• Maddie Thoms

Time Management Nursing – Top 10 Tips To Effectively Manage Your Time

Time Management Nursing – Top 10 Time Management Tips

Our days are hectic. They are not easy and most of the time you’re feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Which only enforces the necessity to be organized and find tools and tricks for better time management nursing. Our days look a little like this:

“Hi, this is Keren. Yes, he’s quite anxious about the procedure. He’s been NPO all day. He’s on tele, and he’s a x1 assist because he has a Foley. Oh, not until 9 pm? Poor guy hasn’t eaten all day! Well, ok, I’ll pass the message onto the next shift.”

Well, he’s gonna be pissed. I hang up the phone. What was I doing? Oh yeah, blood sugar check for 63. I dart down the hallway, and turn the corner into the supply room to grab a needle, then backtrack briskly to the nurse’s station to grab a glucometer kit.

“Keren, 1465 is asking for a juice. Want me to get him some?”

“No, he’s NPO! I’ll go in there and remind him, I have some meds to give him anyway.” I walk into 1463. Has lunch gotten here yet? No. Just in time. I make small talk with the patient, get his finger stick, turn on the computer, log into Sunrise, and document the finger stick.

“I’m feeling…a little…more short of breath…today.” He huffs, a few words at a time. Once he recovers, I assist him into the bathroom and wait with him until he is done. Privacy? Nope. I can’t risk him falling. I assist him back to the side of the bed and run outside to grab the pulse oximeter.

“I’m just gonna see what you’re satting right now.” He looks at me knowingly and points his finger at me while he tries to catch his breath. I put on the pulse ox and wait for the reading. 87%. This is not his baseline. I wait with him while he recovers to 95%, noting the time. Which doctor is covering him? Log in to Sunrise. *Click* Savoy. Ugghhh it’s the med student. Should I even bother? No. Which resident does he have? *Click* *Click* Blumenthal. I pick up the phone. 

“Hi, this is Keren, the nurse covering Murphy in 1463. I just assisted him to the bathroom and had to bump him up to 6L. He had extremely labored breathing the whole time he was up. When we got him back to bed, I checked his pulse ox, it was 87%. It took him 6 minutes to recover back to 95%. Yes. Yes. Crackle-y. His finger stick was fine. Do you think we should fluid restrict him? Ok, I’ll wait for the order.” STAT 40mg IV Lasix. What else do I have to do right now? Oh yeah, remind 65 he’s NPO and hang his noon amoxicillin. AND get 61A water! Yikes, it’s been like an hour since he asked! Hope he doesn’t get mad at me!

Now, Onto the Time Management Nursing Tips:

As a nurse, this is a typical hour of my day, and though it can be rewarding, nursing comes with a tireless stream of responsibilities, stressful situations, and ongoing demands. I work on a bustling med-surge unit, and I’m constantly multitasking. Each day brings new experiences; some days I feel like I’m drowning, and my coworkers and I are all so busy we barely notice each other. Other days, we all work better together as a team. When I do find myself having a rough day, I try and implement the ten time management nursing tips that I’ve explained below. They not only help make my day more efficient but often make it enjoyable, too!

#1 Prioritize Your Priorities.

The word “prioritize” is thrown around a lot in the nursing world. Why? Because we are the world’s most versatile multitaskers! We do tasks that range from merely serving a drink to the complex administration and titration of multiple high-alert medications during a code. But what makes us nurses is that even during the code, we remember our patient that needs a drink and delegate the task while we’re tied up. We like to think we can do everything, all at once, but the truth is: we can’t.

Prioritization isn’t always straightforward. What happens when there are two extremely urgent things to do at the same time? When this happens to me, I typically start by wishing I could clone myself and therefore function at twice the capacity – the ultimate form of time management nursing. Unfortunately, I never received my Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Acceptance Letter, and so instead I find the best question for setting priorities is this: “What is the consequence if I don’t do this task right now?” That question usually clears things up for me. I find that weighing out consequences can be much clearer than weighing out the “urgency” of the task.

#2 Make Friends and Get help.

Nursing is a team sport, so don’t try and carry the load all on your own.There are tons of people on the floor whose job it is to assist you, so do not be shy! When you need to be in two places at once, ask them for help. It’s easier said than done, I know. Even though I ask, I often have trouble actually getting my CNAs to help me in a timely fashion (they are busy, too!). I find that that’s when it’s important to have friends. Have a couple people on the floor that you always help out, no matter how busy you are, and in return, they always help you. Then you know they will take a load off your shoulders when you need it most! This is also going to help you with time management in nursing leadership when that day comes.

#3 Know Your Ratios.

Another important aspect to time management nursing are your ratios. Ask about your staffing ratios as soon as you get to work. How many patients do you have and many patients does each CNA have? Any of their overflow work will fall on you. Do you have friends there that day? What about a helpful charge nurse? Is your CNS on the floor, or in a meeting? Start your day knowing exactly what the staffing situation is. This way you know who will be around when you need to ask for help.

#4 Get to Know Your Patients.

Anticipate their needs. What kind of people are they? Why are certain things more important to them over others? If they have certain behaviors and habits, what are they? Once you can identify your patient’s personal patterns, you will be able to not only manage your time better as a nurse but also your patients’ needs. This is a crucial part of your foundation to all your different nursing time management nursing skills.

#5 Cluster Care.

This time management nursing tip seems like common sense but is routinely overlooked. Clustering care allows you to do everything you need with one patient in a single interaction. If you gather all the supplies you need before going in the room, you can be more efficient and attentive to the patient because you didn’t have to leave the room five times to go back and get supplies. Do you have a patient that likes to munch on ice? Always grab a cup before you get in the room so you don’t have to go back out. Placing a Foley? Make sure you grab two kits just in case you miss the first time! And some extra sterile gloves, too!

#6 Trust Your Instincts.

As scientific as the medical world appears to be, the words “I have a bad feeling” are actually well respected in the community. Doctors and nursing supervisors alike will keep a closer eye on your patient if you say those words to them. Also, acknowledging you have a bad feeling about a patient tells you that you will likely be spending a lot of time with that patient that day, and you can, therefore, prioritize accordingly.

#7 Be Self-Aware.

Know how long it takes you to do your skills, and combine that with your knowledge of your patients in order to get realistic time estimates. For example, if it normally takes you two minutes to hang an IV medication, but you have an anxious patient with whom you typically spend five minutes emotionally supporting each time you interact, then adjust your “med administration” time estimate to ten minutes for that patient. If you’re unsure about how long a task will take, round your estimate UP. It’s always better to have time left over.

#8 Make Lists.

Know how many things you can remember before you start to forget them. I know that if I have five tasks to remember, I’ll actually do them all, but if someone gives me a sixth task, I’ll likely forget it. Therefore, when someone gives me that sixth task, I start a checklist, probably on the back of some paper I already have in my pocket. I write down all six of the tasks so that I can refer to them as the day progresses, and I often continue using the checklist throughout the day. If you want to be very organized about it, you can design a template at home that works for you and print it out when you get to work.

#9 Admit When You are Too Far Behind.

Another simple time management nursing tip – ask for help. We’ve all been there. There is no shame getting a helping hand especially when it affects the life of your patients. Every nurse knows exactly what you’re feeling and they will be empathetic to your cause. Don’t ever feel like asking for help is a negative thing.

#10 Get Off the Floor

And our final time management nursing tip is to simply just rest for a few minutes. It’s amazing how much a change of scenery can refresh the mind, body, and soul. Sometimes just escaping and shutting off for a few minutes can be better than chugging that fourth cup of coffee.

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