New Nurse Needs Time Management Tips

Nurses Nurse Beth


Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

Dear Nurse Beth,

I have been a nurse for 8 months, and I need some tips on time management. With my patients' level of acuity, the constantly ringing phone, and the patient ratio, I'm feeling more like a medication delivery service than a nurse. I love taking time to connect with patients and families, but perhaps I talk too much because then I fail to chart promptly. I end up working 14-hour shifts to catch up. Do you have any tips on how to balance caring with efficiency? I feel like I've hit a wall and I'm failing to improve as a nurse.

Dear Need Time Management Tips,

I'm so glad to hear from you.You speak for so many new and newish nurses.

You are in the stage of new job” where you are resolving the ideals of nursing practice you learned in nursing school and hold dear with the realities of nursing practice as an employee. The challenge is to complete your tasks in the time allotted, and to not lose your values of connecting with your patients.

Every nurse goes through this. The successful nurses find a way to blend both sets of seemingly conflicting values. How to be compassionate and responsive and also how to be efficient.

Your patients need both. You will always walk this tightrope. It is important to resolve this because you are at much higher risk of burn-out until you do.

You must change your practice of procrastinating your charting to charting in real time as much as possible. It's a habit and you can do it. In the end, it's an immense relief to stay on top of your charting rather than have it be a looming burden all day.

I really hope you find your way and I am counting on the collective wisdom of the nurses here on allnurses and their practice tips.


Nurse Beth


Specializes in retired LTC.

Beth's recommendation re charting is soooo right. I found there were 2 kinds of charting for me. There was the immediate, as quick as possible, real-time charting. Like I was charting that phone call to Dr Asleep even as I was just hearing the phone ring on the other side.

That kind of charting kept all the details together and chronological. And was a done deal.

The second type of charting was that 'dear diary' type when routine, non-descript, blah-blah things needed charting. And even this kind, I sometimes could initiate ASAP.

But for the OP here, her biggest impediment appears to be her penchant to slow down for talking with her pts/families. This is her TIME KILLER. I don't mean to be MEAN but there is NO getting around this. She needs to be able to keep her interax to the 'short, sweet & brief'.

That chit-chatting was always my nemesis. I guess that's why I liked teaching/Staff Devel the best-est.

It will be difficult for OP to control it. But as a newbie, she's already seeing the dilemma between her must-do and nice-to-do tasks. When she gets a better handle on other aspects of her job's time management, she'll find the time to slow down and spend the 'connection' time that she values and enjoys. But that will take time & practice. And I'm talking real time, not just months. And then there's always the issue of quality vs quantity conversation. Isn't too much time for 'fluffy' conversation. But that too, will come with time & practice.

Finally, I found that I did best with some kind of 'to do list' or some type cheat sheet' that gave me guidance or 'reminders'. Just seeing that cheat sheet and knowing that I had 4 neb txs, 6 glucometer FSBS, 2 IVABT incl a vanco T&P and my full med pass, all that made me keep on movin'!

Specializes in Orthopedics, Med-Surg.

I feel your pain. I do. I used to go home every night feeling terrible about myself because I couldn't keep up. So I started to cheat. I won't go into details about how I cheated because nursing has changed since I started. Anyway, then I went home every night feeling bad about myself because I was cheating. Then I noticed that it seemed everybody else cheated too so I went home feeling pissed because nobody told me. They just let me fry.

The best legitimate advice that I can give you is to never go down the hall for just one reason if you can help it. I do this in my private life as well. Going downstairs to check on something? Bring something upstairs on your way back. Never waste a trip for just one thing.

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