1. Arrive early
An 8-12 hour work shift can sound too long for other people in regular jobs. For nurses, however, it may still not be enough especially with the number of patients you have to handle and all the accompanying tasks that need doing.
To make sure you don’t get home later than you’re supposed to because of these tasks, try to arrive 20 to 30 minutes earlier than your shift. You can use this time to go over your patients’ charts and prepare your plan of care. Having an overview of your tasks gives you the chance to plan your shift properly.
2. Set priorities
Once you have an idea of what needs to be done, it’s time to set your priorities. Prioritisation is a must-have skill for every nurse and it’s also one of the most challenging skills to master.
When setting your priorities, find out the most urgent and important tasks. Several medical conditions vary in complexity so make sure you do your assessment properly.
One parameter you can use is the consequences of the tasks, should you fail to perform them right away. Changing your patient’s IV, for example, should be carried out first before draining his urine bag to avoid blood clots and embolism.
3. Estimate how long it will take to finish a task
Apart from prioritisation, you should also have an idea of how much time you need to spend per task. One of the most common reasons nurses fail to complete everything they have to do in a single shift is the overconfidence in their ability.
Remember, there are several things that can happen within a 12-hour shift. There will be doctors making their rounds, patients hitting their call bells and relatives making inquiries. Be sure to set up some allowance in between tasks to accommodate them.
4. Avoid tasks that aren’t in your list
If something is not on your list, it’s probably not there for a reason. Sending emails and text messages, and chatting with your colleagues can take up a lot of your time even if you only thought to do it for 5 minutes. Don’t fall prey to this type of reasoning and remain focused on your list unless your patients’ well-being and safety demand it.
5. Learn to say no
Nurses are their patients’ primary care givers. This, however, doesn’t mean that you have to attend to all their needs at the same time. Multitasking, although it sounds helpful, can actually be detrimental both for you and your patient.
If a patient comes up to you with a non-urgent request, learn how to politely decline for the moment and offer to see him later after you’re done with your urgent tasks. This goes the same for colleagues asking for help. If you know that the request isn’t urgent, learn how to say no without making your co-workers feel bad.
Having a busy shift can make it easy for you to oversee things. As much as possible, don’t assume that every patient who will be reaching out to you will have a petty request. Their priorities can differ from yours, so make sure you still pay attention to what they have to say.
7. Take a break
Even if you don’t think you need a break, take one. Your body and mind still need to take a breather, especially with how hospital work can be stressful. Take the time to collect your thoughts, drink water, and take a bathroom break if needed.
Eat your meals on time, too. Your brain and body can only function at their best if you have enough energy. If eating a proper meal isn’t feasible, try snacking on some homemade energy bars, fruits, or sandwiches.
8. Know flexibility
If you work in the ward, you’ll know how unpredictable the setup can be. Because of this environment, you need to know how to refresh your priorities once in a while especially if there’ll be newly admitted patients that need urgent attention and care.
9. Be organised
Don’t let papers pile up at your table and avoid letting equipment lie around when not in use. Keeping your work space organised and clutter-free can help you stay productive throughout your shift. It can also help avoid work hazards.
10. Keep notes
Keeping mental notes of your task is acceptable. However, to ensure that you won’t miss out any important details, make it a habit to write things down. You can write all of your patients’ name on a paper along with the associated tasks you need to accomplish per person. If that isn’t your thing, you can simply create a to-do list and tick each box as you accomplish it. Keep the notebook easily accessible, like inside your uniform’s pocket. You can use the same thing in writing down laboratory values or important pieces of information from doctors.
11. Learn how to delegate
Nurses are part of a health care team. You aren’t supposed to do all things by yourself. There are LPNs and NAs that can help you accomplish more things during the shift.
When delegating, make sure that you are assigning the right task to the right person under the right circumstance. There should be continuous communication as well as instructions to avoid errors.
12. Don’t take things too hard
Time management is a skill that can’t be learned overnight. If you fail at your first attempt, don’t feel too stressed about it. There’s always the next day to hone your time management skills even more.