Tips for Working More Efficiently in Your Practice

Frustrating but true, medicine is a business.  If you are like most nurse practitioners, you started your career hoping to make a difference in people's lives.  You planned to help people become healthier, to learn to exercise and rid the world of obesity.  Then, you got your first job and along with it an employer who understandably wants to make money.

Many nurse practitioners find themselves under pressure from employers to be more productive, to see more patients in less time.  As a new nurse practitioner in the emergency department, I felt this stress.  I was still learning my new role all while faced with a packed waiting room, patients in a hurry to receive discharge instructions and an expectation of efficiency from my employer.  Naturally, this stress gave way to developing some systems for my practice, some time-saving but not care-compromising techniques.

Recently, the American College of Emergency Physicians published an article with tips and tricks for "doing things faster without sacrificing quality" in the emergency department.  Some of these pieces of advice I already employ and others I plan to implement.  These time-saving tactics can help you care for your patients appropriately in a manner that also pleases your employer.

Skip the Strep Test

When a diagnosis is clear, ordering additional testing to confirm your suspicion is probably not necessary.  When a child presents with swollen tonsils, a fever and history of strep exposure, your diagnosis is a slam-dunk, no need to confirm with testing.  An added bonus?  Skipping unnecessary tests not only saves time but also saves your patients money.

Order Tests at the Same Time

While ordering all tests you anticipate your patient may need at once rather than sequentially as you get results does save time, it is controversial.  Your patient may end up with a higher bill as a result of unnecessary lab work, imaging etc.  So, use this method with caution.

Focus on Work

Easier said than done, staying 100 percent devoted to the job while at work will maximize your efficiency.  Although shopping online, paying a few bills and checking out the news between patients is tempting, switching tasks back and forth between personal matters and work can waste up to 40 percent of your time.  Stick to work related tasks during working hours. 

Get Organized

This is my personal favorite trick.  Keeping a list of patients you are currently responsible for helps you keep yourself in check.  I keep a running list of patients currently in the emergency department.  I jot small notes to myself next to their names such as "recheck BP" to avoid forgetting details of their care.  When I find myself with a few seconds of downtime, I scan the list reminding myself of each patient's needs to make sure there isn't anything that deserves my attention.

While it seems like some days in the clinic or hospital are simply over-the-top stressful and no number of efficiency tactics will lower your stress level or help things flow more smoothly, having some systems in place to help your own personal work flow is a must.  You can't always control what's going on around you, but using a few key efficiency strategies will help you keep your sanity...and your boss happy.

What tips and tricks do you use to help you practice more efficiently?

For more advice on working more efficiently, especially in the emergency department, check out the American College of Emergency Physicians' advice.