*Original post released 7/11/2021
Productivity can be a hard discussion to have with others…and more importantly with ourselves. In the nursing profession, our patients cannot afford for our labor to not be fruitful. Most of the time, therefore, productivity is largely concerned with how efficient we our with our time and resources. In this article, we’ll discuss some general tips for enhancing your productivity as well as tips for those in nursing school and those with careers as nursing professionals. Remember to keep an open mind as you read through the article, because some tips may resonate more with you than others.
General Productivity Tips
First and foremost, it may be wise to consider what tasks need to be accomplished for a day the night beforehand (or vice versa for those who are night owls). Doing this helps avoid the stress of planning your day out in the morning or preoccupying yourself with where to start. I recommend writing these tasks down on a physical piece of paper so the goals of the day become tangible. Why? This allows you to cross items off as they are completed, which is satisfying. It’s a constant visible representation of those goals, so you can hold yourself more accountable than if you were to use an app on your phone which can readily be ignored or closed out of convenience.
Make sure you consider the importance and urgency of each item on your list and prioritize the more important/urgent items first. If none of the items are more important or urgent than the others, do the least desirable tasks first so you’re less likely to procrastinate. It’s much easier to complete tasks that you enjoy, so hopefully that means you’ll use less energy and be more efficient with those items on your list.
Finally, cluster your activities! Try to group similar items on your list so you can accomplish more at once. The momentum and sense of accomplishment achieved when crossing off multiple items on your list in a short period of time. If possible, use automated systems for routine and/or recurrent tasks (Ex: bills) if possible.
Nursing School Productivity Tips
The demands of nursing school are no joke. It’s incredibly important to know how you work best and play to your strengths during this time. Don’t allow the stress to get to you and overwhelm you. If the task is large, find smaller steps you can complete to work towards its completion. Listen to your body and embrace its energy; adjust your approach to complete the most tasks when you feel the best. Utilize a planner, whether physical or digital, to help organize how you allocate your time.
I strongly urge you to complete a self assessment to determine how you learn best; then, use that to your advantage. Study in an environment that is conducive to learning (Ex: home versus library) and utilize supplemental materials and resources whenever possible to supplement your learning style. One of the most efficient tips I can offer you in regards to nursing school productivity is to incorporate your lecture preparation into your study time! This knocks out two birds with one stone *metaphorically speaking.* Small rewards can be quite effective, especially if motivation is your issue. Whatever reward system works best for you, implement one. For example, study for a total of three hours with short intermittent breaks before you take a one hour break for your favorite TV show.
Engage others in your learning process! However, I express extreme caution with this tip… Make sure you have a good grasp on the material before you do this, then try to teach it to someone else. If you go into the situation with some understanding of the content, a group study session is much more likely to be productive. During the study process, consider the situation/problem/question in terms of what you would do; keep your approach intervention focused because it requires a deeper understanding of the material at hand to respond.
Finally, this may be a given, but make sure to ask for assistance sooner rather than later. Others, especially professors, are more willing to help you when you don’t wait until the last minute to reach out to them. Waiting until the last minute conveys irresponsibility, lack of dedication, and poor management of time. Be proactive with your assignments and tedious tasks that you know about in advance. This means utilizing your planner to chip away at those tasks on a daily basis rather than waiting until the last minute. Forming this habit not only reduces stress, it also may help improve your grades as it gives you more repetition with the material and time for revision on larger projects.
Nursing Productivity Tips
Once you’re a nurse, your patients will ultimately depend on your level of productivity…especially in areas such as critical care, neonatal, and emergency medicine. Start your shift off on the right foot by being on time, prepare for report, and making sure you have all the equipment necessary for your role. Take time to practice and get good at giving and receiving change of shift report, because your patients’ lives can depend on it. Once you’ve received bedside report, prioritize assessing your patients based on the ABCs. See the most critical patient first and then prioritize your patient care from there.
This may or may not be popular opinion, however, I am a firm believer that patient care comes before documentation every single time. Let me be clear, though, your documentation should not suffer as a result of the care you are providing. Keep a pocket book or something similar on your person to jot down important times and events during the timeframe you are unable to document (Ex: times of MDs rounding, studies, procedures, etc.). At the very least, attempt to document a patient note every two hours to prevent losing track of the timeline of events. Keep a portable clipboard nearby with pertinent notes in anticipation of random rounds. This will keep you prepared at all times.
Cluster your care and try your best to get tasks of patient care completed early on in your shift (I typically complete them with my first med pass because I spend the most amount of time with the patient during this time). Don’t delay studies and procedures if you can help it. While it may be more convenient at the time, it will likely cause you to rush towards the end of your shift and may not be what is best for your patient. Be organized and keep a tidy workspace/patient’s room; trust me when I say that this can help prevent mistakes. If you’re open for a new admission, do your best to have the room set up in advance so that you are ready when they arrive, can take better care of them (especially if critical), and don’t have to worry about doing this task last minute.
Hopefully this helped give you some insight and perspective into ways that might increase your productivity, no matter what stage of the nursing timeline you’re currently in. If you have some additional productivity tips that this article didn’t include, leave them as a comment below! Developing good habits as early as possible will help you thrive no matter the setting. I’m the meantime, happy studying!