Time Management Tips for Nurses


Time management in nursing helps nurses organize and prioritize patient care, internal administrative tasks, educational responsibilities and personal obligations. Although nursing is a demanding profession, nurses who develop techniques to better manage their time can achieve balance in the face of time limitations.

Nurses who learn how to effectively manage their time see worthwhile benefits. According to the International Journal of Caring Sciences, effective time management in nursing can result in:

  • Greater productivity
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved efficiency
  • More opportunities for professional advancement
  • Greater opportunities to achieve career and life goals


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1. Set Achievable Goals

The first step nurses must take to increase productivity is to set tangible short-term and long-term goals. According to health care researchers, a common mistake is “to allow long-term goals to be dominated by more immediate and urgent short-term time demands.”

Nurses are encouraged to set career goals that are achievable within one to three years (ex. completing higher education) as they work toward long-term goals that can be completed in five to 10 years (ex. occupying leadership positions or clinical directorships).

Working nurses or nursing students can also write down daily tasks based on their perceived priority. Daily goals are more likely to change throughout the day, but certain procedures remain constant for nurses and can be solidified with routinization.


2. Implement Routinization

Routinization is a tool that helps nurses maximize time efficiency. Routinization involves “repeating what works in your routine in a systematic process so that the consistency helps with time management.” Creating a consistent routine enhances time management in nursing by eliminating unnecessary planning and turning essential tasks into habits.

We engage in routinization every day when we wake up, shower and brush our teeth; the same method can be applied to a nursing profession. Routinization is designed for necessary daily responsibilities, from collecting patient health histories to performing physical exams.

A nurse should make a list of routine tasks and sequence each task based on the duration and prioritization of each item. Implementing a step-by-step process for habitual duties can save time daily.


3. Start Cognitive Stacking

Creating a routine to manage predictable responsibilities is a clear solution, but how can nurses manage unpredictable tasks and unforeseen changes? According to the Lippincott Nursing Center, cognitive stacking is a “workflow management process that helps nurses set priorities and manage their time.”

Time management in nursing requires dynamic change management. Working nurses can engage in cognitive stacking by determining what level of care is necessary, what care is possible and how they can best deliver necessary care with their available resources and time. Nurses are required to constantly reorganize tasks as higher priority items arise.

Stethoscope and hourglass


4. Take Time to Rest

Work-related burnout is a common risk among health care workers. A recent publication found that more than 15% of nurses interviewed reported feelings of burnout and 56% of nurses interviewed said their health care facility was either slightly or highly ineffective at dealing with burnout. Burnout can also result in adverse consequences, such as:

  • Reduced quality of patient care
  • Reduced quality of mental health among health care workers
  • Increase in depression, anxiety and substance abuse among health care workers
  • Higher instances of error in a hospital setting

Time management in nursing is not solely concerned with increasing productivity. It involves taking time to rest and recharge. Nurses must take regular breaks and prioritize time off to prevent work-related burnout.


5. Delegate Work

After optimizing time management in nursing, nurses still ask for help and rely on a network of collaborative health care workers. The American Nurses Association (ANA) released a guide on principles for delegation to help with time management in nursing.

According to the guide, delegation in nursing is “the assignment of the performance of activities or tasks related to patient care to unlicensed assistive personnel while retaining accountability for the outcome.”

The guide instructs nurses on how to make responsible decisions about delegating nursing responsibilities. The ANA says that a nurse’s decision to delegate should be based on the following:

  • The care complexity of the patient
  • The availability of the worker accepting the delegation
  • The type of supervision required
  • The intensity of supervision required

Delegation works best when health care workers have a positive work relationship, the ability to collaborate and use open communication. Delegation should not be used when nursing decisions must be made by a licensed RN. This tool for better time management in nursing can be used for administrative tasks or routine procedures rather than nursing responsibilities that rely on critical training.


6. Enroll in a Flexible Online Doctor of Nursing Practice Program

Nurses learn how to manage competing responsibilities when they balance their academic, personal and professional lives. Online Doctor of Nursing Practice - Family Nurse Practitioner (DNP-FNP) programs teach students time management in nursing tips while allowing students the flexibility to complete the program on their terms.

Marymount University’s DNP-FNP program is offered on a part-time basis so working nurses can complete an advanced nursing degree while continuing to work full-time. Earning an advanced nursing degree is a tangible way to develop time management in nursing skills in courses like “Innovative Models of Care Delivery,” which teaches students how to balance productivity with quality of care.


7. Use Clinical Placement Services

Finding the right clinical placement can be challenging and time-consuming for nursing students. Nursing students can save time by enrolling in a school that offers a placement upfront.

Marymount University has a team of Clinical Placement Coordinators that work to secure every student a well-suited clinical placement by using a connected network of healthcare professionals and resources. Students can focus on immersing themselves in their placement rather than investing their own time to seek one out.

Engaging in a clinical placement during nursing school also teaches nursing students how to start applying theoretical concepts from courses like “Leadership, Quality, and Ethics in Health Care” to real-world settings.


8. Build a Support System

Time management in nursing is an issue that working nurses have dealt with for decades. It’s beneficial for nursing students to connect with their peers, instructors and fellow working nurses to share different time management in nursing strategies and build a solid support system.

The importance of mentorship in nursing cannot be overstated. Healthy mentor-mentee nursing partnership results in the following benefits:

  • Improved nursing staff retention
  • Reduced isolation
  • Increased opportunity for promotion
  • Less transition time for learning
  • Improved teaching effectiveness

Nursing students who have less transition time for learning and experience improved teaching effectiveness can start applying learnings to their practice. Joining a community of nursing experts and instructors enables this success and reduces wasted time.


9. Stop Multitasking

As a working nurse or a nursing student, you likely have several items on your to-do list, however, you must tackle the list one item at a time. New research finds that not only is multitasking ineffective, but it can be damaging to our brains. Multitasking reduces your ability to comprehend what you’re seeing and hearing by flooding the brain with competing information. The study concluded that multitasking makes you:

  • Less effective while multitasking
  • Less effective after multitasking
  • Less effective at prioritizing goals
  • Less effective in the presence of other multitaskers

Nurses should reduce multitasking by prioritizing one task at a time. Delegating certain tasks, prioritizing responsibilities and removing distractions can all help curb multitasking.


10. Remove Distractions

The modern world is full of tempting distractions, from social media feeds on smartphones to talkative coworkers in open-concept workspaces. If you want to succeed at better time management in nursing you need to remove common distractions.

Common interruptions and distractions in a healthcare setting include phone calls, coworkers, questions from patients or patients’ relatives. Distractions are especially dangerous in the administration of medication and can lead to higher instances of error.

One study found that nurses can engage in “interruption handling strategies” to maintain patient safety during medication administration to mitigate errors. Nursing students can also remove distractions during their studies by setting a timer and focusing on one task at a time.

Marymount University nursing graduating class


Start Your Nursing Career at Marymount University

The entry-level option for students with non-nursing undergraduate degrees is the Online ABSN. In just 16 months, Online ABSN students complete the following requirements in preparation for RN careers:

  • An on-campus residency
  • Clinical placements in Virginia
  • 100% online courses on topics like Research and Evidence-Based Practice

Marymount’s ABSN is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Nursing courses at Marymount are taught by practicing APRNs who can speak with authority about the profession. The university’s stellar reputation is confirmed by top U.S. News & World Report rankings in its National Universities and Nursing categories. 

If you want to become an RN, contact one of our student advisors to discuss if this program is right for you.


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