Whether you're still in school or you just landed your first full-time job as a nurse in an emergency department, time management in nursing is an essential skill.
Jumping in headfirst without a plan can leave you feeling confused and overwhelmed. Instead, use these tips to help you manage your time, stay organized and thrive both in school and on the job.
10 Tips for time Management in Nursing Profession
1. Get Organized At Home
Time management begins at home. If you're running around discombobulated each morning at home, you're not likely to be productive at work. Before you go to bed each night, lay out everything you'll need for the next morning.
This includes your scrubs, socks and shoes, purse or wallet, keys and anything else you'll need to get through your day. Put your clothes in one spot in your bedroom and put everything else as close to the front door as possible so that you don't forget anything. This will start your day off on the right foot.
2. Minimize Distractions
Americans check their phones dozens of times each day. If you've been known to absentmindedly pick up your phone to check notifications or scroll through Facebook, you not only are wasting valuable time but also probably look unprofessional to your coworkers and superiors.
Avoid temptation altogether by keeping your phone in your locker at work. You can still check your notifications while you're on your breaks, and you can let your loved ones know to call you directly at work if there is an emergency.
By getting rid of distractions during your working hours, you'll get more done and feel less stressed in the evenings.
3. Cluster Care When Working
Imagine you need to pass medications, change IV tubing, provide baths and change linens for a dozen different patients. Now imagine you focus on one task at a time instead of one patient at a time.
By the time you pass medications for each patient and then start back at the first room to start changing linens, you'll likely have wasted a lot of time. Whenever possible, group as many tasks for one patient together as you can.
This saves you from flitting between rooms and sets your patient up to be comfortable for a while so that you can focus on other tasks. Of course, it is easier for more experienced nurses to cluster care, so if you don't get the hang of it right away, don't worry.
You will as you become more comfortable in your position as a nurse.
4. Avoid Tasks Not On Your List
This one may seem stingy; after all, part of nursing is teamwork. Still, if you are constantly helping everybody else complete their tasks, it leaves much less time for you to finish your own work.
Before you agree to do someone else's rounds or help an otherwise comfortable patient with a nonessential need, complete all the must-do tasks on your list. Only after you've accomplished these tasks should you go back to help other people with their work.
This isn't a matter of being rude but of learning your own limits, including when to tell people "no" and how to prioritize so that you can provide teamwork without letting your own job fall by the wayside.
5. Use Technology
No, not Facebook (nice try, though). As time-sucking as social media can be, several apps and websites can truly be time-saving.
Google Calendar allows you to keep track of staff meetings and other appointments, including setting reminders for anytime from 10 minutes to several days prior so that you don't forget them.
Evernote is a free app that allows you to record notes, track lectures and organize information, which is handy whether you are still in nursing school or have already started your career.
The cloud-based system means you can access your information from any computer. A variety of other apps and websites are available to help you do everything from study for finals to meditate for five minutes during a particularly difficult day.
6. Write And Type In Detail
Shorthand is a good idea when writing or typing in the field of nursing and can save a lot of time, but only if you do it right.
When making notes about your patient and his or her condition and treatment, only use well-known abbreviations and shorthand codes. Shortening them even further may be tempting to save time in the moment, but you'll regret it if you come back to read the chart later and don't remember what any of your abbreviations mean.
This is especially important if the patient will likely see more than one nurse or doctor during his or her visit. You don't want confusing shorthand to be misinterpreted, as it could cause unintentional malpractice due to missing or changing medications or other issues related to misunderstanding charts.
7. Set Completion Goals
Sometimes, the easiest thing you can do to manage your time is to set goals and strive to meet them. If you start work at 7:00 a.m. and you have a task that will take two hours to complete, set a goal to complete it by 9:00 a.m.
By working against the clock and challenging yourself, you are more likely to finish work faster and move on to the next task.
8. Be Flexible
You may be tempted to think organization is all about rigid schedules. In reality, the more flexible you can be, the better you'll be at managing your time.
Things almost never go exactly as planned when you're working as a nurse, especially if you work in the emergency department. Review your tasks at the beginning of each day and put the most important ones at the top of the list.
If a task takes longer than you expected it to, you can move the least important ones to the next day.
9. Take Some Time To Breathe
Sometimes, things are going to get chaotic no matter how much you plan, organize and try to manage your time.
When you have one of those days that just doesn't seem to be going well, find time to breathe. Whether it's on your lunch break or even just taking a few minutes in a bathroom stall to center yourself, find somewhere to take a few deep breaths.
Inhale while you count to 10 and then exhale as you count to ten again. Doing this a few times will help you calm down and decide your next plan of action.
10. Learn To Delegate Tasks
Life is not about getting through it completely on your own. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. If an unexpected situation puts you behind on studying for exams, ask a friend or family member to help you create flashcards or other study guides.
If you're at work and get tied up with one patient, talk to a coworker about helping you stay on track with another one. Just remember to return the favor in the future so that you keep up a good working relationship with the other nurses.
Of course, time management is forever evolving. Just because one of these tips works one day doesn't mean it will the next. Consider the situation before rushing to action.
Doing so ensures you follow the best plan to meet not only your needs but those of your patients, coworkers and anybody else who is depending on you.