Ten quick and easy tips that will help you deal with the hectic, unpredictable nature of nursing.
One of the most difficult tasks for nurses – especially new nurses – to handle does not require any medical knowledge at all. It isn’t taught in school and it won’t show up on your formal job description. It’s time management, and it’s crucial for nurses to learn.
Managing your time wisely is difficult for anyone in any career to master. This can be especially true in the fast-paced nursing environment. While you will get better with time as you learn from those who have been there before you, just as you’ll get better as you learn from your own experiences, mastering your time management abilities is something few people have the discipline to achieve alone.
It’s far more than simply having a plan. World champion boxer Mike Tyson once said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” I don’t want to compare boxing to nursing (there’s no way boxers could do what you do), and I sure hope you never get punched in the mouth, but this famous quote extends far beyond the boxing ring. It’s easy to plan out your day each morning, but as any nurse will tell you, no day ever goes exactly as planned. It’s nearly impossible to prepare for the unpredictable, yet inevitable punch in the mouth that comes along and throws your whole day off schedule.
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Being realistic and flexible are perhaps the two most important character traits when learning how to manage your time. However, there are many smaller, more specific actions that can go a long way towards mastering your ability to manage your time.
Here are 10 time management tips for nurses:
Whenever you have a few tasks in front of you, first ask yourself, “Which of these are most important?” Determine which require your immediate attention, and which aren’t quite as urgent. When you’re doing your rounds, see your most critical patients first. You won’t be able to accomplish everything you want to do for that week in one day, so establish which things take precedence over the others, and work your way down the line.
It sounds so simple, and on a foundational level maybe it is, but the importance of staying organized is monumental in regards to time management. You can’t use your time efficiently if you’re constantly wasting your time looking for things. The more organized you are, the less you panic, and the more time you have. Your charts, your calendar, or whatever else you use regularly – keep it organized.
Making lists is a quick and easy way to manage your time. There are so many disruptions that take place in the ever-changing world of nursing, that it’s easy to get off task and forget the things you needed to do that day. Prioritize your lists, but be flexible and understand that your priorities can change very quickly.
Communication is key in almost all facets of nursing. Whether you’re dealing with your colleagues, patients, or families of your patients, learn to communicate effectively.
Don’t be afraid to delegate
You can’t get caught up in everyone else’s demands of you. I know you want to be a team player, but there is a point where you have to know when to delegate certain tasks to others. Teamwork is crucial – that’s why others are asking for your help in the first place, and it’s why you can’t be afraid to ask for the same. It’s not being lazy and it’s not being selfish; it’s being responsible.
Take advantage of technology
There are hundreds of ways to use technology to your advantage when trying to manage your time wisely. Take advantage of EMRs and other medical devices. Take advantage of apps like Evernote, which is a great tool for you to keep organized, prioritized lists on your phone, tablet, or computer. Use Twitter the right way - this "Social Media for Nurses: Twitter" is a great start. Despite what some of your older, more traditional colleagues may say, technology is your friend.
Write and type efficiently
By now you know: nurses have to write and type a lot. A large chunk of your day goes towards charting and taking notes, so why wouldn’t you want to learn how to do so efficiently? As a nurse, it’s important to be very detailed and meticulous with your notes, but it’s possible to be both detailed and efficient. Know what’s important and what can be left out; know all your medical terms, use abbreviations, etc. There’s a difference between doing something quickly and doing it efficiently.
Know when to multi-task, and when not to
Multi-tasking can be very advantageous when trying to get the most use out of the time you have. However, in a setting where mistakes can have major repercussions, it’s important to understand there is a time for multiple tasks at once and a time where one singular task requires your undivided attention. For example, when you’re preparing a patient’s medication, you shouldn’t also be going over your notes from a separate patient. You want to get the most out of your time, but patient care takes priority here.
Being able to anticipate certain things can be a valuable time-management tool for all nurses. As I’ve mentioned before, some things will come along that you couldn’t possibly anticipate, but there are also many things that you could. If you know that a patient will need a certain procedure, you can plan by gathering all the necessary supplies beforehand.
Take your breaks
Especially as a new nurse, you might be inclined to make a good impression by skipping your breaks to help out. Sure, there are times when you’ll need to skip a break to attend to a critical matter, but don’t feel bad for taking your breaks on a normal day. They are there for a reason. It’s important to have a few minutes to recharge for you to adequately do your job from there on out.
Related Article: Healthy Ways To Spend Your Lunch Break
The most important thing to do in regards to managing your time is to find what works for you. Just because something works for your colleague, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Find your stress reliever; find out how you can balance your work with the rest of your life. Find out how you can manage your time as a nurse.
If you have any helpful tips that were not mentioned above, we’d love to hear about them! Send us a message with any suggestions.