Time Management Tips for Nurses

NursingDecember 18, 2013

There are only 12 hours in a shift, but nurses have to pack 36 hours worth of tasks into them. With the following time management tips for nurses, individuals within this profession can progress through their workday calmly and efficiently.

Prioritize Your "To-do" List

Some tasks are a "must do" and others are a "like-to-do". Patients need to be thoroughly assessed at the beginning of each shift, so other tasks must come secondary. Duties such as giving medication, taking vitals and managing airways take precedence over bed making and checking email. 

Make Time for Documentation

In health care, if it wasn't written down, it didn't happen. Medications, meals and vital signs must be documented by the RN. If time isn't taken during the shift to document the patient's condition, then it can lead to inaccurate charting, and a nurse may have to stay after his or her shift to complete it. These are not ideal situations. Computerized records are making charting completely electronic, so make sure that your computer and typing skills are exceptional to make the most use of your documentation time.

Be Prepared

Have your pen, gloves, scissors and alcohol prep pads in your pockets. You will need these items frequently, so it's best to always have them with you. Depending on your specialty, other items may be essential, so plan accordingly.

Anticipate Needs

The ability to anticipate possible future events is an invaluable nursing skill. It sounds like fortune telling, but with the right clinical information, a nurse can think ahead to a patient's needs, and thus plan accordingly. For example, if the doctor is planning on doing a procedure like a central line insertion, a nurse can gather the needed supplies, prepare the necessary forms, and ensure that the patient is ready for the procedure. It cannot be reiterated enough how important a nurse's ability to anticipate needs is to being an exceptional nurse. This quality can make the difference between being a smooth operator and scrambling to catch up to everyone else.


While in a patient's room, a nurse can administer medications, reposition a patient, and ensure all of his or her needs are met. Getting a patient situated with everything they may need will keep you from having to run back and forth.

Stay Focused

It may be tempting to stop and chat with coworkers or read up on your email, but it could waste time better spent in patient care.

Delegate Tasks to Appropriate Personnel

A registered nurses's time is valuable. CNAs and LPNs are able to take over some tasks, like taking vital signs and blood glucose levels. Utilize these individuals, and respect them as an important resource. Many of these individuals can provide excellent tips for nurses that they have gained through their experience.

Time management is a difficult skill to achieve, especially for new nurses. It is acquired through trial and error, specific to the area in which you work. As you follow these tips for nurses, you will develop a good foundation for becoming an efficient and competent RN.

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons


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