Effective time management is vital for nurses. It helps get more work done, improves patient care, and ensures that deadlines are not missed. It also makes the incredibly difficult job of nursing a bit less stressful. Having strong time management skills can also make one feel more in control and provide a self-esteem boost.
While some people are born with incredible time management skills, a lot of others struggle in this area. If you fall into the latter category, though, there is hope. Like virtually any other skill, time management can be learned. It just takes patience, persistence, and … well, time. Rather than spending the next few minutes trying to decide which scrub dress to wear to work today, take a few minutes to check out these ways nurses can develop time management skills.
1. Arrive Early to Prepare
When you already have a 12-hour shift in front of you, showing up early might not seem like an appealing idea. Hear us out, though. Showing up just 10 minutes early can make your entire shift go more smoothly. Use this time to make sure you have basic supplies at the ready, including pens, alcohol swabs, scissors, tape, etc., before clocking in for the day.
Taking a few minutes to prepare before your shift means you’ll be making fewer trips to grab supplies later in the day. And when you are wearing fashionable and functional men’s jogger scrubs, you’ll have plenty of space for storing the supplies you are likely to need during your shift.
2. Learn to Prioritize
Prioritization is a successful nurse’s best friend. Sometimes, you need to engage your critical thinking skills and figure out how to prioritize your time and energy. There is only so much time in your shift, and you are only one person. While there are a lot of things that need to be done, some are most certainly more important than others.
If you are uncomfortable with the idea of prioritizing your tasks, ask yourself a few questions:
- Which task am I going to do first and why?
- Which task is most important, and why is it more important than the others?
- Which tasks are most important for my patients?
- What is the worst thing that will happen if a certain task isn’t completed now?
Remember that it is almost impossible to get everything done in a single day. While certain things — like handing out medications — must be accomplished, others can wait until another day or be handled on the next shift. Learning to prioritize tasks allows you to use your time wisely and handle what is most important.
3. Delegate the Right Way
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Teamwork is a huge part of healthcare. No single person has the time or energy needed to be hands-on with patient care all the time. Instead, everyone needs to do their part to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients.
If you are an RN, there are likely nursing assistants who can help you out on the floor. It is important to note, though, that there is a right way and a wrong way to delegate. Rather than assigning everything you don’t want to do to your assistant, have them help you in ways that benefit your patients.
Don’t just delegate the dirty work. Have assistants lend a hand when you need to tend to a more pressing need that requires a nurse rather than an assistant. Delegating the right way saves you time, and it allows you to forge strong relationships with your team. And having those strong relationships means you’ll be able to count on your assistants to help when they are needed.
4. Anticipate Patient Needs
When working in healthcare, it often seems like every patient needs help at the same time. Anticipating their needs when things are slow can help you avoid a chaotic situation later. If things are pretty calm on the floor, stop by your patients’ rooms to see if they need a drink or would like to go to the restroom. Ask about specifics to let your patients know you care and that they aren’t a burden. Getting these little tasks out of the way during slower times makes it less likely that patients will need you when you are busy.
When visiting patients’ rooms, think ahead about what they might need, too. The more things you can handle at once, the fewer trips you will need to make.
5. Take Breaks When Possible
One of the biggest surprises many new nurses face is that there is no way to predict how a shift will go. It only takes one phone call to turn a slow day into a chaotic day and, when that happens, there might not be time to take a break.
If things are slow, it never hurts to have a snack while updating charts or stop by the restroom on your way back to the nurse’s station. Despite your best intentions, your day may not allow you to take breaks when planned. That is why it is crucial to make the most of any lulls in activity during the day.
6. Learn to Eliminate Stress
It is almost impossible to manage your time wisely when you are feeling stressed out. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and breathe. Remember that sometimes it just is not possible to get everything done and that is okay. When you are not at work, schedule some stress-busting activities, like getting a massage or going for a run. The more stress you can eliminate from your life, the easier it will be to effectively manage your time when you are on the job.
Time management skills are vital for nurses. If this is something you struggle with, though, there are plenty of ways to get better at it. Make improving your time management a priority and, before you know it, your days will be smoother and more organized than you ever imagined possible.