Time Management Techniques for Nurse Practitioners

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Today’s Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are being challenged to take on increasing levels of responsibility, especially as the Affordable Care Act kicks in. A new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reveals that Nurse practitioners (NPs) are already providing primary care alongside physicians and physician assistants. More NPs are now managing chronic conditions and coordinating care transitions. 
If you’re like many new NPs, your morning starts off with a schedule of over a dozen patients to see before noon—with the previous night's callback waiting to be addressed before you see patient number one. Then come the prescriptions, setting up exam rooms, and a folder full of “prior authorization” paperwork. You glance at your watch and wonder: how will you squeeze 8 hours of work into 4 hours?
To survive your first 6 months without ending up in the psych ward, there are a few things you can and should do. 
First off, learn to pace yourself. Marathon runners don’t go all out in the first few miles. They fall into a steady, well-paced rhythm. New NPs often dive into the job and take on more than they should to impress their supervisors. Avoid this trap. While your career is important, your identity and self worth are not based on your job. 
Refresh and regroup by taking a 15-minute timeout. This is not just a physical break, but a mental one as well. Find a quiet bench under a tree outside, or an empty pew in the hospital’s chapel. Make this a daily routine. Take a coffee break at 4 p.m., and stay away from those energy drinks—they’re bad for you. Don't woof down lunch at your desk while catching up on charting. If you’re the sociable type, share a lunch and a laugh with coworkers, and don't talk shop. 
Organize and prioritize your workload. Time Management Success advises how to pick your next tasks. If the tasks don’t need an immediate response, schedule them during your next shift. This will leave you with a list of things to do during your next shift. Unless the task has has a specific deadline, what you do first will be less important than actually doing something on each ongoing task or project. If you need to pick a task, prioritize based on urgency. 
Time management should ultimately revolve around the most important part of your job—the needs and well-being of your patients. Here you must prioritize and do so quickly since patient care priorities can change rapidly and decisions must often be made in a matter of seconds. At this point, you’ll need to ask yourself what the likely consequences of not dealing with a task would be. This will dictate whether you should address the situation immediately, in the next few minutes, or during the shift.
As with any job, NP work has a learning curve. You’ll fall behind when you first start. Don’t beat yourself up over this. It’s normal. It’ll take a few weeks to learn how the office works—from computer billing to finding supplies.

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  • natalie c
    natalie c
    great information to better understand how a practitioner should work. Thanks
  • Alex A. Kecskes
    Alex A. Kecskes
    Thanks, Victoria. Best of luck in your career.
  • Victoria L
    Victoria L
    Good practical advice that one can actually implement very easily.
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