Work Smarter with the NURSE Prioritization Strategy

Nurses are busy people. We work in chaotic environments, where anything can happen. We get pulled and pushed from one ward to another, dealing with what seems like an endless string of emergencies. If you want to understand the stress of multi-tasking, spend an hour in the shoes of a nurse in the emergency room.

We nurses don’t have the luxury of unbreakable structure in our daily lives. What we do have is busy. We do what we must, when we must. We have a never-ending and growing list of tasks. We have questions and concerns to field from patients, physicians, and colleagues. It’s like being on a carousel that doesn’t stop. It’s dizzying. Time management in nursing? Is there really such a thing?

Somehow, we manage to get our work done and make it home, where we get to wash away the insanity of the day and return to the normality of our home lives. Relax, rest, repeat. Busy? We just get on with it.

Efficiency: Working Smarter, Not Harder

One thing that we all had to learn as new nurses – and quickly – was how to work smarter, not harder. We work hard enough.

The only way to get through that list of tasks is to be smart about it. Otherwise, you risk burnout and making mistakes: and that’s something we can’t afford to do. A mistake in a bank may cost a few dollars. A mistake in a hospital is infinitely more expensive.

To keep on top of our game, we must remember our role as a nurse. We are constantly faced with making judgements and allotting our own time wisely. To do so, we must have a method that helps us to cut through the chaos and make sense of our task list.

NURSE: The Answer to Time Management in Nursing

When faced with the impossible – that’s every day – it’s easy to lose your self-control. You want to scream, pull your hair out, and curl up in a dark place until the madness goes away. But you can’t do that. You’re a nurse, and there’s a lot of people who depend on you keeping it together. Your calmness brings calmness to the chaos. Your demeanor gives others confidence.

Okay, so how do you stamp all over that internal turmoil that wants to burst out of you? How do you make sense of that task list, and get through the day in one piece, as strong as you were when you walked through the doors at the beginning of your shift?

The answer is to remember NURSE – an acronym for prioritization.

N = Now

The tasks that must be done within minutes.

U = Urgent

Those things that are important, but not as critical as the N tasks. The things that must be done within the next 30 minutes.

R = Ramifications

Not things that must be done now. Not things that could turn lives upside down if they aren’t done in the next 30 minutes. Nevertheless, these things are time-constrained, and must be done in the next two hours.

S = Standard

These are the routine tasks that you must do during the day. they can wait, but you must do them.

E = End of day

Finally, the tasks that you must ensure are done before you go home. Completing notes and handing over.

Through the Clouds of Chaos, Be the Guiding Light of Calmness and Efficiency

Things happen in hospitals. Learning to work efficiently is something we all must do when we’re new to the job. Our patients depend on our productivity.

Using NURSE to prioritize your tasks is an essential skill. But you must still prioritize fluidly and flexibly. As you work through your to-do list, it will alter. It’s chaotic in a hospital. Just when you think you have things under control, things happen to upset your rhythm. That’s when you must work fastest. Make those judgements, adjust your list, compose yourself, and GO!

Finally, never be afraid to ask for help or guidance. Learn from the experience of others. Remember, your supervisors and more seasoned nurses have all been where you are. They all had to learn what worked best for them, identify their own strengths and weaknesses, and how to balance all the demands made on them.

As a new nurse, you’ve picked a profession that is always busy. A role in which you can excel by practicing compassion and kindness. Yes, you’ll have a load of balls in the air simultaneously all day, every day. You love what you do, but it’s infuriating and frustrating. Replace the panic with peace. Practice NURSE, and you really will give your absolute best to your patients, and to yourself.

If you have any tips for time management in nursing, we’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to talk through your biggest problems with prioritization, don’t hesitate to contact us. Nurses – we’re a family.