The idea of a work-life balance has been a hot topic for the last few years. Many companies are coming up with work-from-home options that allow employees to spend less time in traffic and more time with their families and see that the amount of work getting done is the same. Unfortunately, some jobs don’t have a work-from-home option, so what do those individuals do to find a balance between life and work?
In the nursing profession, it is important to strike that balance between home life and work because of the nature of the work itself. Nursing can be challenging, rewarding, and stressful, all at the same time, and it is important that those who are employed in the business of caring for others are also given opportunities to practice self-care to do their jobs more effectively.
Benefits of finding a work-life balance in nursing:
1. Reduces the instances of burnout
One reason why the healthcare system is in a nursing shortage right now is the perception that nurses are overworked and understaffed. This perception did not improve when the pandemic hit, and nurses on the front line had to work double or triple shifts and stay away from their families for long periods of time.
Now, the government is taking a good look at what is causing this shortfall of nurses and how to make the job a more attractive one. When it comes to easing the shortage of healthcare workers in the United States, reducing burnout by improving work-life balance is high on the list of what needs to happen.
Nurses need to be able to step back from their jobs after a reasonable period of time and regroup. When anyone with a stressful job isn’t able to find time for rest and to relax and do things they enjoy, that can lead to burnout and start to affect a person physically in unhealthy ways. Nurses have jobs that require patience, compassion, and critical thinking so they need to be able to recharge in order to do their jobs well.
2. Better health and increased energy
If a nurse is suffering from stress without a break, that stress can manifest itself in different ways, such as high blood pressure, improper diet, and heart disease. These physical stressors also affect mood and so the cycle continues.
When nurses are able to leave work behind and take a nice walk, take time to make a healthy meal, or spend time with their family doing these things, that can make a huge difference in energy levels and overall well-being. When a nurse is feeling healthy and energized, they have more patience and compassion and are able to think clearly, which benefits everyone who works with them.
3. Better stress management
The ability to manage stress is critical in nursing and can also spill over into their family lives, as well. Taking care of sick patients all day requires a level of compassion that is hard to maintain if the body is exhausted and stressed. Everything is affected, including home life, because there is not enough energy to spend quality time with loved ones or to do the things you really want to do to unwind.
Finding ways to cope with stress, such as meditation or exercise, can be challenging but organizations are seeing the need for programs that give nurses the chance to step away and center themselves so they can go back to their patients with calm minds and bodies. This also brings out the best in those nurses who are suited for leadership roles and enhances their performance at work.
4. Increases personal fulfillment
When nurses have a healthy work-life balance, they are able to split their energy between their patients and doing the things they love. A happy and fulfilled nurse can find the compassion and patience to care for patients and their families. Proper rest and having the time to enjoy hobbies and family time can also help with thinking clearly and enhances job performance.
When you are stressed and not thinking clearly, you are more likely to make mistakes or miss obvious solutions to simple problems. These mistakes can result in serious consequences. A happy, rested and healthy nurse can react faster, think faster, and solve problems more efficiently.
5. Find time for self-improvement
Nursing is a continuous learning process where innovations in healthcare are constantly being introduced into the workplace. When nurses have more time, they are able to take advantage of educational opportunities, such as online courses and seminars.
A nurse with a healthy work-life balance can do part-time courses to get an online DNP or another kind of degree. Continued education can lead to higher-paying positions and leadership roles, and getting your Doctor of Nursing Practice can help you achieve a position where you can make your own hours and delegate responsibility.
How to achieve a positive work-life balance in nursing
It may seem like an impossible task, but there are some small steps you can take to get to the work-life balance you need.
Set achievable goals
Setting personal and professional goals can help you stay on track with what is important and encourage you to work toward those goals. Goals don’t need to be large goals for the future but can be small attainable goals, like taking a short walk outside every few hours to clear your head. You can set a timer on a cell phone or smartwatch whenever it’s time to take a short break. These small goals are easily achieved and can increase your self-confidence for the big ones.
Invest in yourself, and set some educational goals or relationship goals. Setting aside a few minutes every day to call a loved one or do some deep stretches can make self-care time feel achievable. Always assess your progress to see if you need any tweaking with your goals. You will be amazed at what 10 minutes of stretching can do every few hours for your overall well-being.
Practice effective time management
Take a look at your routine tasks throughout the day and pinpoint where you can save yourself some time by being more organized or doing them a different way. Time-management techniques are available online so do some research or ask your colleagues how they do a particular function faster and more efficiently.
Finding more time throughout the day to take a stretch, meditate or go outside for some fresh air can do wonders for your health and energy, and you can get back to your job re-invigorated.
Focus on priorities
It is important to understand what is important to you to achieve a proper work-life balance. Is spending enough time with your kids a priority? If so, find times when you can have a video chat with them on a break, or change a shift so you can get home earlier to see them.
Be creative in focusing on your priorities. It may not always be possible to leave work early, but you can make a phone call or even have them visit you for a short hug and a quick bite to eat. Another priority could include career advancement and setting up goals to achieve them. This could be as simple as reading up on new technology during your break or as involved as taking a part-time course online.
Ask for help
Chances are your colleagues are feeling the same way and will be more than willing to help you with your self-care goals. This is the perfect chance to develop your relationships with others on your team and get some quid pro quo so that everyone is able to practice some work-life balance and work at their optimal levels.
This will result in a happier and more efficient work environment, and the bonds you will develop with your colleagues will help you achieve personal and professional satisfaction. Nurses are natural caregivers as well so you will all feel good knowing you are helping each other.
If you are looking into nursing as a profession or are currently working as a nurse, the idea of work-life balance may be low on the list of what you feel you need to accomplish. However, being able to take care of yourself effectively can teach you how to take care of others and also make you feel healthy and strong enough to face whatever challenges come your way. You are not very useful if you develop high blood pressure or heart problems and become a patient yourself.
The world is recognizing that healthcare workers shouldn’t be putting their mental and physical health at risk to do their jobs, and some government agencies are looking into what needs to be done. The shortage of nurses in this country needs to be fixed, and the best way of doing that is to entice new people into the career by offering a better environment to work in and a healthy and happy work-life balance.