7 Time Management Tips for Nurses

When it comes to nursing, you don’t “make a living;” you “make a purpose.”

While other professions may also require attention to detail, nursing requires presence, precision, compassion, and effective time management. Plus, the standard for quality of care has never been higher.

A way of improving the quality of nursing care is by implementing effective time management, which, by definition, “is the practice of using the time that you have available in a useful and effective way, especially in your work.”

We know that changing the way you do things—or starting from scratch if you are new to nursing—can seem overwhelming or even frightening, so in this article, we’ll explore time management strategies, tips, and skills for nurses. 

1. Being an Early-Bird Has Advantages

We are not just talking about waking up early in the morning—although doing so is associated with less anxiety and depression and improved performance overall—but we are talking about arriving early at your workstation and giving yourself the time to sit down and make sure that you have everything you need to begin your shift. 

Some of our Nursa nurses tell us how arriving 10 to 20 minutes before their work day officially begins can help them optimize their shifts by using that time to review their patients’ charts and ensure all their supplies are in place. 

In emergencies or during long shifts, you will be grateful to avoid running to fetch gauze, alcohol swabs, tape, or other frequently used materials. 

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2. When Everything Is Urgent, Nothing Is

Lee Iacocca said:

“If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important and then give it all you’ve got.”

In this world and age, we have put multitasking on a pedestal, yet when dealing with people’s health, focus and intention should be the priority in every task you execute. 

As time passes, you will trust yourself and know which tasks are urgent and deserve to be a priority. 

You can set achievable goals at the start of every new shift. Sometimes, you cannot complete them all and only hit the mandatory ones—and that’s OK. With time, self-compassion, and perseverance, you can see how implementing time management skills will help you become more efficient.

Nursing assessments and medication passes are usually considered priorities. However, you should avoid putting off charting as well. Furthermore, it can be beneficial to carry a notepad to ensure you review all the essential tasks you must fulfill.

3. Delegate Tasks Effectively

Learning to delegate tasks as a nurse is challenging yet crucial when discussing time management.

With time and experience, you will know which tasks to delegate—it is OK to ask for help— and which tasks can be completed by another nurse or nursing assistant. However, as a team player, you must be mindful of delegating the right tasks to your team members and minding their scope of practice.

4. Presence Is Key

Nursing is all about service. At the end of the day, a patient’s recovery directly relates to the compassionate and attentive communication employed with them. 

Visiting your patients during your daily rounds presents excellent opportunities to build better nurse/patient relationships, where you can hear them express their feelings and read their body language. 

Also, when you create an inviting conversation with your patients, they will feel more at ease with your care, open up to you about their symptoms, and feel more compelled to follow your instructions during and after their course of treatment.

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Being sick can make many people feel helpless, but empathy has the power to turn that feeling around. 

5. Being Proactive Pays Off

When you anticipate problems or needs, your thoughts and actions can save time and lives. 

Administrative tasks sometimes get left behind, so having a conversation about your patients with the team members who precede your shift is vital. 

In the same way, your ability to document your nursing care effectively and take notes is an asset. To learn more about this skill, you can check out our Ultimate Guide to Nurse Charting, Documentation, and Notes article.

Some Nursa clinicians have also mentioned how patients tend to be shy or feel embarrassed when it comes to needing a change or help to use the bathroom. Being proactive and asking if patients need assistance can help you avoid emergencies or extra runs to a patient’s room. 

6. Don’t Forget Self-Care

When the spirit of service is integral to who you are, and days get hectic, it is easy to forget your needs. Forgetting your needs is one of the biggest mistakes healthcare practitioners make and one of the easiest ways to fall into burnout. 

Simple actions, such as taking a break, even when you don’t think you need it, can significantly impact your day. Remember that in nursing, a regular day can become a whirlwind in seconds. Giving yourself the space and time to rest will make you more equipped for service. 

Rest time IS productive. 

Another great way of caring for yourself during your shift is to—as much as possible—eat your lunch away from the workplace, take a short walk in the fresh air, and enjoy your food with the same intention you use to help others. Those few minutes will help you recharge energy to continue to give your best. 

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7. Life Is Not Just Work

We understand that nursing is your purpose, but even a purpose needs fuel. The more you maximize your time off work and balance your mental and physical health, the more you can enjoy every minute of working. 

Create a routine that works best for you, including activities that nurture your mind, body, and spirit. Here are a few ideas:

  • Exercise can help blow off steam, reduce stress, and keep your body healthy. Go to the gym, join a sports team, train for a marathon, use your bike instead of the bus, or take daily walks.
  • Good food is the best preventive medicine and a fantastic way to care for your body and your family. 
  • Meditate five minutes a day. Put on your favorite song and dance by yourself. Write in a journal. These actions can increase your ability to reflect and deal with stressful situations with a level head. 
  • Engage your mind with cultural or social activities. Visit museums on the weekend, join a book club, spend time with family, or catch the latest film. By doing so, you can have fun, decompress, and be ready to give your all during your next shift.

Time Makes Perfect

Remember, you can implement the tips and skills for nurses shared in this article as best works for you. Don’t get discouraged if you fail to balance all at once; with time and practice, you will become an expert in time management in nursing.

If you want to dive deeper into improving your delegation/time management skills, read our What Is Nursing Delegation, and What Are the 5 Rights of Delegation? article. There is always room for growth. 


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