There are so many positive points and rewards when you are a nurse. It’s the kind of career that you can stick with for life if you choose to, and you’ll gain a lot from it. If you want to help other people and enjoy what you do – if you want to make a real difference – nursing could be the ideal career for you. 

There are, of course, some negatives when it comes to nursing, though. You’ll need to work shifts and long hours, and you might be asked to help out colleagues by switching shifts or taking on additional work (although this should always be done in a fair way, with them returning the favor if you need them to). This, plus the fact that you’ll be extremely busy at work (but also have a home life to fit in), can mean that time management is difficult. It can mean that you miss out on things you want to do or career opportunities that would help you advance just because you’re so busy. 

The good news is that you don’t have to work like this. Yes, it’s true that shift work will take some getting used to, and those shifts will be long and busy, but with good time management skills, you can ensure that everything gets done and you have the time you need to spend with friends and family or relaxing as well. Read on to find out more about useful time management tips for nurses that will really benefit you. 

Schedule In Advance 

Something that can be truly beneficial when it comes to good time management is making a schedule in advance of what you have to do. Of course, this might sound impossible; the role of a nurse is varied and changes from day to day, so can you really schedule anything? The answer is that you can, although it might be a little broader than a schedule made by someone working in an office where every day is the same, for example. 

A nurse’s schedule needs to consist of a good morning routine (or evening, depending on the time of the shift – the time before going to work, in any case) that gets you ready for the day, feeling awake and alert, and productive. You’ll also need to incorporate anything else you need to do; is there a school play to watch? A birthday party to attend? Do you really want to take a long soak in the tub to relax? Make sure these things are on the schedule so that you don’t forget about them. Finally, you’ll arrive at the time you’re due at work. Although you won’t know what you’re going to come up against, you will know how long you’ll be working (roughly, at least), so map outbreak times and your lunch break. You might have to be flexible, but as long as you tick everything off the schedule, you’ll have managed your time well. 

Arrive Early 

Arriving at work early might not seem to be a particularly good way to manage your time; surely you’re losing time you could be spending asleep or getting ready or any number of other things? Although you are losing some time elsewhere, this time – perhaps just five or ten minutes – at work when you’re not technically working can be very useful. 

You can use your extra few minutes to read through handover notes and familiarize yourself with the patients and what happened during the last shift in terms of their care. That way, you’ll be ready to help them and already know what ailments they suffer with. You can also see who is working with you and get a gauge on how busy things will be. These few minutes can ensure you are calm and collected when you start your shift. Imagine how different it would be if you ran into the department with moments to spare (or even if you were late) and didn’t have the time to orient yourself properly. You would be stressed and unsure, and this would be picked up by your patients. It’s far better to get to work early and ease into your day. 

Study Online 

As a nurse, it’s likely that you’ll be studying for a new qualification at some point. This makes sense; it’s the best way to advance your career, and it ensures that your nursing goals will be met, as well as giving you the most up-to-date information on how to take the best care of your patients. 

The problem is that attending regular classes is going to be very difficult to do if you’re working shifts; it will be impossible, even, for many people. This can limit your career options and make you feel very frustrated. Either that or you might have to take time off work to study which, despite gaining you a qualification, will lose you experience. 

The answer is to study online. You can take all kinds of nursing degrees online, and the qualifications you receive are recognized throughout the world. Because the classes are online, though, you can study at times that work for you – times you can schedule into your daily or weekly plan. In this way, you don’t have to compromise on your learning or your nursing career. Of course, you’ll still need to make time for studying, but when you can do it at a time that works for you rather than having to stick to a rigid schedule, this is much easier. 

Prioritize Your Tasks 

When you are a nurse at work, everything is going to seem important, and it won’t be easy to prioritize when you’re in the thick of things. Yet this is exactly what you must do when you want to be better at time management. To make this easier, you’ll need to take a moment and ask yourself four important questions. These are:

  • What has to be done first and why does it have to be the first task?
  • What are the most important tasks that have to be done, and why? 
  • What will happen if the task does not get done? 
  • What will help the patient most? 

By asking – and answering truthfully – these questions, you can gauge what the most important tasks are and what can be left until later. These later tasks might have to be handed over to the next shift, so make sure they are ones that are not urgent. Although it can be hard to tell what’s best, this is something that comes with experience, and if you’re not sure, it’s best to ask a colleague for their advice rather than trying to tackle things alone. Asking for help is one of the best ways to learn, so although it can be hard to admit you don’t know something, it’s crucial and also beneficial. 


If you want to have good time management skills, you need to understand how much you can really do, and how much you need to delegate to others. Although it’s tempting to think that you can do it all because it’s your job or because you have something to prove, that’s not how the human body works – your brain might be willing, but is your body able? In some cases, you might even find that your mind gets tired and you aren’t able to focus on what you’re doing, especially since multitasking is said to be less productive than previously thought. 

Delegating isn’t always going to be easy. After all, the nurses in your department are all going to be busy. However, it’s worth looking into as an option if it means you can be less stressed and therefore offer better patient care. 

If you do decide to use this tactic, you’ll need to choose someone who you know is capable of the task you’re asking them to do. If you don’t choose wisely, you might have to spend time quickly getting the person you asked up to speed, or save time by not running them through it and it could generate more work later. Both scenarios can ultimately lead to an increase in workload and more time required to complete it – potentially negatively impacting patient care. 

Learn To Say No

Saying no is a valuable skill that takes time, experience, and confidence to learn to do well. However, when it comes to time management, there are few things that will help quite as much as this. When you are able to say no to someone who asks you to do something, you’ll find that you free up a lot of time that would otherwise be taken up doing things for other people. 

Does that sound harsh? It might at first, but when you look more closely at it, you’ll realize it’s not a bad thing at all. The key is to be honest. If you are able to do something for someone, then by all means take on the task (just as you would hope someone would take on a task that you asked them to do, going back to delegation). This shows you are willing and a positive member of the team, and it helps all the patients. However, if you are already swamped with work or you don’t know how to do something, it’s best to say no. Again, you’re being honest, and if you often say yes, the person asking will understand when you do say no. Don’t feel as though you have to do everything that is asked of you if you truly can’t because this can lead to burnout if you’re not careful, and it will certainly mean time management becomes a lot harder.

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