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Time Management Tips for Nurses in the ICU


Today I thought I would talk about time management. Specifically time management for nurses working in the ICU. As an ICU nurse, fitness and wellness blogger, personal trainer, and dog mom I’ve become pretty good at managing my time over the years so I thought I would share tips I’ve learned. 

As an ICU nurse, task prioritization is essential during your shift. There are medications due at certain times, labs that need to be drawn, tests and procedures, bedside care, family updates, rounds with the doctors, and more. The list goes on and on that’s why time management is essential. 


Time management on a med/surg floor is very different from time management in critical care. I’m going share some tips that I’ve learned over the years to help you appropriately manage your time in a critical care setting.  It can definitely be scary at first, but it will get easier over time.

    • Get report from the nurse from the previous shift.
    • Look at orders, meds (specifically what meds are due at 0900, PRN meds orders, and continuous drips), lab results, notes from MDs and other specialities, test results (chest X-ray, CT scan, MRI)
    • Plan your day
    • What patient needs to be seen first?
    • Do your patients have any procedures/scans/tests on or off the floor?   
    • Check your drips at the bedside
        • What lines need to be changed, when?
        • How much is left of your fluids/drips?


    • Assess your patients, administer medications, turn and reposition (check skin), and begin charting
    • Grab everything you need before heading into a room- meds, syringes, flushes, linen, IV tubing, etc. whatever you need so that you’re not running in and out of your patient’s room. It’s faster if you spend more time in a room and completing multiple tasks at once than one task at a time for each patient. It’s better to complete tasks slightly early or slightly late than to let everything end up being late.


    • Move quickly at the beginning to get everything done. Beginning of shifts are busiest between meds and getting that first assessment charted. Even if you are ahead or don’t have anything pressing going on, move fast to get these things done. Things can change quickly in the ICU.
    • Stop and think: “Which patient needs me the most right now?”
    • Ask a coworker for help prioritizing if you’re unsure
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Delegate to your coworkers the task-oriented things (administering meds, taking blood sugars, drawing labs, etc) and not the things that require you to provide information about your patient that would take long to explain


    • If you are pressed for time, chart the ABNORMAL things only and go back later to finish charting.
    • If you don’t have time to chart a full assessment, at least write a note to sum up the events with your patient and go back and chart the assessment later
    • If it’s appropriate, copy and paste your assessment and change what needs to be changed (saves a LOT of time).


  1. Have a consistent routine and stay ahead. Do your best to have your charting done, even if you think you have nothing pressing going on. Things change QUICKLY in the ICU. You could all of a sudden have your assignment change and get an unstable admission, transfer, or post- op and may not have time to go back to your stable patient’s assessment from the morning.
  2. Anticipate and prepare. What do i mean by this?! If you know there will be a bedside procedure have everything ready before the MD comes into the room to start. If you have to go to MRI that afternoon, have the MRI pump and emergency med box at the bedside ready to go. If you anticipate and prepare you won’t have to frantically grab supplies last minute.
    3. Be meticulous!!! The little details matter! Know everything you can about your patient.

ICU nurses, what are your time management tips?