Table of Contents Hide
- Why is time management in nursing important
- Barriers to time management in nursing
- Principles of time management in nursing
- Time management skills for nurses
- Effective tips on time management for nursing
- Books on time management for nursing practitioners
- Final Thought
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As a nurse, you know how physically demanding and challenging the profession it is. While providing patient care, internal administrative tasks, and educational commitments, you must manage your personal obligations. You’ll frequently find yourself working in a high-pressure, low-staffing environment. To stay on track at work, avoid burnout, and maintain a work-life balance, you’ll need to learn time management for nursing profession.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about time management in the nursing career. The knowledge will help you increase your productivity, reduce stress, improve efficiency, unlock more opportunities, and achieve more in your career.
Why is time management in nursing important
Nurses are essential clinical staff in the healthcare system. In addition to patient care, they do internal administrative tasks, meet the expectations of peers and managers, and manage personal obligations.
Time management is a necessary skill for nurses to cope with time limitations and the pressure of a day. While poor time management results in delayed and erroneous patient care, effective time management allows nurses to deliver better medical service to more patients. The skill is beneficial both for nursing staff and nursing students.
- For staff: Planning, prioritization, and delegation are three essential skills for nursing staff. These skills help them work smarter, not harder, and improve the quality of patient care. Planning helps them prioritize tasks and structure a day based on productive and time-wasting activities.
- For students: Understanding effective time management will aid nursing students in performing better on examinations. Also, give them an idea about shift activities and the clinical environment. Consequently, they can prepare themselves for professional life.
As a result, time management is essential for nurses to reduce anxiety, get more work done, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Barriers to time management in nursing
While patient care should be a core responsibility for a nurse, research shows that “Nurses spent around 37% of their time with patients.” Consequently, it hurts quality patient care.
What are the obstacles to time management for nurses? We can categorize the pitfalls into two main types: personal and organizational.
- Personal obstacles: Ineffective use of time results in impediments to doing the job on time. Employee irresponsibility, using the phone and surfing the internet for personal matters, and talking with colleagues on unrelated topics are some instances of poor use of time in the workplace. Lack of planning and priorities are two more examples of poor time management. Many employees just start a task without planning how to complete it. Many of them move to a new work before finishing the previous one. Even some of them start the day with low-priority tasks.
- Organizational obstacles: Management and administrative processes prevent nurses from optimal time use. Nurses spend a significant amount of time documenting, administering medications, coordinating care, and moving patients long distances. Environmental clutter, interruptions, shortages of staff, insufficient supplies and equipment, complicated communication systems, and decision-making processes are more instances of organizational barriers.
Principles of time management in nursing
Before we delve into the skills and tips on time management in later sections, let’s learn the fundamentals of time management. Although time management is perceived as a single topic, it is a multidimensional concept. A person needs to consider delegation, prioritization, organization, and more skills to successfully manage time. However, the core idea relies on 5 main principles to get started with time management in nursing.
- Identify tasks: Make a list of the routined and non-routined duties you usually do every day. Some examples are – patient assessment, telemetry strip, routine meds, care plan, bed bath, change an IV, insert a catheter, and timed blood draw.
- Measure time: Estimate roughly how long a task usually takes you to complete. Time for some works can be measured in groups, such as assessing 3 patients, giving medicine to 4 patients, and feeding 2 patients. Also, don’t forget to consider delegated tasks and their follow-ups.
- Create a plan: After having a list of your duties and responsibilities and their time estimates, it is vital to create a plan for your usual days. When you have a structured timetable, you will be more productive and work efficiently throughout the day.
- Execute: Once you have a structured plan of your typical day, you can set up your daily schedule based on your to-do list. However, be flexible for non-routined activities and for anything urgent. It is okay if a day does not go the planned way.
- Evaluate: Analyze your activities at the end of each day to see if your days are going as planned. If it works well, try to make it better. However, if you continually fail to execute your plan, modify it. Continuous analysis and revision result in a better version of a time management system.
Time management skills for nurses
To successfully manage time in nursing, you need to equip yourself with some time management skills. Here are three skills for nurses to acquire to be good at managing time.
It is a helpful but critical time management tool for nurses to transfer their responsibilities to another nursing staff while retaining accountability for the outcomes. If delegation skill is used appropriately, it is a safe and effective tool for nurses to avoid burnout and reduce mistakes.
Delegation helps nurses free up more time to ensure better patient care and be ready for emergency needs. Registered nurses (RN) can delegate routine and low-risk tasks to a nursing assistive personnel, such as a licensed nurse (LN). For example, an RN can request a certified nursing assistant (CNA) to collect a urine sample from a patient.
To ensure safe and ethical delegation, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and the American Nurses Association (ANA) developed National Guidelines for Nursing Delegation. To delegate tasks appropriately, nurses should follow the five rights of delegation (5 R’s).
- Right task: The delegated task must be within the delegatees job description or within the organization and nursing practices written policies and procedures. Day-to-day responsibilities are usually safe to delegate. The tasks that are not too difficult and do not involve critical thinking or the nursing process can also be delegated.
- Right circumstances: It is necessary to consider patients’ current health state and only delegate to a subordinate when a patient is in stable condition. A delegatee should carry out duties according to his own scope of practice and job description. If a patient’s condition fluctuates, the delegatee must notify the licensed nurse. The nurse should reassess the situation and reconsider the decision on whether delegation is necessary.
- Right person: A nurse must ensure that the person to whom the task is delegated has the necessary skills and knowledge to handle the task safely and correctly before delegating a task. If necessary, provide adequate supervision and evaluation for the patients’ safety and desired outcomes.
