Time management is important in any endeavor, but this is especially true in health care, where patients are waiting to receive the services they need to recover from illnesses or even save their lives.
Joel M. Brown, II, MSM-HCA, RRT, FAARC, is CEO and founder of Arrived Leadership, LLC, a company devoted to developing high-potential leaders and creating high-performance teams. He believes time management for RTs is a topic that needs more attention.
“There aren’t many lectures focused on time management at our local conferences or books that pinpoint the importance of time management for RTs,” said Brown. “But time management separates those who are successful in the field from those who are not.”
Here are six tips from Joel Brown you can use to sharpen your time management skills —
- Show Up on Time: The first step to great time management is showing up on time, and “on time” means early. The way you start your shift sets the tone for your day. By showing up early, you have the time to prepare yourself physically with the equipment you need to provide the best possible care for your patients. It also will give you the time to prepare yourself emotionally, which will have a similar impact. Being on the job early shows respect for your co-worker who has been working the shift before you as well. If they see you care enough to be on time, they will return the favor through patience during their report out and provide the extra information that will help you develop your plan for the shift.
Every minute counts and the ones at the beginning of your shift are the most important. We have all witnessed or had our own experiences with a late start, and what feels like chaos ensues. Block out enough time for traffic, a calm walk to the department, organizing and storing your items, lunch storage, and a moment to calm yourself to counterbalance any unexpected situation that could stifle a great start.
- Develop Your Plan for the Shift: What is your plan to finish the work and see all your patients? Get into a routine of developing an efficient plan for your shift. This becomes even more important when your patient care load is high, or you’re covering multiple patient care units. Which patient will you see first? When are multidisciplinary rounds occurring? Who is being discharged in the morning and requires therapies before they leave? Which patients are receiving time-consuming assessments and therapies? Who will need to be transported? Who has procedures or treatments that will require them to leave their room for an extended period?
All these questions and more should be considered when building your plan. By considering these factors, you can navigate your day with the least number of missteps or self-made confusion. As an RT, we are expected to be in many places at about the same time. Having a plan will help you meet this sometimes unrealistic expectation. By planning, you can minimize the number of times you arrive at the room and the patient has already left for a physical therapy appointment or is receiving a call for patient-family teaching while you actively engage in important patient interactions. Ben Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Mr. Franklin could have been an RT because he could not have made a truer statement.
- Hit the Ground Running: Now that you have arrived early for your shift and strategically planned your day, it’s time to get started. Don’t hesitate or procrastinate. Every minute you wait has a negative impact on your plan. Things change rapidly in health care, and waiting to begin exponentially strengthens this phenomenon. Hold yourself accountable for getting started right away and avoiding distractions. Even if your co-worker wants to engage in a long social conversation, you are responsible for managing it. Politely excuse yourself by reminding them that you have to get started. If they don’t take the gentle reminder, statements like, “I have to get going, or Mr. X will leave for PT. We can catch up later” may be helpful. Most RTs have been in similar situations that required them to start their rounds immediately and will understand.
- Know When to Call a Friend: No matter how much we prepare, the only thing guaranteed is that something may change. Being flexible with your plan is the key to success. When it comes to clinical prioritization, there is rarely enough time to develop an entirely new plan, but there is always an opportunity to modify the old one. If you find out a patient is going to the OR, there is an unscheduled transport, or there is an emergency that needs your help, you must adjust and adapt.
The adaptation may often require you to lean on one of your co-workers. Be specific about your needs instead of simply saying, “I need help.” Tell them your situation and exactly how they could be of assistance. Our co-workers are our greatest assets when it comes to prioritization. Utilize them when you need them and offer the same when they are in times of need. Overcoming what seemed like an impossible task with a colleague often becomes the glue to a lifelong bond.
- It’s OK to Take a Break: When you plan your day, don’t forget about one of the most important people in the room — you! To provide exceptional care, you must have your tank full physically and emotionally. Plan for a moment to eat. Plan for a moment to rest your body by taking a seat. Plan for a moment to check in with your colleagues. This will make you more efficient, and your patients will appreciate seeing the best version of you when you enter their room. Find the thing that recharges your battery and plan for it in your day. It could be anything from a walk to the window in the hall to see the outdoors or stopping to see your favorite patient or co-worker. If it gets you going, plan for it.
- Progress over perfection: Even if you develop a plan and implement it, there is always room for improvement. We are all a work in progress. The goal is to get better every day. Perfection is not achievable when it comes to time management. The sooner you come to terms with not being perfect, the sooner you will be at peace when things don’t go exactly as planned. My favorite motto is “Progress Over Perfection.” It reminds me that I am always a work in progress. I always have something to learn. I can never lose if I am learning. If it doesn’t go well, do a bit of a recap at the end of your shift and figure out if there was anything you could have done differently. If there was, enhance your plan the next day. Implement the enhancement and repeat the process.
Joel Brown knows time marches on, but taking steps like the ones outlined in his tips can help you exert some control over the clock. “By prioritizing your day, you can make the most of this precious commodity and be the best RT you can be,” he said.