Time Management in Nursing: 4 Top Strategies

Nursing is a fast-paced job. Shifts can be as long as 12 hours, but on busy days, it might seem like there’s little time to do anything between patients. In addition to their professional lives, many nurses also have to balance their education and family life. That can be a lot, even for the most efficient of us, but there are ways to pull it off. 

It comes down to managing your time properly. Whether it’s prioritizing your tasks or figuring out the right break schedule, using a few tips and tricks in your daily routine can add up to a well-managed schedule and a much happier you. 

Time Management in Nursing: Top Tips

It takes a certain kind of personality to make it in nursing. You have to be patient, vigilant and able to change your focus when things suddenly switch from one track to another. 

Try using these guidelines the next time you feel overwhelmed at work and see if they can help you to stay on top of things, too. 

Setting Priorities

This is often the first piece of advice given on time management, no matter what your life is like or what field you’re currently working in. We may think we have everything lined up in our heads, but when we go to put it down on paper, gaps might show up where we can improve how we operate  

Consider doing a time audit in which you chart out everything you do over the course of a day, when you did it, how long it took you and whether it was planned. Looking back at this after a week or so can help you identify gaps in your schedule or areas where you may be able to do something more efficiently. Then modify your routine to get yourself that extra time needed to deal with daily tasks with less stress. When deciding what to prioritize in a given day, consider asking yourself these questions:

  • What am I going to do first and why?
  • Which is the more important thing to do and why?
  • What are the consequences if I don’t do this task now?
  • What is most important for the patient?

Following these guidelines can help you determine what absolutely has to get accomplished during a given day and what would be nice to get done but isn’t crucial. Knowing the difference can also help reduce the stress of believing everything has to be completed in one day. Developing a sense of flexibility and patience will go a long way toward making life as a nurse easier.

Balancing Work and Life

for a while through activities or relationships you have that are apart from your work environment. This can be as simple as going for a long walk after your shift is done, getting your heart pumping with some good exercise or visiting a friend.

If you can, ask loved ones to pick up some of the tasks around the house you might not have time for. With them helping to take the pressure off, you can relax at home instead of stressing over more things that aren’t being finished.

Perhaps most important thing to remember when trying to find a work-life balance is not to beat yourself up if you don’t master your schedule it right away. Refining your schedule takes time, and some days may be harder than others. What matters is taking the time to do it in the first place.

Take breaks when you need them, even if you don’t feel like you do. Just five minutes to collect your thoughts before moving on to your next task can go a long way. Stepping back every so often can help you maintain focus over the course of your shift and prevent conditions common to the nursing profession like burnout and compassion fatigue.

Batching Tasks

Also called “clustering” or consolidating, batching is the practice of completing related tasks at the same time instead of spreading them throughout the day. If something is similar to another task or can be completed in your area of the ward before you have to leave it, make it a point to do those things together. This will become easier as time goes on and as you develop more of an intuitive sense of what can be completed at a certain time, or what a patient will need next.

Grouping things together when and where you can will do wonders for task efficiency and save you a lot of unnecessary running around. An example of geographical clustering might be taking blood from three patients who need it drawn consecutively, then bringing all the samples to the lab at once, rather than going back and forth each time.

Delegating Tasks

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If there’s a lot happening on the floor and someone else can help handle it, ask them.

Talking with coworkers whom you work with closely can help a lot with this. If you know what’s going on in their day, you know what big tasks they have to complete and whether they’re likely to be available. You can also figure out when and how to help them when they need an extra hand. Support staff like CNAs are there to help, too, and often are willing to take on some tasks. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to do everything yourself just because you don’t want to bother anyone.

Taking the Next Step

You’ve been on the front lines of the nursing world, learned the ropes and know how to get things done. Now’s the time to elevate your career to the next level. The thought of going back to school may seem like a big undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. Earning your RN to BSN degree online is the ideal way for working nurses to further their education.

The RN to BSN program at Illinois College is entirely online and can be completed in as little as a year. We are conscious of your need to earn a degree in a rapid, flexible affordable way. We are particularly proud of the professional and personal support network we provide to our nursing students. By the time you leave, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of professionalism, leadership, service, respect and care for diverse populations.