Tips for time management in acute care

Are you struggling to achieve everything you are meant to do during your shift on a regular basis?  Is it because your unit is short staffed or could  you manage your time better?

If it’s the latter, this article is for you.

According to Michelle Girdler, Nursing Director with the Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN), who helps lead the delivery of nurse education in clinical and professional contexts, time management is crucial to delivering care successfully when staff are frequently pulled in multiple directions during a shift.

“It’s important everywhere [in the workplace]… If your prioritisation abilities and your time management is not tight, you’re not going to provide patient-centred care,” Ms Girdler says.

“You will struggle to maintain control over situations and workloads.”

Ms Girdler largely worked in critical care areas like cardiology and emergency and progressed to nurse unit management before shifting to her current focus to nurse educator where she has been educating South Australian nurses for well over a decade.

Ms Girdler says the pitfalls of time management are common across professions.

“What I’ve found in the past is people with poor time management skills get caught up on not being able to meet particular timeframes or targets, the more they struggle the more they fall behind… and then they find themselves in a hole.

“It doesn’t matter what field they work in, whether it’s an office setting or acute care ward situation.”

With this in mind, Ms Girdler offers tips for those who are looking to improve their time management skills while working in a care-focused environment:

  • Stay constantly engaged: “You don’t always get a choice about what you do, but you have a choice about how you do it. That may be a new task or a new learning, you need to be engaged enough to be able to take that on board so that you can get the best out of it.”
  • It’s okay to say no: “People will take on things, take on things and take on things to be people pleasers… that’s when they start to get snowed under. Learn to say no – ‘I have enough to do, thank you.’”
  • Only multi-skill if you’re good at it: “Unless you are an expert at multi-skilling, don’t. Taking on too much, trying to do too many things at once, can lead to errors – Errors [that] can be fatal in some cases… I don’t think I’ve found many people that multi-skill exceptionally well.”
  • Get rid of bad habits: “When you find habits that are not constructive you need to remove them from your workday.”

“The need here is to develop practices for time management that are constructive and help you own the day, not the day own you… Don’t be afraid to ask for help to improve your time keeping skills.”

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