How To Manage & Prioritise Tasks as a Nurse

Written by Natalie Sarmiento

As we get into the groove of January and all that the new year brings, it’s important to reflect upon work and establish a good work flow, especially as many people return to their jobs after the busy holiday period. Working in the healthcare industry is often one that is demanding, time consuming and stressful. It can be easy to get overwhelmed and lost under the weight of work, especially when you get disorganised. An important new year’s resolution for everyone is to stay organised to avoid stressful situations. Establishing a set list of techniques to help manage & prioritise your tasks means you will be able to work efficiently & effectively. In this article, we will provide you with ways you can manage your workload 

  • Organisation is Key 
  • Set Goals 
  • Create A Routine 
  • Avoid Distractions 
  • Prioritise & Order Your Tasks 
  • Communicating Is Important 
  • Find Times To Rest
  • Your Next Steps
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Organisation Is Key 

When tackling a long list of tasks for the day, organisation is key. Whether it’s organising your work space or your paperwork, it can maintain workflow. There are a plethora of instruments to use to stay organised. Creating a calendar and marking down important dates, scheduling your days, weeks & months out, informing your managers of periods that you may be gone throughout the year in advance, or keeping a diary on hand can be very effective. In this day & age, it is possible to get digital versions of these organisational tools. This means you’ll be able to stay organised at the press of a button!

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Set Goals 

Setting goals before completing big tasks is effective in prioritising your tasks and managing expectations in the workplace. Creating a set of goals can establish a process for evaluating & monitoring progress toward your goals in your nursing career going forward. You can have both short-term and long-term goals, but both work in tandem. Your short term goals can all work together to benefit your aspirations later on in your career. An example of some short-term goals are helping out 3 of your fellow nurses during a shift. An example of a long-term goal is progressing to a higher ranking role (such as manager) to your current one. The next time you have freetime in the break room, try to create a list of smaller goals that you want to complete during your shift and create one long-term goal that you want to achieve by the end of the year. 

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Create A Routine

Every good work day starts with a good routine. A routine is regular and is a set of tasks that occur at certain times of the day (for example, a morning job to get the blood pumping before you head into work). It was found that by having an established routine, you’re more likely to get things done efficiently and effectively. A good routine is also key in prioritising all your tasks for the day and managing your time. With nursing & agency work, you are likely to be jumping around with shift times. Try creating different routines – one morning routine for your night shifts and vise versa. Set routines are good for your overall health, and reduce your stress/anxiety levels as you are less likely to feel overwhelmed or uncertain about what’s coming next.

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Avoid Distractions 

Distractions are the bane of productivity and is a one way ticket into procrastination land. They can come in a variety of forms, whether it’s your phone that won’t stop buzzing in your pocket, to a colleague that loves to tell long stories during work. There are simple steps that you can take to avoid distractions. This includes blocking out time for breaks, limiting your social time to breaks & after work, avoiding multitasking when possible, setting boundaries with your colleagues and putting any objects away in a place where you can’t see.

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Prioritise & Order Your Tasks 

At the start of your shift, it’s important to debrief with your managers and attendings to get an overview of your tasks for the day. With a list of tasks, you will be able to manage and prioritise tasks based on importance & timing. The tasks that are of high priority and those that might take longer to do should be completed first as opposed to those that can be completed in a short time. You should also consider the likelihood of tasks that may crop out of the blue. There may be a situation where your attendings need more helping hands, so being prepared and taking into account these tasks are also important. 

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Communicating Is Important 

In any career path, communication is always key in establishing productivity and maintaining good morale within the workplace. If there is a lack of communication, then tasks may get lost along the way which can minimise productivity levels. An effective line of communication at work can build empathy and reduce any future misunderstandings from happening. It can also force you to develop your speaking skills and help you to handle conflicts better, preparing you for any situation that may arise. So, during your next shift, ensure that you are relaying all tasks to your manager and always ask your fellow nurses if you need help. Teamwork (and good communication!) definitely makes the dreamwork. 

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Find Time To Rest 

While your work is important, finding time to rest & recover is even more important. By allocating the time to relax, your overall emotional, physical & mental wellbeing (which are all things that can affect your work) can be improved. Ensuring you get the right amount of sleep each night is key. After a long day’s work there are also many ways that you can unwind. Partaking in your favourite hobby, hanging out with your family & friends, or having a chill day can effectively ease your mind and take yourself away from the stress of work.

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Your Next Steps

It’s a new year, and the perfect time to get organised as the year starts to ramp up. We hope this article was helpful in offering helpful tips that you may implement in both your working and at-home life. Healthcare HQ sends our regards to all nurses and healthcare workers and we hope you have a great year ahead!


Disclaimer: The advice provided in this article is general in nature. For more information relating to your individual circumstances, please speak to your healthcare provider.


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