5 Nursing Time Management Tips
March 14, 2014
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Experienced nurses know how fast-paced their job can be. Demands from all directions require you to multitask and sometimes be ultra-efficient. The patient's well-being is always front and center, so nurses must wrap their myriad duties around that primary function. Sometimes every minute matters, so here are some nursing time management tips.
The National Council Licensure Examinations for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) focuses a good deal of testing attention on your skills at prioritization, and for good reason. It is your most beneficial time management tool. In nursing school, you learn basic skills and the information needed to answer exam questions. On the job, the only way to know what comes first at any given moment is through practice.
It is difficult for new nurses to avoid falling back into a reactionary mode, bouncing from one task to another. To avoid that, begin your workday with as complete a picture as you can develop. Keeping in mind that safety always comes first, devise a triage system that arranges patients' needs while blending in unit responsibilities. Try to stay a few steps ahead so that you will be better ready for unexpected needs that are certain to happen every day, throughout the day.
You should be familiar with how long it takes different things to happen on your unit. Little things add up. Few things are carved in stone in your profession, and you have to be able to arrange tasks on the fly. Flexibility is the key component to any prioritization plan.
It's almost impossible to prioritize and be disorganized at the same time. You need to know where things are and to keep them that way. It helps to start your shift early. Doing so better prepares you for the workday but also makes for a smoother transition. Expect a thorough report from the nurse you relieve and do the same at the end of your day. An experienced nurse develops a routine structure. At the same time, she can often "feel" a hectic day even before her shift begins, and organizes that routine accordingly.
Individual nurses develop all sorts of strategies to keep up with the daily barrage of information. Some keep a report sheet and jot down things like medication times, call back numbers, tests due, special dietary needs, questions for doctors and much more. You might even use different colors of ink representing certain tasks.
Nurses who try to do it all often think other staff won't do their jobs properly. For example, you have a patient who urgently needs a bath while another is due for surgery. You have the choice of postponing a patient's hygienic need or fouling up a busy surgical schedule. A third option is to expect the CNA sitting at the desk to do her job. Doing the work of other staff at the expense of a patient is not good nursing.
Delegation is done with care. As the RN, it is your responsibility that delegated tasks are performed appropriately. It is imperative to match the task with a qualified person. For instance, you wouldn't ask an occupational therapy aide to take a patient's vital signs.
Similarly, you and other nurses need a strong sense of teamwork. Huge chunks of time are wasted when one nurse is swamped while another sits by. During a shift, nurses need to plan together. Experience guides them into knowing what kinds of patients and procedures are most demanding on individual nurses. They can also recognize an imbalanced workload, and adjust accordingly. A nursing unit that does not practice strong teamwork is needlessly stressful and puts patients to work.
Take Your Breaks!
You cannot work efficiently if you run yourself down. A busy nurse needs hydration and fuel. Having short periods of rest allows you to collect your thoughts and re-energize. In some hospitals, nurses are required to take their breaks. Keeping yourself in shape off the clock is critical, too. Maintaining a good diet, knowing how to separate work from your personal life, getting the right kind of exercise and staying emotionally healthy is critical.
These five nursing time management tips are just a sample of what you can rely on to get through a busy shift while maintaining excellent patient care. Every nurse does their job a little differently than the next, so you will develop your own strategies.
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