Nurses are among the most caring and dedicated people, spending their days working tirelessly to improve the lives of others. While nursing can be incredibly rewarding and noble, it can also be highly stressful and taxing on your personal life.
As nurses, balancing your job and personal life can be challenging, especially if you have family commitments or dependents at home. It’s also common to struggle with maintaining good health while working long hours and regularly dealing with challenging situations.
Besides getting through your daily shifts, you may also have to make time to visit the doctor, attend parent-teacher meetings, or catch up with friends. It can be challenging to balance your personal life, career and health, but getting the most out of all three areas of your life is necessary.
What is work-life balance?
Work-life balance refers to achieving a healthy, happy and prosperous life outside work. It’s about striking the right balance between your personal and work life.
Additionally, it’s about ensuring that you have enough time for all the different things in your life that make you happy. You can attain a work-life balance when you can achieve some semblance of equilibrium in the various spheres of your life.
For example, if you find yourself working late every night, your job may interfere with your ability to spend quality time with friends, spouse or children. If spending time with friends and family makes you feel better after work, it might be worth considering adjustments.
In other instances, a practicing nurse may want to advance their career by pursuing a post-master’s FNP certificate online. There are benefits to taking on such an endeavor, as it will often result in more pay and advancement opportunities.
Nurses should consider whether they would be willing to cut back on hours elsewhere or continue supporting their families while enrolled in school full-time. The decision should not just come down to money, but also balancing life responsibilities with professional aspirations.
Factors leading to an unhealthy work-life balance for nurses
A healthy work-life balance can do wonders for your well-being, helping you stay productive and content throughout the day. Achieving such a balance can be difficult, especially if you’re an LPN or RN in an acute care setting with little support from management and other nurses.
Nurses face unique challenges in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. As such, it’s essential to recognize the common work-life balance issues that nurses face and understand how to address them.
Here are some factors preventing a work-life balance for nurses and how you can overcome them to stay physically and mentally healthy.
Nurses are in critical shortage, making it challenging to provide adequate care and ensure proper workplace safety and exacerbating the work-life balance problem.
As a result, many nurses work overtime hours regularly, and there is often not enough time in the day to catch up on personal tasks. In addition, some hospitals prioritize administration over patient care, which leads to more administrative tasks that eat away at nurses’ time.
Lack of cooperation
One of the critical obstacles that nurses face is the lack of cooperation from patients and their caregivers. According to nursing studies, a lack of collaboration increases work hours by more than 10 hours per week compared to cooperative patients and caregivers.
Therefore, this obstacle can increase nurses’ chances of experiencing an insufficient work-life balance and poor quality of life.
The best way to ensure that an organization meets your needs is by open, honest communication with your employer. Communication is key to having a healthy work-life balance, but nurses often face barriers in their work environment that prevent this.
For example, nurses don’t always get the appropriate authority or influence within their organizations. This can make them feel disconnected from the organizational goals and objectives of the hospitals they work in, which leads them to feel less connected and involved.
Management failing to adapt and provide the appropriate resources can cause nurses to feel unheard, unappreciated and underutilized. Lack of consistency in management and staff expectations of nurses can also lead to a less satisfactory work-life balance.
For example, changes in staff turnover and lack of communication about new positions being available can contribute to job insecurity. The result is that many nurses have too much work and not enough time to do it.
Management is responsible for communicating these issues and helping correct them with nursing staff members, but often fails to do so.
Long hours and overtime
Hospitals often expect nurses to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, without taking time off. It is not uncommon for nursing employees to have reached their breaking point and given up on achieving a work-life balance.
Nurses’ lives outside of the hospital setting are equally compromised. With shorter, more demanding shifts, they cannot live in one place longer than a few months before starting again.
Ongoing exposure to trauma and death
Nurses have a tougher time disengaging from work at the end of their shifts. They will also experience ongoing trauma and death during their careers as they get exposed to such content with every patient they care for.
Nurses are also required to maintain confidentiality, so it is much more difficult for them to talk about their experiences outside of work compared to those in other professions.
The emotional toll on nurses can lead to significant health problems and high stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia and burnout.
Tips for nurses to achieve a work-life balance
Achieving a work-life balance can be difficult in today’s world of 24/7 connectedness with smartphones and tablets, but it’s not impossible.
Although we all want to be as productive as possible during work hours, we also want to prioritize our health and well-being outside work. Nurses, often the hardest-working people, can ensure that they get enough time away from their job to recharge by following the below tips.
Determine your life’s purpose
Nurses are some of the most passionate people in the medical field. They often spend their lives trying to save other people’s lives while taking care of their own.
With so many demands on their time, it can be difficult for nurses to maintain an appropriate work-life balance. By defining your life purpose, you will be able to find more meaning and satisfaction in your day-to-day activities.
You may consider writing down what you want out of life, including personal and professional goals, hobbies and interests outside work. Knowing where you want to go in life should give you direction and make it easier to say no when necessary.
For example, suppose that your top priority is spending time with your children, but you get assigned overtime shifts at work. In that case, don’t hesitate to ask if any colleagues could cover for you. That way, you can focus on the things that matter to you without feeling guilty about not doing enough at work.
Guard your emotional health
Taking care of your emotional health is crucial to making difficult daily decisions. You are not an infallible superhero but a person with feelings who wants appreciation for their efforts.
When you return home from work, try to engage in family time first. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, so if you feel overwhelmed, consider delegating tasks or seeking assistance from other team members.
Nurses must balance work and life to provide quality patient care. You can’t provide this care if you don’t maintain your mental and physical health.
