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Nursing Tips for Organizing Your Life, Career and Each Shift

Staying organized is an important part of being a nurse. Some days it may feel like there aren't enough hours to get everything done, and while you can't add hours to your day, you can alter your approach to organization to maximize your productivity by putting these nursing tips for staying organized into practice.

How to stay organized during your shift 

Start early

Staying organized at work starts before you even get there. Rushing in to begin your shift just in the nick of time or a few minutes late can throw off your whole day or night. Instead, plan to arrive a few minutes early so you can get your bearings and settle in without feeling rushed.

Sandy Griffin, LPN, CHPLN, Quality Assurance Coordinator at Hospice of South Louisiana, says that starting your shift early is an easy way to set yourself up for success.

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“Prepare what you can ahead of time, even the smallest of tasks. Get a good night's sleep, wake up early and head to work at a comfortable pace. Our morning routine sets the tone for the whole day, and if you start the day stressed, then your shift could be a jumbled, unorganized mess.”

Adopt a mise en place philosophy

The French culinary phrase mise en place means everything in its place or set up. For chefs and line cooks, it means having ingredients chopped, measured and prepared before they begin cooking.

As a nurse, you can apply this practice to each shift. Having everything in its place can save you time and make it easier to find supplies when you need them. Start by organizing your station or work area. It helps put you in control and lets you focus on the important needs of your patients.

After report, take a minute to look at your patients' immediate needs and gather supplies before you head to their rooms. If you're starting a new IV, take everything you need with you so you don't have to backtrack. If supplies are kept in each room, check to make sure you're stocked for the day or evening.


Do what's most important first. Prioritize your list so you don't miss any essentials, and cross things off as you do them.

Griffin recommends keeping a master checklist. “As things pop up and change in your daily to-dos, it's easy to get sidetracked and forget about or skip over certain tasks. Write things down in a small notebook that you always keep with you. Until your duties as a nurse are muscle memory, it's helpful to have everything written down so you don't skip a beat and become overwhelmed.”

Arrange your break time

In many work environments, shift leaders and nurse managers allow nurses to schedule their own break times. If this is the case for you, you can use it to your advantage.

Try to plan your break for when you know your workload is at its lightest. That way, you can take a break with less stress and be more likely to relax. Complete more complicated tasks before the relief or float nurse comes to take over so you can take your well-deserved break worry-free.

Organizing your career

Whether you plan on staying in the same job for awhile or want to grow your nursing career by obtaining additional certifications and licenses, it's important to keep track of all your credentials so that when it does come time to change jobs, everything you need is prepared and ready.

Keeping track of licenses and certifications

Stephen Ferrara, DNP, associate professor and assistant dean of clinical affairs at the Columbia University School of Nursing, suggests keeping electronic backups of important documents.

“Keep track of your licenses and certifications, such as your registered professional nursing license or your Family Nurse Practitioner board certification. Take photos of them and store them on a cloud-based service, such as Google Drive, iCloud or Dropbox. That way, you will always have the latest versions of your licenses and certifications readily available and have backups of your physical copies or ones you store on your local computer hard drive.”

Physical paper documents should be kept in a safe place, such as a home filing cabinet or fireproof safe.

“While you're at it,” Ferrara says, “set a calendar reminder for three months prior to their expirations, so you can ensure you renew on time.

”Staying organized on the job and in your career can provide you with peace of mind and allow you to focus on providing top-notch patient care.

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