For healthcare professionals, staying organized can not only affect your job performance, but the health outcomes of patients and clients you encounter each day. This makes it imperative to have organizational habits that are part of your foundational routine. Here are a few of those organizational habits that will help you navigate your day smoothly and successfully no matter what healthcare track you are on.
It doesn’t matter if you are new to a position/healthcare setting or have been there for years; disorganization can lead to stress, burnout, and less than ideal outcomes and encounters for your patients. It all starts with planning your day before ahead of time and prioritizing daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.
Plan out the Knowns to Make Time for the Unknowns
Whether you’re a nurse, physical therapist, or behavioral health professional, it pays to take more than a glance at the patient schedule for each day. As every healthcare professional learns, it is not the routine things we do each day that put us behind or get us disorganized, it is the unexpected things. That means that you need to create a plan for executing the routine things you do each day so that you can build in time for the unexpected.
By taking a few extra minutes before your day begins to create a known patient and administrative functions task plan for the day, you start with a better grasp of how to incorporate the unexpected without getting off track. Start by planning out the needs and regimens of the patients you will see that day with a list of patient names and the things that you need to get done for them.
For nurses, this may mean vitals/dressings/procedures/meds etc., while therapists and behavioral health professionals may involve therapy techniques and patient goals for the day. Write out the specific tasks you need to complete each day and the time by which you need to complete them. Check your list as soon as you get to work and post it in a prominent location. Stay on track by checking your list often and adjusting it as needed.
Calculate (from experience) how much time each task will take and pad it a little for unexpected complications and the all-important patient communication. While the nuts and bolts of healthcare are important, observation, listening, and communication are often keys to better outcomes.
If you are working in an environment where mobile devices and health IT are part of the tracking and reporting infrastructure (EHR/EMR), template frameworks may already exist to make this easier. Even without it, writing down shorthand notes and taking a pad to check things off as you go can work just as well.
Establish Medium Range Goals/Give Yourself Deadlines
This is where the longer term habits of staying organized kick in. Every week has overriding administrative or project tasks that must be done in healthcare settings. These are in addition to your daily routines. By taking time to establish goals for these projects over the next 30, 60, and 90 days, each workday and each week will go much smoother.
Once again, write them down, create timetables for each aspect of the plan/project, and pad it a little for the unexpected. Discuss the plan with other team members, co-workers, and supervisors to gain additional input. Then, schedule a few moments at the beginning and end of each week to review your goals, action items, and progress.
Developing organizational habits are about more than a to do list. It’s about having a general roadmap of how you plan to complete each task with timeframes, goals, and deadlines for completion. The ability to track your progress and check off tasks by a certain time and date enables you to be more effective and even flexible within the schedule as needs arise.
Take Breaks to Organize Workspace
Regardless of whether you are a nurse, physical therapist, pharmacists or other healthcare professional, daily organization leads to long-term organization. This may mean being sure that your Point-of-Care cart is stocked with all of the routine items that you will need as well as organizing any paperwork that will be needed on a given day or week (both physical and electronic).
For physical therapists, this may mean getting into the habit of putting any therapy equipment back to its starting position after each session, setting aside time to incorporate patient notes into physical or electronic files, and making sure that any apps or software you utilize are updated and understood by you.
Working in healthcare is a mix of the routine and the unexpected crisis or rush of overwhelming vital tasks. By learning to incorporate habits that help you to organize the former, you can better be prepared to deal effectively with the latter and always work to achieve the best outcomes for patients.