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7 Tips for Time Management in Nursing

Registered nurses (RNs) are on the frontline of healthcare. They have numerous responsibilities, from providing patient care to educating patients and their families, which can shift quickly and unexpectedly. That’s why time management in nursing is a necessity.

RNs who manage their time effectively are more productive and less likely to experience burnout. They also make fewer errors when administering medication. With the proper time management strategies, RNs ensure high-quality patient care through improved performance and well-being.

If you’re concerned about the workload of nursing students and RNs, know that time management can make it more manageable. Like any skill, time management takes practice. Keep reading to learn time management tips to prepare you for success in nursing school and the profession.

What Is Time Management in Nursing?

Time management in nursing is using time effectively to fulfill personal and professional obligations.

For example, nursing students manage coursework, studying, and clinical rotations. RNs juggle patient care, administrative tasks, and continuing education, often with shifts of 12 hours or more. Both must also integrate their personal commitments and protect their well-being.

Effective time management takes skill in planning, prioritization, and performing:

  • Planning: Organizing what needs to be done in advance. Planning gives direction, helping nursing students and RNs make the best possible use of their time.
  • Prioritization: Determining the order of tasks according to their relative importance. Through prioritization, nurses decide when to complete each task.
  • Performing: Concentrating on a task until it's completed. Planning and prioritization make finishing tasks more efficient.

Learning the time management techniques in this blog post will help overcome potential barriers to following through, such as procrastination, disruptions, and unexpected change.

Why Should Nursing Students Practice Time Management?

Nursing school is rigorous. For example, accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs typically prepare students to become RNs in less than 18 months. This rigor introduces students to the real-world demands of nursing, making nursing school the ideal time to refine time management skills and self-discipline.

Learning how to manage your time prior to enrolling in nursing school will prepare you to succeed in your education and after graduation. Developing your time management skills now will also help you stay focused on your motivation for choosing a career in nursing.

Use the following time management tips to plan, prioritize, and perform more effectively.

Tip #1: Engage in Regular Planning

Time management in nursing relies on planning. Both nursing students and RNs benefit from planning out their weeks and days in advance.

You can see all your to-dos in one place using a planner to track personal and professional commitments. Use the planner to estimate the time needed to complete tasks and then prioritize them for completion daily, weekly, and monthly.

Update and review your planner regularly to identify conflicts and prepare for potentially hectic periods.

Tip #2: Plan for Self-care

One of the most important tips for time management in nursing is to schedule self-care during planning. Self-care refers to activities that look after your well-being.

Busy nursing students and RNs can benefit from many self-care activities that take limited time:

  • Practice mindfulness for at least 10 minutes a day. It can improve attention, memory, anxiety, and negative mood.
  • Engage in physical activity for 30 minutes most days of the week to support physical and mental health. Take one long walk or several short ones, or do bodyweight exercises while watching television or listening to a podcast.
  • Commit to a good sleep routine. Limit screen time and avoid alcohol and caffeine before going to sleep. Try a white noise machine to mask background noises if you struggle falling asleep.

Nurses deal with many challenges and stressors on the job. That’s why integrating regular self-care into your lifestyle can help you prevent burnout and allow you to perform at your best in nursing school and beyond.

Tip #3: Organize Your Belongings

Research shows that clutter is linked to procrastination and stress. By organizing your belongings, you can support your efficiency and mental health.

Staying organized makes it easier to follow through on completing tasks. You can progress faster when you know where to find what you need.

Nursing students can organize course notes using a repeatable filing structure on the computer or tabs and sticky notes in a notebook. Both nursing students and RNs may find it helpful to stock their pockets with the same items every shift. Another tip is to keep clean scrubs, your work bag, and badge in the same place. 

Small steps like these can make a notable difference in your efficiency.

Tip #4: Be Flexible

Planning and prioritization will help you focus on the most critical tasks first. But the order you decide is ideal and not necessarily realistic. Nursing school and the nursing profession can be unpredictable. Time management in nursing takes flexibility, so be ready to re-prioritize amid unexpected change.

