-operatively from gastric bypass, gastric banding surgery and post abdominal surgery. She also dealt with patient populations that experienced active chest pain, congestive heart failure, end stage renal disease, uncontrolled diabetes and a variety of other chronic, mental and surgical conditions. See Educator Profile