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Not Enough Hours in the Day: A Perpetual Nursing Problem

Not Enough Hours in the Day: A Perpetual Nursing Problem

One common problem you are sure to hear often repeated in the nursing world? There simply isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. A typical day in nursing is filled with so many tasks that need to be handled, nurses are often left feeling overwhelmed.

Let’s take a closer look at the components that contribute to this perpetual nursing problem and potential solutions that can be implemented.

Not Enough Hours in the Day: A Perpetual Nursing Problem

What Problems are Incurred From Lack of Time?

In 2018, there was a survey conducted by Anderson Robbins Research that polled a random selection of nurses who were registered with the Massachusetts Board of Registration and Nursing. Of the nurses polled, ninety-percent of nurses stated that they don’t feel they have enough time to give proper care to their patients; This is definitely indicative of a problem. Some of the related issues reported in the survey were:

● Seventy-seven percent of nurses stated that medication errors were often due to patient overloads.

● Sixty-four percent of nurses stated that “unsafe RN patient assignments” were a root cause for patient injuries.

● Seventy-two percent of nurses surveyed stated patient readmissions often resulted from patient overloads.

What Makes Up a Typical Day in Nursing?

So, what tasks make up a typical day in nursing? What are nurses trying their best to keep up with? Well, in 2008, The Permanente Journal published a study, “A 36-Hospital Time and Motion Study: How Do Medical-Surgical Nurses Spend Their Time?” In this study, researchers gathered information from 767 nurses employed in 36 different medical-surgical units on how they spend their time. They found that three categories comprised most nursing tasks, reporting:

“documentation (35.3%; 147.5 minutes), medication administration (17.2%; 72 minutes), and care coordination (20.6%; 86 minutes). Patient care activities accounted for 19.3% (81 minutes) of nursing practice time, and only 7.2% (31 minutes) of nursing practice time was considered to be used for patient assessment and reading of vital signs.”

Circadian Rhythm

Being in the medical field, you might have heard a reference before to the Circadian Rhythm. This is essentially the internal sleep-wake cycle that continuously repeats every twenty-four hours for all living things. The Circadian Rhythm is essential for regulating important metabolic events. But, what if this was able to be extended to, say, a twenty-five-hour cycle? Could you imagine being able to squeeze in an hour’s more activities into your regular cycle?

Not Enough Hours in the Day: A Perpetual Nursing Problem

Over the years, researchers have tested this theory. At one point, there was an experiment performed that even suggested that humans tend to prefer a Circadian Rhythm of twenty-five hours; However, this theory was discounted when it was found that artificial light wasn’t being regulated, which directly affects our internal clocks. Harvard conducted a new, better-controlled study in 1999, which placed Circadian Rhythm needs at around 24 hours and 11 minutes.

This isn’t to say, however, that we can’t train ourselves to subsist off a twenty-five-hour cycle. In 2008, a new Harvard study funded by Nasa tested just this theory. In their testing of twenty-eight volunteers over the course of sixty-five days, they were able to get participants on a regular twenty-five hour a day schedule for a month before adjusting them slowly back to a twenty-four-hour schedule.

Tips for Nurses to Maximize Their Time On the Clock

So, if you’re not training yourself to be on a twenty-five-hour schedule, what can you do to maximize your time? We’ve got some great tips for you below:

Not Enough Hours in the Day: A Perpetual Nursing Problem

Organize and Prioritize – As a nurse, you’re trained to know exactly what to do to provide excellent patient care; But, with so much going on, it’s easy to lose track or sometimes perform tasks out of order. At the start of your shift, take a moment to assess everything that needs to be done before you dive in; Doing this will give you a moment to organize which tasks should be done in which order, and can help you prevent missing steps and save you time.

Minimize Distractions – Maintaining focus is one essential part of managing time wisely and ensuring on-point patient care. Distractions, like checking text messages and holding personal conversations with coworkers (even for a minute), can lead to slowed responses and missed steps.

It’s Okay to Say No – Working as a team with your coworkers is an essential part of nursing. That being said, when doing favors for other hospital staff is impeding on you providing effective patient care, it’s time to say no. Politely declining when you’re already busy is definitely okay to do.

Stay Organized – This one can be tricky, especially with a lot going on, but staying organized will both help with your workflow and lower your stress levels. Be sure to keep your workstation free of clutter, paperwork, and unused instruments and equipment.


NurseBuff.Com, Time Management Tips Every Nurse Should Know


Becker Hospital Review, Survey: 90% of nurses admit they do not have enough time to properly care for patients


NCBI, A 36-Hospital Time and Motion Study: How Do Medical-Surgical Nurses Spend Their Time?


Wikipedia, Circadian Rhythm


CBS News, 24 Hours Not Enough? See the Light


The Harvard Gazette, Human Biological Clock Set Back an Hour


Capsol Team

Capsol Team



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