It's about time . . . management

Nurse Leader Insider, August 12, 2005

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Getting staff to understand the importance of time management--or to show up to a scheduled training session on the topic--can be difficult. Ironically, because staff are so tapped for time, they allow time management training to drop to the bottom of their priorities. Although formal education is a great way to tune nurses in to time management, encouraging them to share their own strategies is also a valuable training tool.

"Learning to balance priorities and tasks within a shift is a skill that nurses learn over time. We can help each other learn and improve this skill by exploring tools or sharing experiences," says Lana Bernat, RN, BSN, a staff nurse in the Family Birthing Center at Regina Medical Center in Hastings, MN.

In the time management self-learning module she created for nurses, Bernat not only has experienced and novice nurses share their time management and organizational experiences with each other, but she also outlines which techniques work for her.

For example, Bernat shares the following strategy with nurses: "After establishing contact with my assigned patients, I make two lists. One is based on time, and one is based on duties. These lists help me organize tasks that need to happen at a certain time and guide my assessments, as well."

Bernat's other advice includes the following:

Seek information from experienced nurses. Encourage novice nurses to learn from the earlier challenges of the experienced nurses in your hospital.

Use the Internet wisely. Explain the benefits of joining nursing forums.

The early bird gets more done. Explain to nurses that arriving even a few minutes early for a shift can help them better organize their time. Encourage them to take that time to plan their shifts and the tasks they'd like to accomplish by quitting time.

Avoid common distractions. A nurse's best time management efforts can be derailed by distractions such as personal issues, problems with coworkers, or too much socializing. Challenge nurses to stay focused on the task at hand.

Delegate, delegate, delegate. Perfectionism or wanting to take control of every situation will not help nurses manage their time wisely. Instead, teach them to delegate when appropriate. Find a decision-making model and use it to help them hone in on their delegation skills.

Source: Adapted from Competency Management Advisor (August 2005), published by HCPro, Inc.

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