July 16, 2024

Achieving a Healthy Work-Life Balance as a Nurse – 2024

Healthy Work-Life Balance – In the modern world, most of us have at some point had trouble finding the right work-life balance. We’ve tried to fit too much in, to be everything to everyone, to work all the hours, and we’ve burned out. Those of us that do have a healthy balance often make the mistake of thinking that we need to fill any time that we have spare with extra hours at work, caring commitments, or a side hustle, to be busy. Failing to achieve a good balance can soon lead to stress, mental and physical health complaints, and problems with work performance, and relationships at home.

A balance is important, and never more so than for people who work in healthcare who are unfortunately more likely to struggle to find it. Below is a look at the importance of balance for nurses and other healthcare workers, as well as some tips on how to achieve it.

What is Healthy Work-Life Balance?

Work-life balance is basically the balance that you find between working, which includes sending emails from home, working in your home office, dealing with calls from bosses and clients, and anything else work-related that you do in your time off, and your home life.

This balance certainly isn’t the same for everyone. Working parents, for example, have far more demands on their time outside of work than perhaps young, newly graduated professionals. We each have to carve out a balance between the two that allows us to do our jobs, be happy at work, and achieve our career goals, but also lets us care for family, exercise, and enjoy our lives away from work.

Whatever that balance is, it’s exceptionally important. Without balance, life can become very one-sided. It’s easy to become stressed out, to miss out on things that we love, to damage our relationships, and make it hard to enjoy either your work or your home life.

Why is a Healthy Work-Life Balance So Crucial for Nurses?

Having a positive work-life balance is important in every profession. But for nurses, it’s often harder to achieve. The hours can be long, there’s a lot of pressure, and it’s not always easy to switch off at the end of a long, emotionally draining shift.

Here are just some of the reasons why work-life balance is so important for nurses before we look at ways that you can improve yours.

Improved Health

Failing to achieve a good balance means that one of the first things that you neglect while trying to do too much is your health. People that don’t take time out for themselves, are always in a rush. Exercise gets forgotten, healthy, home-cooked meals are replaced with fast food and unhealthy snacks, and sleep is a luxury. Then, there’s the stress. Many nurses and healthcare workers experience stress at some point in their careers. One of the best ways to avoid, or at least minimize this, is taking more time to relax.

Better Relationships at Home

Working too much and thinking about work while you are at home is never going to be good for your relationships. We all work more than we should sometimes or spend time stressing about work once we’ve clocked off. A supportive family understands this. But without balance, it’s hard to build relationships, maintain friendships, and really enjoy time with the people that you love.

Longer Careers

Nursing is a fulfilling career, but it’s also demanding. Many nurses retire in their fifties or early sixties because they are physically and mentally exhausted. Taking more time out to rest, relax, and enjoy a good home life means that nurses are likely to work for longer, filling a gap in the market, enjoying their careers, and helping to tackle an ever-growing nursing shortage.

Able to Provide Better Care of Healthy Work-Life Balance

No one is at their best when they are tired. Nurses need to be at their best to provide excellent care to their patients. A better balance means better care, and fewer mistakes and other issues.

To Make Nursing More Attractive

Happier, healthier nurses with great home lives help to make the profession more attractive to younger people, many of whom are now avoiding time-consuming and demanding careers to pursue less traditional ways to work.

The Opportunity to Grow and Advance

A healthy balance helps nurses to enjoy their work and gives them the time to think about what they want from the future, as well as a desire to learn and progress within their career. Many people make the mistake of assuming that they’ll only do well if they give their all. In reality, these people often burn out, and it’s usually the people with a good balance that have longer, more successful, and fulfilling careers.

But how can you achieve this balance with such a demanding job? Here are a few tips to help.

Gain Further Training

If you are already struggling, the idea of further training and study might be too much. But online NP programs can be studied online, and often flexibly. Studying online NP programs can help you to become a nurse practitioner, which could allow you to find more flexible roles within family practices, allowing you to find a better balance, while advancing your career.

Find Ways to Leave Work at Work

For many nurses, one of the biggest issues when it comes to balance isn’t that their hours are too long, but that they take work home with them. They struggle to relax after a shift and find it hard to enjoy their time at home.

One of the best things that you can do when it comes to achieving a better balance is leave work at work. Find ways to unwind at the end of the day so that you are ready to relax and enjoy your home life when you get there. This might mean listening to relaxing music on the bus home, going for a run to burn off some energy, meditating, chatting to a friend, or writing your feelings down in a journal.

Let Go of Guilt

Nurses are often compassionate and empathetic people. This means that they are perhaps more likely to feel guilty about the things that they can’t do. Nurses might feel guilty if work means that they can’t do the school run or attend an event. They might feel guilty for sleeping when their children are home, after a night shift. This guilt doesn’t help. Instead of dwelling on what you can’t do, use your time wisely, and focus on what you can do.

Optimize Your Work Schedules

If you are struggling, speak to your employer or supervisor. You may be able to optimize your schedules to suit your home needs, perhaps by working the same hours, with longer shifts over fewer days or working more shorter shifts leaving half days free. There are usually options if you ask.

Develop a Support System – Both in and Out of Work

If you want a good balance between work and your home life, your support networks are incredibly important. At work, they are the people that you can talk to and unwind with. They are the people who will give you the best advice and put a smile on your face when it’s tough. At home, the people in your support network will be there for you. They’ll be people to confide in, to pick the kids up, and to cook your dinner.

Have Clear Priorities – But Be Flexible with Them

Priorities help us to achieve balance, but it’s important to acknowledge that your priorities change, and your balance needs to move with them. As a young, newly qualified nurse, work might be your priority. At some point, it may be learning more and training. Later, it could be your friends who need your support or your own growing household. Know what your priorities are. If it’s family right now, sometimes, you may need to say no to work, and even to your friends. But that doesn’t mean that it will always be like this.

Ask for and Accept Help for Healthy Work-Life Balance

There’s typically help available when we need it, but so few of us like to ask, and even fewer are good at accepting when it’s offered. Ask for help with things at work, and with your commitments at home to lighten your load.

Take Care of Yourself

Your health and happiness should always be a priority. Whatever else is going on, make time for sleep, exercise, laughter, fun, and healthy food. Listen to your body, rest when you need to, get check-ups when you are worried, and generally, look after yourself.

Be Honest

Your support networks can only help if you are honest. Be honest with your family, friends, employers, and colleagues about how things are going. Let them know if you need to make changes to plans and routines, and don’t worry about letting people down when you have to say no.

Your work-life balance is personal to you. It will depend on your stage of life, your commitments, your family, your job, and things like your hopes for the future. However, it’s always important, and always worth taking the time to get right. Just make sure you reassess and make changes when you need to, and don’t always expect your needs – both at work and at home – to be the same.

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