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Keywords:

  • efficiency;
  • prioritizing;
  • routinization;
  • time management;
  • time strategies;
  • work organization;
  • nursing

Background. With the increasing emphasis on efficiency and effectiveness in health care, how a nurse manages her time is an important consideration. Whilst time management is recognized as an important component of work performance and professional nursing practice, the reality of this process in nursing practice has been subject to scant empirical investigation.

Aim. To explore how nurses organize and manage their time.

Methods. A qualitative study was carried out, incorporating narratives (22 nurses), focus groups (24 nurses) and semi-structured interviews (22 nurses). In my role as practitioner researcher I undertook observation and had informal conversations, which provided further data. Study sites were five health care organizations in the United Kingdom during 1995–1999.

Findings. Time management is complex, with nurses using a range of time management strategies and a repertoire of actions. Two of these strategies, namely routinization and prioritizing, are discussed, including their implications for understanding time management by nurses in clinical practice.

Conclusions. Ignoring the influence of ‘others’, the team and the organization perpetuates a rather individualistic and self-critical perspective of time management. This may lead to a failure to address problems in the organizing of work, and the co-ordinating of care involving other health care workers.