7 Time Management Tips for Healthcare Professionals

In Career Advice
May 31, 2016

Time Management Tips for Healthcare Professionals

As a healthcare professional, juggling your responsibilities can be a daunting task, so we’ve come up with these time management tips to help you relieve those everyday pressures.

Like all healthcare professionals, you want to give each and every patient your undivided attention. This means answering their questions, making sure they understand any diagnosis, medications, and the steps they need to take. However, at the same time you need to manage your time so that you can fulfill all of your responsibilities throughout the day.

It may seem to the patient that hospitals and clinics run behind, but with so many variables taking up your time, it can feel impossible to keep things on track. You have many things to do and many patients to talk to. So, what happens when you wrap up an appointment and are almost out the door when a patient asks, “Wait, I have one more question!”

Now it’s crunch time. Do you sit down and get comfortable, ready to answer the onslaught of questions, or do you tell the patient, “Sorry, time’s up”? For healthcare professionals, this feels like a lose-lose situation, but by being in the healthcare career field, your job is to address all patient concerns.

Just because you’re short on time doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice patient satisfaction. Follow these tips for those moments when your patient still has questions, even though your clock is ticking:

7 Time Management Tips for Healthcare Professionals:

1. Be Proactive & Prioritize Tasks

An effective way of getting to the heart of the matter is to ask the patient what they want to discuss before the visit begins. Staying proactive lets you know all of the patient’s concerns up front and gives you an idea of the amount of time you’ll need to spend with them. Its ultimately much more efficient to take care of things early than to procrastinate and wait until there’s pressure to get it done.

Some patients come in with a litany of requests and you may not have the time to answer each and every request. How do you deal with these patients so that they get the answers they need and leave satisfied, and you don’t have to spend half of the day managing their issues solely? Simple, prioritize and group as many of their requests and possible. Obviously, cover the most important issues first, like any risks involved with the treatment or medications they’re taking, and work your way down the list.

2. Communicate Using Body Language

Although sitting increases a patient’s perception of time spent with them, you should stand when addressing those last minutes questions. This creates a sense of urgency and communicates that you have other responsibilities in which to tend. This way you still are taking the time to answer every and all questions, but meanwhile the patient should note that you are getting ready to leave.

Offer to walk the patient out of the room, toward the checkout. This signals that the appointment is over, but you care enough about them to spend those last few minutes assisting them to the exit, and you can answer a question or two while you both walk.

3. Realize You Can’t Do Everything

Its sometimes impossible for one person to do as much as they’ve been asked of them. Literally, there’s not enough time in the day. So, what are you to do ensure that the things that matter most are completed on time and that you don’t break your back trying to get everything done? Learn to say no! Your time is valuable and if you have too much on your plate to help a coworker, tell them to get back to you later or to ask someone else to do it.

There’s nothing wrong with letting them know that you can’t handle it at that time. If you give in and do every little thing for others, they’ll eventually think of you as a pushover and ultimately lose respect for you and your time. Don’t let this happen! Help others when you can, but don’t delay an emergency or something else of higher-importance.

4. Delegate & Ask for Help

Conversely to the last time management tip, when your overwhelmed and there’s just no possible way for you to accomplish what you need done in the time allotted, ask coworkers to take over some of the tasks. If you’re in a position of authority, find out which of your subordinates have time on their hands and delegate tasks that they can competently take care of.

Remember to be conscious of their time, the same way you’d like them to think of yours, though. Others may be just as busy as you and looking for help themselves. Don’t pressure others too hard into helping when its clear they can’t.

5. Set Goals

Setting goals can be a great learning tool, as well as a vehicle for accomplishing more on a day-to-day basis. A great time management tips is to simply set goals for the day, when you want to have them done, and check each one off as you go. Take the above tip into account, prioritizing tasks, and finish the most important first.

This allows you take an organized approach to tackling the responsibilities you’ve been handed, instead of an “organized chaos” approach that comes with responsibilities stacking up uncontrollably.

6. Address Patient Concerns Efficiently

Sometimes, even when using strategies like the ones listed above, a patient may keep tacking on inquiries. There are two ways that you can go about addressing these concerns professionally. In a situation such as this, use your best medical judgment to prioritize their questions. Be sure to explain why you chose to focus on that concern.

Other times a patient may just have one additional concern, but its explanation or cause may be hard to pinpoint. For example, fatigue is caused by a multitude of different things. Instead of explaining each cause, ordering tests will show your concern and save time.

7. Avoid Procrastination

Lastly, don’t put off something that can be done now! This is the cornerstone of great time management skills. In order to stay on schedule, you must actually perform the tasks as you’ve scheduled them. Putting things often can lead to a build-up of responsibilities and an inability to get everything you need done.  Holding yourself accountable can be difficult, and if you’re particularly prone to delays, incentivize yourself!

This goes along with setting goals for yourself, but you should add rewards to the mix that can motivate you to handle your responsibilities more effectively. For instance, don’t let yourself go to lunch before certain tasks have been completed.

Do you have useful tips for time management that aren’t listed? Tell us about them in the comments below!

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