As you know, nursing is an important yet extremely busy occupation. Often, you will have to multitask and spend your time doing different things until the end of your shift.
When you’re not dealing with patients, you have to answer the phone and handle calls from family members, friends, and other colleagues. And when you think things are about to settle down, you’ll need to go and supervise agency HCAs on your ward!
As a recently qualified nurse, you will know soon realise that time is a precious commodity, and it’s critical that you manage yours well. The question is, what can you do to make your shifts less stressful and more fulfilling? And how can you cope with carrying out several tasks at once, as nurses often do? The following are ten dynamite time management strategies that all nurses can benefit from following:
1. Start your shift early
If you end up arriving late to your shift, you won’t have the best of starts! It’s likely your colleagues will feel somewhat annoyed, and your superiors may note regular late starts down on your permanent record.
With that in mind, it’s best to arrive at work with plenty of time to spare before the official start of your shift. Doing so means you can read any handover notes and plan your day better.
2. Write down a to-do list on paper
Many nurses find that they lose track of their tasks because they forgot about some of them! That’s why it makes sense to write down your daily tasks on paper, in the form of a to-do list. Once you have completed each job, you can then cross it off your list.
The idea behind having a to-do list is to make your day more manageable and easier. You’ll feel more in control of the things you need to do, and you’re less likely to forget about anything important in your day.
How you devise your to-do list is up to you. Some nurses prefer to make a simple list on a notepad. Others may decide to create a table with a list of each patient’s names and any related tasks.
However you choose to write up your list, one thing you should do is write down the time needed to spend on each task. Doing so will stop you wasting time or not focusing the right amount of time on each job.
According to Cathy Taylor, the Careers Advisor for the RCN (Royal College of Nursing), there are other useful ways that nurses can proactively diarise their days. She says that “using technology such as [smartphone] apps can also be helpful.”
3. Prioritise your tasks
It goes without saying that there’s no point completing tasks of low importance first before any high-priority ones. As a nurse, you will no doubt be aware of the constant demands and pressure on your time and attention. Because of that fact, it is seldom easy to identify what your priorities should be.
When creating a to-do list, you should firstly think about which tasks need to get completed before you carry out the other ones. Also, you need to consider what may happen if you don’t complete a task immediately or within the duration of your shift.
Once you have determined the “weight” each task has on your priorities, add that information to your to-do list. Be sure to create dedicated time slots to the tasks that you need to complete as a matter of urgency. Sure, you will still need to react to each patient’s needs. But, making your time more manageable with a prioritised list will help you get everything done and stop you feeling stressed out.
4. Don’t forget about each patient’s priorities
It’s an obvious fact that your priorities will probably be different to the ones of your patients. For instance, they may favour resting and sleeping over cleanliness. As a nurse, it’s important not to assume anything. If you are unsure, it’s necessary for the avoidance of doubt to just ask.
5. Be flexible with your time
One challenge of being a newly qualified nurse is the need to continually re-assess situations as they develop. As a result, you’ll also need to respond to those evolving scenarios as appropriate. In other words, nurses can’t have static daily plans because there will always be something that needs altering on them!
Jackie Hole authored “The Newly Qualified Nurse’s Survival Guide” and is an RGN. She says that you’ll never feel like you catch up in your shift if there’s an emergency. She adds: “This is something you must learn to accept.”
She goes on to say that the safety and care of patients are a priority, and not to worry about tasks like restocking trolleys or making referrals as they can be done by nurses in the preceding shift.
6. Use any quiet periods to your advantage
Another thing that Jackie mentions is to not complete everything at once. Instead, it makes sense to use quiet periods of your shift to your advantage. She also says that you’ll be “less likely to make a mistake.”
There will always be quiet periods, such as when you come back from your lunch break. Be sure to use that time wisely.
7. Learn to say “no”
While some people might think otherwise, you are just a mere human being with only one pair of hands! Don’t try to attend to everyone’s needs or requests simultaneously. Instead, “just say no” as the saying goes! When your patients make demands, for example, explain that you need to attend to a task elsewhere, but you’ll be back in a few minutes to deal with their enquiries.
8. Cut down on the clutter
It’s important that your workstation (i.e. your desk) is well-organised and free of clutter. Keeping things in order will cut down on the time looking for misplaced files, for example.
9. Learn to delegate
Don’t be afraid to delegate some tasks to your colleagues. It’s an efficient way of managing your time, and it gives the person you are delegating to some practical experience and skills.
10. Take a break
Last, but not least, remember that you are not a machine and you need to take some time out every now and then! Nurses from all walks of life are always bad at taking breaks! Sure, this can be unavoidable in emergencies. But, when you’ve got the chance, seize the opportunity to take your breaks.
Doing so gives you an opportunity to “shut down” from a mental perspective and have something to eat to keep your energy levels up. Remember that you can’t look after your patients if you aren’t looking after yourself!