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How to Prioritize a Nursing Care Plan

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A nursing care plan is basically a description for how a nurse would prioritize various tasks that must be completed in relation to patient care. For example, if one patient must be administered medication at a specific time, then this task would be prioritized over giving another patient a morning sponge bath in the nursing care plan, because a sponge bath does not need to be given at a certain time. Your nursing care plan must take into consideration the needs of all patients, as well as other necessary tasks, and will likely change over time.

Divide your nursing care plan into segmented blocks of time. Generally, one to two hours work well for nursing tasks.

Write down all of the different tasks that must be completed during the blocks of time you have laid out. These can include patient care tasks, as well as administrative tasks that you must complete.

Mark any items on your list that must be done at a specific time, such as giving medication or prepping a patient for a procedure. These items need to be given priority within that time slot.

Check to see if any items on the list must be completed as soon as possible. For example, you may have a patient who requires breathing treatments first thing in the morning. This should be given priority over other morning tasks, with exception to things that must be completed at a very specific time.

Accommodate other items on the list according to their urgency. For example, if in the afternoon, you need to help a patient eat lunch and update their chart, you should help the patient eat first, since the chart can be updated almost anytime, but the patient could go hungry if not fed.

Factor in emergencies and unexpected tasks. As a nurse, you’re always going to encounter unexpected issues with patients. For this reason, your nursing care plan needs to be somewhat flexible, and tasks that must be completed then need to be re-prioritized over those that do not to make up for lost time.


Mike Johnson has been working as a writer since 2005, specializing in fitness, health, sports, recreational activities and relationship advice. He has also had short stories published in literary journals such as "First Class Magazine." Johnson holds a Bachelor of Science in education and history from Youngstown State University.

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