5 Productivity Tips for Nurse Leaders

Productivity Tips for Nurse Leaders

Nursing leaders are extremely busy people. With the meetings, travel, nursing staff, and dozens more… there never seems to be enough time in the day to get it all done.

However, there are processes and procedures that nurse leaders can put into place to make the workflow efficient and productive.

In an effort to avoid wasting any more of your time- I will get right to the point…

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1. Hire the right people.

This one seems like a no-brainer. Of course you want to hire nurses who will show up, work hard, and stay loyal to the organization. However, nurse engagement is not the only factor here.

Think about the type of work that you have to do. What skill sets are needed? Which personality traits are lacking on your team? And think about it that way- as an entire team. If you already have a nurse on your team who is super outgoing and loves to give presentations and teach workshops then maybe the next person you hire is a little different from that.

If your work also requires putting out publications or adjusting difficult budgets, then maybe you need different qualities in the next person you hire. When you think big picture you are more able to create a team that you can delegate to. This way you do not have to do all of the work yourself!

2. Carry A Tool for Lists.

Nurses have great ideas- yet, sometimes these come to us at the most inopportune moments. Like in the shower or as we are driving. Or even in the middle of the night… We may wake up and say “AHA! That is the answer to the problem we’ve been facing!!”

Carry a tool with you that allows you to take notes at any place and time. I like to use the Notes application on my phone. However, there are many others out there. Even an old-fashioned notebook with pen will do.

Find what works for you and commit to carrying it with you ALL of the time. You never know when the solution will surface. And a productive nurse leader is ready to capture the answers and go forward with the work!

3. Use the Yes-No-Maybe Strategy.

This is something that I used to teach in my monthly webinars and it received great reviews. You take out a blank piece of paper and make three columns. Across the top of the columns you write “Yes”, “No”, and “Maybe”.

Now, think of all of the tasks you have to get done in a block of time (I would recommend doing this on a Monday (or even Sunday) at the start of your work week). List those out on another piece of paper. Just do an entire brain dump for all of the things that you can think of that need to get done.

Here’s the fun part… Place each of the items in one of the columns. You are essentially going to have to rank each to-do as a “yes”, “no”, or “maybe”.

Because what tends to happen with our to-do lists? We avoid the things we do not want to do, right? And then they keep getting carried over and we feel less productive and beat ourselves up.

Now you have a clear picture of what you want to get done and what needs help. The “yes” column is likely the things that you most enjoy and are easiest for you to accomplish. The “maybe” list… that is tricky. Are there things that you can easily tackle? I something not so important that it is not given that total “yes” response?

With the “no” list or the “maybe” list, here is where you can enlist the support of your team. And by hiring the right people (see above), you will ensure that you have people on your team for a variety of tasks. Now it is time to delegate. If you know that you are not going to get to something or it is not of vast importance to you in this week’s time… Is there a nurse that you can work with or a group that you can gather together to tackle this to-do for or with you?

4. Block Time Once a Month to Unplug.

Have you ever noticed that when you turn off your email or shut down your social media you get more accomplished? This is because when we give ourselves that un-distracted time, we are able to get more done. Makes perfect sense!

So, once per month block your calendar from all meetings. Make sure you do not open your email. Turn your phone to silent. And close the apps and other social media platforms on your phone or mobile devices.

This is your day to just GET WORK DONE. The above “yes”, “no”, “maybe” exercise above can help you decide which project needs prioritizing. Is it the manuscript you want to draft or the project scope you want to finalize? Whatever the tasks are… do not let any interruptions in and just focus on doing the actual work.

So often nurse leaders are bogged down all day with meetings, appointments, and phone calls. One day per month will help you get more work done in the long run!

5. Set Boundaries.

This one can be difficult and may take practice. And there is one little word that can be tough to say.


Yes, I understand that nursing leaders are accountable to many people… even large groups of people and the organization as a whole. However, there is such a thing as the bright-shiny object syndrome and it does infect nursing leadership.

When a new initiative is presented to you and the group that brings the project forward tells you that “All of the other hospitals in your state are on board”, you need to be mindful of saying “yes” or “no”.

Do you have the time to take anything new on? Have you hired the right teams to delegate the work to? Is this something that is actually going to support your nursing staff? Have the costs been weighed against the benefits?

There is a lot to think about before jumping into each new offer and nursing leadership must be OK with saying “no” from time-to-time.

If this is hard for you- practice. Literally practice with a trusted colleague, spouse, or even yourself in your mirror. Sure, you will say “yes” to things that come along… But once in awhile it will be more important to say “yes” to yourself!

Let’s hear from you! What do you do to work productively as a nurse leader? Can you share a tip with your colleagues reading so that they can enjoy an efficient and productive workflow? Leave a comment and thank you for reading.

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RNAbout the Author: Keynote speaker and virtual conference host, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the bestselling author of ‘Nursing from Within’, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver. Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull.