nurse standing in hospital lobby checking time on wristwatch

10 Nurse Time Management Tips and Tricks

RNs are constantly on the move while on the clock, so good nurse time management is crucial to be effective.  

Better nursing time management skills allow you to help more patients or take a moment to reset when you need it.  

If you think your time management techniques could use some improvement, try incorporating a few of these nursing time management tips and tricks. 

10 Nurse Time Management Tips And Tricks

1. Set priorities 

Ensure you have a clear sense of what must be done versus what you'd like to get done. Setting priorities ensures the most vital tasks are addressed ahead of everything else.  

Less critical responsibilities can often be delegated or put off temporarily without severe consequences. The most important tasks are those that affect the health and well-being of your patients.  

"Prioritize your patients," says Shantay Carter, founder of Women of Integrity Inc. "Patient care comes first." 

2. Show up early 

Nursing shifts are long, but showing up early is a nurse time management technique that can help keep them running smoothly.  

"Arrive early or on time to be able to review [the] chart," suggests Carter. This allows you to develop your plan of care and identify potential complications so you can prepare.  

You can also use the extra time to prepare yourself mentally so you can hit the ground running when you clock in.

3. Ask for help 

Sometimes nurses are given more than they can handle in one shift. If this happens to you, asking for help is the best nursing time management strategy.  

"Delegate and/or ask for help when needed," says Carter. Nurse responsibilities are not always distributed evenly, so there's always a chance that one of your colleagues has a few extra moments to pitch in.  

Even if no one is available to take over a task, just having someone lend a hand can reduce the time needed to complete it. 

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4. Don't be overconfident 

When you're planning out your shift and setting your priorities, make sure you're setting realistic expectations for the amount of time it will take to complete each task.  

In fact, it's best to overestimate slightly, or add buffers to your schedule, to account for the time needed to cover unforeseen complications.  

If you complete tasks faster than your estimates, this nursing time management tip will give you extra time to spend with your patients or catch your breath and de-stress. 

5. Stick to your list 

You may be tempted to handle small tasks throughout your shift that haven't been delegated to you because they seem convenient or you want to help out.  

Although a few extra minutes to help out a colleague doesn't seem like much, doing that several times throughout your shift can greatly impact nurse time management. Make sure your responsibilities take priority. 

6. Don't be afraid to say “no.” 

Patients should always be your priority, but when you're trying to improve your nurse time management skills, remember that you don't have to cater to their every wish. Some patients will be more high maintenance than others.  

Although you want to ensure their care needs are met and that they're comfortable, it's okay to say no to an unreasonable request during a busy shift. Make sure one demanding patient isn't monopolizing all your time, leaving other patients without your attention.

7. Stay organized and keep your workspace clean 

It can be tempting to put off routine paperwork when you feel rushed. However, procrastinating often leads to a cluttered workspace, which contributes to extra time wasted searching for what you need.  

To stay on top of nurse time management, take care of things as they come in. Complete paperwork sooner rather than later, and put equipment back where it goes instead of putting it off.  

Returning things where they belong saves you and your colleagues the wasted time searching for what you didn't put back. 

8. Keep written notes 

Nurses are often good at maintaining their mental notes to get through each shift. However, if you really want to improve your nursing time management skills, make a habit of keeping written notes as well.  

Forgetting important information will require extra time to gather those details again. It also allows your brain to focus fully on the task at hand and improves your ability to remember and comprehend information. 

[RELATED: The Role of Nurses in Patient Advocacy]

9. Be prepared 

You know the things you regularly use throughout your shifts. One of the easiest nursing time management tips is to prepare yourself before you begin.  

Gather your stethoscope and pocket the things you use most, such as your pen and alcohol prep pads. Make sure you're fully stocked with the things you need at the start of your shift. 

"Organize your meds ahead of time, so you know what you need versus what you don't have," offers Carter. 

10. Don't get overwhelmed 

Nurses are required to handle various responsibilities, and the to-do list at the beginning of a shift can look daunting. Regardless of how long and complex your list of duties is, try not to let yourself get overwhelmed or stressed by what's ahead.  

One of the most important nursing time management skills you can develop is facing a difficult shift and breaking it down into manageable tasks.  

Sometimes looking at the whole picture can feel impossible, encouraging procrastination and killing motivation. Instead, look at the individual pieces and focus on completing one at a time. Remember that every task you complete, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction.

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