Nursing students can get help prioritizing from their professors and student success advisors. They work with students to ensure their success.

For RNs, one key to flexibility at work is avoiding multitasking. Less than 3% of people can multitask effectively. For everyone else, dividing attention leads to more inefficiency and mistakes.

Avoiding multitasking can be challenging in nursing because nurses are involved in numerous tasks for many patients at once. But multitasking can put patient safety at risk. It’s important for healthcare settings to foster work environments where nurses can focus. It’s also critical for nurses to try to shift their focus when confronted with new, higher-priority tasks. 

Tip #5: Follow Nursing Prioritization Guidelines

Nurses deal with conflicting priorities during their shifts, which can feel overwhelming. Applying nursing prioritization guidelines to patient care clarifies decision-making, optimizes nurses’ time, and allows nurses to deliver quality healthcare.

Nursing prioritization refers to ordering tasks based on urgency or importance. It involves applying guidelines like the ABCs (airway, breathing, circulation), Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and the nursing process. These guidelines reveal what duties nurses should address and when.

Nursing prioritization is also essential for time management in nursing school. Nursing students apply the guidelines during clinical rotations, which are hands-on, real-world learning experiences.

Nursing students may find it helpful to use a “brain sheet” as part of their nursing prioritization. Brain sheets organize patient information and tasks during clinical shifts. New RNs also often use brain sheets. Adopting a preferred format during nursing school can lead to stronger time management in the nursing profession.

Tip #6: Manage Disruptions

Distractions are a normal barrier to time management in nursing. Research shows that RNs may experience up to 14 distractions per hour, which can jeopardize productivity and patient safety. Nursing students and RNs must stay attentive to every task.

One time management tip for managing disruptions in nursing school is called the Pomodoro Technique. It can help you avoid distractions and accomplish more coursework or studying in short bursts of time.

Here’s how the Pomodoro Technique works:

1. Pick a task and set a timer for 25 minutes.
2. Focus on the task until the timer sounds.
3. Take a two or three-minute break.
​​​​​​​4. Repeat this work-break pattern four times, then break for five to 10 minutes.

Mindfulness can be an effective technique for RNs to manage disruptions during their shifts. Simply being aware of the adverse effects of disruptions can improve concentration. For example, RNs who know the risks of interruptions to calculating medication dosage may complete this task in a quiet space.

Tip #7: Take Breaks

Taking breaks can feel counterintuitive when you have a lot to accomplish. But a break can help reduce fatigue and stress, which lowers the risk of making errors.

Nursing students and RNs are busy, but it's important to step away when possible. Research shows that taking a break at least every two hours can mitigate job injuries and errors, protecting the well-being of nurses and their patients.

Here are a few ways to take a break, even if you’re crunched for time:

  • Step outside for a moment of fresh air so you can return to your studies or shift feeling reenergized. 
  • Practice the simple but effective technique of box breathing to overcome feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. Breathe in, hold your breath, exhale, and hold your breath again—silently counting to four at each step.
  • Use the 20-20-20 rule to reduce eye strain. After every 20 minutes of screen use, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Even a few minutes of break time can make a difference. 

Transition Your Career to Nursing with Support from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine

Effective time management enhances nurse performance and patient outcomes. When you learn and adopt time management strategies in nursing school, you can better prepare to provide high-quality care as an RN.

Saint Joseph’s College of Maine offers a highly supportive Hybrid Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program that prepares students to become RNs in 15 months. At the heart of the program is the faculty’s belief that the best learning occurs in a community built on mutual respect. Students in Saint Joseph’s hybrid ABSN program receive individualized attention with guidance and mentoring from a team of passionate and experienced educators. 

Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the hybrid ABSN program is for students with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. No nursing experience is required. Saint Joe’s BSN graduates have a first-time NCLEX pass rate of over 90%, demonstrating their readiness for a meaningful and rewarding career in nursing.

For more information, obtain your program guide today.

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