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Five Time Management Tips for Nurses

Career News July 31, 2013

Going into the nursing profession is currently a wise career choice – the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the profession is growing at twenty-six percent faster than the average job. Not only is there opportunity, but nurses make a solid living (average hourly pay is $31).

But, no one said being a nurse is a walk in the park. There is schooling, residency, and then there are the actual job duties itself. For instance, floor nurses and emergency room nurses at hospitals often work twelve-hour shifts and are responsible for treating a large number of patients, depending on how busy the hospital is. Nurses that work in doctor’s offices are also busy, meeting with and hearing out patients at all appointment hours of the day.

So where are we going with this? It is simple – nurses have the potential to get extremely overwhelmed by all of their responsibilities quickly. When nurses become overwhelmed and scatter-brained, it is the patients that are most likely to suffer from it. Yes, time management is crucial to being a nurse. Here are five time management tips that you can be sure will help you stay on track when you are on the clock:

Prioritize: No matter what type of environment you are working in, there will be certain things that take precedence over others. And it is up to you as a nurse to learn how to prioritize. For instance, if there is a potentially life-threatening situation that should take precedence over a patient that has a question. Learning how to prioritize is perhaps the most important part of time management.

Detail Directions: Your patients are likely to have questions about a variety of things. One way to make them feel more comfortable as well as nip questions in the bud before they happen is to use what you have in the room to your advantage. One of these is dry erase boards that most hospital rooms now have installed. Write your name on the board to establish more of a relationship with the patient. Then write down things like the patient’s schedule for that day or directions on how often to take medication, etc. This helps answer some questions before they arise.

Set Time Limits: This time management tactic is especially helpful if you are a floor nurse who is responsible for caring for a number of hospital patients at a time. You are bound to be asked questions about procedures, symptoms, and treatments by your patients. And while it is your job to care for these patients and help answer any questions, such questions can throw you off track and make you fall behind with the rest of your duties. So, before you go in to speak with a patient, give yourself a time limit and communicate this time limit to the patient themselves. For instance, you might enter the room and politely say something along the lines of, “I have about 10 minutes before I’m needed in surgery, and are there any questions that I can answer for you or anything I can get you?” This shows initiative on your behalf and also shows that you care about your patient’s well being, without making a big time commitment. This is a common practice detailed in various nursing time management articles.

Delegate: Delegating is not only an important part of managing how you spend your time as a nurse, but it also demonstrates leadership in your workplace. Delegating consists of asking your co-workers to complete different tasks for you if you are on a time crunch or if there is more pertinent things that you need to attend to. Do not be afraid to ask someone to help you out with certain responsibilities – it is better to do that than fall behind on your schedule.

To-Do Lists: Creating a to-do list is a key technique for staying on track, especially if you work in the emergency room where it is more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants shift than in a doctor’s office, where you can plan more accordingly based on your appointment schedule. You may think that you can remember all of your responsibilities mentally, but it is only a matter of time before one slip your mind and you are left scrambling to make amends. So make a to-do list that will remind you when you need to complete specific tasks. After you have completed the task, check it off. This is a simple, yet effective step to better manage your time.

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