Ask for help if you feel overloaded, as no one expects anyone else to be superhuman. Take time out of your day to do something nice for yourself or others. The idea is to find things outside of nursing that bring joy into your days.
Solve conflicts immediately
In any organization, you will encounter interpersonal conflicts. Recognize that people are different and have different perspectives. Be willing to listen to the other person’s point of view and negotiate for compromise.
If you cannot reach a solution, ask for help from your supervisor or another authority figure in the organization. It is essential to recognize when it happens so that it can get resolved as soon as possible.
Deal with conflict immediately by trying to find solutions where both parties are satisfied with what they get from the conflict resolution.
The first step in resolving a conflict is to establish ground rules. These can include deciding on an appropriate meeting time and place and setting parameters for conversation.
When we understand how others feel, we may be able to find common ground and create a win-win situation. Whatever technique you choose to use, make sure to remain focused on finding a resolution.
Develop stronger relationships
Nurses and other caregivers who live with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety may have difficulties recognizing their feelings for fear of judgment. When we feel less worthy, it’s easy to withdraw from the people we care about the most.
Not every day can be perfect, and nurses are no exception. One way to maintain your sanity and improve your mental health is to strengthen relationships outside work.
You might want to try volunteering at a local animal shelter or nursing home or spending time with friends and family. Make an effort to connect personally, rather than just sharing medical updates or complaining about work stressors.
The more you share in life, the better you’ll feel on both ends. As a bonus, these new relationships might become allies who can help you in tough times.
For instance, if you trust someone specific, ensure that they’re aware of any signs that could indicate that something isn’t right. That way, they can advocate for you if needed and you don’t have to look for support when you need help.
Engage with exercise activities
Exercise and physical activity can play an essential role in achieving a work-life balance. Regular exercise helps to reduce stress, increase feelings of well-being and self-esteem, and maintain average body weight.
Exercise also provides time for socializing with friends and family members, which is critical for personal happiness and professional success. If you’re not already incorporating exercise into your daily routine, try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or taking the dog for a walk.
It might be difficult initially, but it will get easier as you start seeing benefits. You might even find that you’ll have more energy throughout the day. When planning your day, consider the amount of time you spend exercising.
If you do not have much free time in your schedule, find ways to incorporate exercise into other parts of your day. Look for opportunities to take walks during breaks or try some strength training during lunchtime.
Get enough rest
One of the best ways to work on achieving a work-life balance is to get enough rest. Getting enough sleep during the week will help your body and mind rejuvenate.
Make sure that you are going to bed at a reasonable time and taking days off from work when necessary. Sleep should be as important as food and water for your body and mind.
When considering this tip, remember that not all people need the same amount of sleep each night. The average person needs seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night to feel refreshed in the morning.
If you are someone who needs less than this, don’t let that prevent you from being able to achieve a work-life balance. What matters most is what works for your body’s natural rhythms, as long as it falls within the seven to eight-hour range.
It is also important to realize that an afternoon nap cannot replace sleep. You might feel better after a 20-minute rest, but if you were up all night, a nap might not effectively eliminate any negative feelings or worries.
Consider a realistic schedule
To achieve a work-life balance, nursing professionals can develop realistic schedules that consider their personal life, relationships and other commitments. By designing their programs in advance, nurses can make their career part of an overall satisfying life rather than the primary focus.
For example, nurses can maintain quality time with family members or friends by working shorter shifts. Establishing boundaries with coworkers is also crucial so that they don’t overschedule themselves, leading to burnout or feeling overwhelmed by job responsibilities.
Consideration for others and taking care of yourself often take precedence over meeting others’ expectations. Self-care is vital to maintaining a sense of well-being and creating an individualized schedule.
Individuals should prioritize what needs their attention the most, not what’s expected of them at work or elsewhere.
Manage time effectively
The best way to manage your time efficiently is to set goals and take care of the things you can control. This action will allow you to complete tasks when needed rather than waiting until they get backed up.
It also lets you identify what you need to do as soon as possible so that you won’t feel overwhelmed. For example, make a plan for one week at a time and make sure that everything on the list gets completed by Friday.
With this system in place, there should be no more worry about not being able to keep up with daily duties. You can use your planning time wisely by starting with one daily task and building from there.
If something new or an emergency arises, it’s vital to build some personal time into the schedule. As long as the work-life balance is maintained, you’ll feel happier and healthier, which will translate into better-quality patient care.
Accept things as they are
Learn to accept the circumstances for what they are. You cannot change what is already happening, so stop wasting your time and energy by attempting to do something about it. Instead, change your attitude about it.
Accept that this situation is what it is and that you can’t make any changes to the condition or other people who are contributing to it. To achieve balance, you need healthy acceptance in your work and home life.
For instance, if the hospital assigns you a night shift, learn to accept that fact and go with the flow instead of fighting against it.
That way, even though you may not enjoy the circumstance, at least you will have a positive attitude about it. Likewise, when you’re away from work, try to embrace the opportunity to relax and rejuvenate.
Work-life balance is something that all of us strive for, but achieving it is easier said than done. It takes time and lots of planning to be able to maintain both our personal lives and our professional lives.
It’s essential to recognize where you want to spend your energy to create a healthy environment for yourself. If this feels overwhelming, try taking small steps one day at a time instead of thinking about everything at once.
Ultimately, the best way for nurses to find a work-life balance is to figure out what matters most – your personal or professional life. Knowing this lets you more easily prioritize which things need to happen first.