- Right directions and communication: Clear and specific communication is essential in a delegation process. The nurses should give easy-to-follow instructions to delegatees and clear expectations of the task. They should answer questions to clarify the procedure of the assigned task. Make sure the delegatees know their limitations about making decisions or modifications and do not overstep their scope of practice. On the other hand, the delegatee must know what, when, and how to report back after completing the task. Also, how to communicate with the delegator when any complication arises.
- Right supervision and evaluation: Although you are allowed to delegate a task, you remain responsible for the outcome of that work. Thus, supervise your delegatees regularly and follow up on their work. Evaluate their work, and provide feedback to help them improve their skills. Maintain proper documentation of completed activities as well.
Prioritization is a vital time management skill for a nurse to provide safe and effective care to patients, whether you are a novice or an expert. In nursing school, nurses get clinical training in caring for one or two patients under the supervision of instructors. At work, they handle a higher number of patients with more responsibilities.
While patient care is the first priority, prioritization skills help a nurse set the order of patient care and tasks to provide better service to patients and keep them safe and alive. It allows you to decide which work demands more time and what should be done first.
Textbooks are not enough to acquire practical knowledge on prioritization, especially in unfamiliar environments. However, the nursing school curriculum includes some theories on prioritization to help nurses determine the most pressing needs at work and establish priorities. Here are three prioritization concepts in nursing discussed.
- ABCs: In nursing prioritization, ABC stands for Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. It is a rapid assessment process that comes in handy to detect life-threatening or crucial conditions of a patient, especially when dealing with unresponsive or unconscious patients. The concept is applicable to assess each patient’s situation.
- Maslow Hierarchy of Needs: Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, created the triangle of the hierarchy of needs. The theory demonstrates the order of importance of human needs. According to this theory, physiological needs are prioritized over higher needs in the triangle. It works as a framework for prioritization in nursing. Nurses can use Maslow’s pyramid to set actions based on this priority triangle.
- Nursing Process: The process involves a cycle of five components: Assessment, Diagnosis, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation. Nurses learn the steps of the nursing process from the beginning of the nursing course. However, they use the knowledge extensively both in academic and professional life for clinical judgment and prioritization of patient care. The procedure helps nurses organize priorities for actions and makes critical thinking easier for better patient care.
Related article: Prioritizing Care.
3. Cluster Care
Cluster care is a time-efficient nursing approach for patient care. Instead of visiting a patient multiple times within an hour, you can provide all necessary care at once. It helps nurses be more organized, productive, and time-efficient.
This is a great way to provide nursing care when there are more patients on the floor than available nursing staff. However, clustering care helps not only healthcare providers but also patients. Patients get interrupted rest for longer, which aids in quick recovery.
By checking vital signs, toileting, medication, turning a patient, and other necessary care in a single visit instead of different times, you can save a significant amount of time in a day while ensuring each patient’s essential care has been done.
However, cluster care is not appropriate in the following scenarios:
- When an urgent need arises, nurses cannot wait for the next scheduled session of cluster care.
- When special instructions have been given for continuous patient care or medication.
Effective tips on time management for nursing
Want to amplify your time management skill? Here are a few tips that will help you apply the skills in your day-to-day life and establish a better work-life balance.
- Arrive early: Showing up 10 minutes early for your shift can help you settle your mind, and you can assess your surroundings calmly. You will get a chance to read over patients’ charts and handover sheets and then organize your tasks accordingly. You can be prepared for your shift ahead.
- Write notes: Note-taking is a helpful exercise for a nurse. You can keep a notebook for your personal use only and use the notebook for a to-do list, checklist, important information, clinical communication, and other purposes. By doing this, you can keep your brain clear. Because you do not need to remember loads of information that comes in front of you throughout the day.
- Say no: It is impossible to stay everywhere at the same time and do work beyond your capacity or limits. Learning to say ‘no’ is an essential skill for nurses to manage limited time and energy. Learn how to say no to a patient politely and how to refuse an extra shift. This article will help you know how to say no in different circumstances – Nurses Just Need to Learn How to Say NO!
- Manage distractions: In the healthcare industry, common interruptions nurses face are phone calls, smartphone notifications, staff members, patients, and relatives of patients. Distractions often lead to erroneous patient care and delayed work because of refocusing time. To manage time better, you have to take steps to minimize distractions in the workplace.
- Be organized: To be a good nurse, be well-organized. Keep your workspace free from clutter and dust. A clean space will make your feel better. Ensure that you have the necessary equipment, medications, and supplies ready. When everything is already right in front of you, you will not waste your time searching for objects. It will make you more productive and create a good impression in your workplace.
- Take breaks: The nursing profession requires a lot of patience, dedication, and self-control. Nurses have to deal with patients who are sick, sometimes even dying. You need to be patient, calm, and compassionate. This can be difficult if you don’t take care of yourself first. If you find yourself getting tired, try taking a break. Take a few minutes to sit down, breathe deeply, and relax. Get plenty of sleep. Sleep deprivation makes you less productive and increases stress levels.
- Be flexible: Flexibility is the ability to change your mind and do something different from what you originally planned. When we are flexible, we can adapt to changes in our environment. We can make adjustments to situations based on how they affect us. Some people prefer to write down everything they want to accomplish each day, while others like to keep their schedule open and just go with the flow. Whatever works best for you, be prepared to be flexible when needed.
Books on time management for nursing practitioners
Want to delve deeper into time management tactics regarding nursing practices? Here are three books that are written only for nurses.
- Secrets From The World’s Most Productive Nurse Practitioner
- Quick-E! Pro: Time Management: A Guide For Nurses
- First-Year Nurse: Advice on Working with Doctors, Prioritizing Care, and Time Management
Nursing is a rewarding profession. The good thing about being a nurse is that you get to interact with people from all walks of life. You can even become a nurse educator and teach other students. If you want to pursue a career in nursing, managing your time is essential to achieving success in your career.