Time management is an issue for many new nurses. As a new nurse, you have a lot of responsibilities that must be completed within a certain time frame, and you must be able to complete your nursing tasks while dealing with those crazy situations that come your way (code blues, accidents, confusion/combative patients, etc.).
So, if you are a new nurse reading this, please know it is NORMAL to experience time management issues. As you gain experience the time management issues you once had should resolve. Now keep in mind that even the most seasoned nurses have an off day here and there where it seems like nothing is going right, and they are way behind on their tasks. This is usually due to short staffing or the unexpected situations that arises during a shift.
Therefore, in this article I want to give you some tips on how to improve your time management skills as a new nurse. In the previous article, I talked about new nurse anxiety where I gave tips on how to deal with anxiety as a new nurse. Time management and new nurse anxiety really go hand-in-hand because new nurses will experience them both, and many times time management issues will cause new nurse anxiety.
Video on How to Improve Time Management as a New Nurse
Signs and Symptoms you may have time management issues:
- Rushing to get everything done at the end of your shift
- Staying over to complete documentation (2+ hours)
- Forgetting to complete tasks
- Clocking out late (and constantly getting reminders from your manager about overtime)
- Never getting breaks to eat, use the bathroom, or rest for more than 5 minutes
- Always asking and needing help
- Feeling very overwhelmed to the point you feel like quitting
Tips on Time Management
Ask the right questions in report! This helps get your day started off right and eliminates surprises. When receiving hand-off report make sure you ask about what procedures the patient will be having, lab times (especially for cardiac enzymes), special treatments (wound care, central line dressings changes, IV changes, tubing changes). These tasks need to be planned out by you so you can dedicate a time to completing them along with your other tasks. WRITE all this on your report sheet!
Create a sheet to help you keep track of your day after report so you can see how the day will flow! Write down medication times (when you plan on giving them), which patients need special treatments or going for procedures, possible discharges, and doctor’s orders that need to be completed during your shift!
Set goals for when things should be completed! For instances, say that you start your day at 0700…set a goal that by 0900 you will be done with your morning assessment charting and will start pulling medications for the 1000 medication pass. Then by 1130 your goal is to be done with your medication pass and get caught up on new doctor’s orders that have come in from morning rounding.
Try to streamline medication administration times! You will spend A LOT of time giving medications as a nurse, and if you aren’t careful this can put you behind. Always check with your institution’s policy for medication administration time frame policies but try to group medications together. For instances, 1000 is a big med pass time for day shift (most places allow you to give them 1 hour before and 1 hour after the time they are due), and say your patient has meds at 1000 and 1100…..give the medications at 1000 so you don’t have to go back at 1100 and give them again. Be sure to watch your time sensitive medications though.
Don’t just utilize medication passes for giving medications but to do other tasks! Don’t just give medications but groups your tasks together for each patient. For instance, if a patient needs medications at 1000 but also needs a central line dressing change, IV tubing change, bath, linen change, and to get into the bedside chair….do all this at once while in the room. Then the patient will be set for a while and you can get some other tasks done.
Take it hour by hour…don’t get overwhelmed by thinking about everything you have to get done! Try to stay calm and collective and get your tasks done one at a time…don’t think “oh it is already 1300 and I haven’t even done this” because stressing doesn’t help you get them done any faster. Remember the hospital is a 24 hour facility!
Experience helps with time management! The reason a lot of new nurses get behind is because they are not use to performing skills (which become sharpened with repetition). Therefore, they spend more time than normal starting IVs, giving certain medications, etc. but as they hone in on their skills their get faster and the day will flow easier!
Still in nursing school? If you can, I recommend getting a job as a nursing assistant to help you learn how to develop a routine. This helped me a lot because I knew how the day would flow and this allowed me to transition easier into the nursing role.
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