Bedside time management is something that just takes time to establish. Every nurse finds a routine that works best for them. I still draw little boxes next to each medication and lab that needs to be drawn and check them off through the shift as they are done. I learned this from my first preceptor fresh out of school and have continued now almost fourteen years later.
Prepare for your shift by being well fed and well rested. If you are hungry or tired, you will have to add this to your already sometimes challenging day. Make a habit of starting your shift fresh and ready. Before hitting the floor, try to get your patient assignment in order. It starts with report. Be sure to listen attentively and ask questions. Prepare your own patient specific kardex to keep with you through the shift including a brief history, reason for hospitalization and what the current problem or issue is, similar to SBAR.
Know Your Meds
Every unit has routinely prescribed medications. Learn them. Memorize their indication, usual dosage, side effects, and interactions. Know your insulin. Memorizing routine unit specific medications ahead of time is an excellent way to save time spent in the care of your patient at the bedside.
Establish a Routine
Establish a shift routine. My routine typically starts with report, followed by a proper hand to elbow scrub, and then a quick glance at my patients including their monitors, pumps, and/or ventilator settings. I then sit down to write up a plan for the shift including any tests, labs, medications, or special considerations that need to be noted for each patient.
Bear in mind that’s some days you have to jump in before having a chance to plan.
Learn to Delegate
I can not emphasize how important this is for you to succeed. It took me a long time to not try to do everything myself. Delegation is part of your job description. Do not feel bad asking for help. Know what you need help with and who can help you. And then simply ask.
Chart when you can. Patient care is the priority. Keep a small piece of scratch paper or notebook in your pocket. If you walk into an assignment that requires your attention immediately, keep jotting down what you did and when as you go along. You can use it to refer back later when you get the chance to sit down.
Like anything else as a new nurse, time is your friend. The longer you work, the easier you will find time management. And those days where it seems impossible? Just let it go. Give your patients the best care you can regardless.
Lori is an American nurse and yogini living in Gothenburg, Sweden. She contributes regularly to Mighty Nurse, AWHONN, American Nurse Today, and has been featured in The Huffington Post. Follow her adventures through her blog, Neonurse, or on Instagram.