Developing Patience: Time Management in Nursing

Time management in nursing

Nurses have to process a ton of details during their average shift, and they always have to be prepared to adapt when things don’t go as planned. Time is often critical—particularly in clinical environments like emergency care and acute care—so managing your minutes appropriately is an essential skill.

When the pressure is on it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and in the weeds, and that can put nurses at risk for making mistakes. Sometimes being a nurse is exhausting both physically and emotionally, and in these moments it’s vital to have routines and strategies to make your life a little easier.

While many nurses exemplify teamwork and are always willing to lend a hand when the times get tough, solid time management skills can be your first and best ally whether you’re in the ER or just delivering some apple juice to the pediatrics wing. 

Juggling Your Responsibilities

At the core of every nursing role is a set of routine responsibilities that create a framework for the day. Depending on where you’re working, this might include things like receiving reports from the previous shift, reviewing the plan of care for your patients, nursing assessments, patient teaching, and setting up patients for success when they’re finally headed out the door. 

These more repetitive tasks are easy to itemize on paper, but the fact is they represent only a fraction of what nurses face in a day. Woven in between the foundational milestones are numerous events that require a departure from routine. Problem solving, reprioritization of care, changes in patient condition, and emergent situations are just a few of the wrenches that can be tossed into an otherwise well-oiled machine. 

Nurses who are not successful at managing their responsibilities often become chronically overwhelmed, leading to heightened levels of stress and anxiety on the job that can put them at risk for things like burnout. Time management in nursing is a skill that develops over time, but it also needs to be actively pursued and nurtured to stay at the top of your game. Here are some of the key areas to consider to optimize the limited time you have and manage adversity on the fly. 

Be on Time and Ahead of The Game

Have you ever had a rough start to the day, and the impact of that morning ripples its way through the rest of your shift? Whether it impacts your mood, your stress level, or has you just feeling off your game, how we start the day matters.

Good time management in nursing begins with everything that happens before you walk in the door. Actively plan out your week, and take into account things like transportation, meal prep, family obligations, etc. The better organized you are, the more headspace you’ll have to focus on your job. Even simple things like making sure you have time to eat breakfast without hustling out the door can be the difference between a comfortable morning and brain fog until lunch. 

If you show up to work ready to care for your patients, that’s exactly what you’ll be able to do. That’s not to say life won’t sometimes get in the way, but a solid pre-work routine can offer a little buffer when your day throws you a curveball.

Organizing Your Time

Time management in nursing is all about using structure, prioritization, and teamwork to provide the best care you possibly can for all the patients you and your coworkers are responsible for. By establishing a framework and setting expectations, you’ll be able to fit in all the details in the time you have and be ready to handle the unexpected.  

Create a Plan

Creating a plan and identifying important tasks will allow you to triage the needs of your patients. For many nurses, the simplest answer is the best: a basic written checklist allows quick identification of what needs to be done so they can check things off as they are managed in real time.

Also, some electronic medical records will actually generate a task list for you. These digital systems are convenient when a team needs to coordinate quickly since they are centralized and can be updated and assessed at a glance. This can be especially important when multiple people are responsible for ensuring a patient’s overall care is being managed properly. 


Unfortunately, multitasking is a myth. It’s something we think we can do, but in reality, our brains are just hopping quickly between tasks and fragmenting our train of thought. In the end, multitasking hurts more than helps, and it’s much better to delegate tasks among team members so they can be done well rather than trying to do everything by yourself.  

Minimize Distractions

Distractions are everywhere, and while some are unavoidable it’s often valuable to spend some time evaluating common sources to limit their impact. Smart phones, for example, have become a staple accessory for many, but indulging constant communication can pull attention away from the task at hand.  

Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself when you need to concentrate and be free of interruptions. Making it known that you are about to start your med pass and would prefer to be interrupted only for emergencies can help you streamline your work and support medication safety.

Anticipate Needs

The ability to anticipate the needs of your patients and their evolving care plan is something that comes with time and experience, but it should also be consciously developed. 

If there are common unscheduled interjections that need to be managed on generally recurring timelines, attempting to build them into your routine can help minimize the impact. For instance, proactively rounding on your patients and assisting them to the restroom may prevent that call bell from going off when doing your next dressing change. Obtaining supplies for a procedure and having them ready when the physician arrives is a testament to your immersion in the plan of care, and can buy a little extra time for everyone else in the room who may be overwhelmed. 

Time Management in Nursing is the Key to Success

Good time management in nursing is not something most people learn in school; it develops over time as nurses develop professionally through education and experience. Premiere specializes in delivering the best continuing education for healthcare professionals, offering industry-leading content created by experts in their field.

Organization begins with knowledge, and Premiere’s Unlimited Nursing CEU Subscription makes keeping current and staying on top of your game easy, informative, and accessible whenever you have a break in your busy schedule. 

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