Can nurses achieve work-life balance?
April 24, 2018
Achieving work-life balance relies on many factors, not least the type of job you do, company you work for and the type of person you are.
But studies repeatedly show that working hours outside of the traditional 9am to 5pm makes the work-life balancing act more challenging.
Nurses are at particular risk of failing this high-wire act because of demanding pressures, erratic working hours and possessing that permanently turned on ‘help switch’.
Challenges for nurses
Nurses face a range of challenges in the quest for work-life balance, and a Commons Health Select Committee report has found “the nursing workforce is overstretched and struggling to cope with demand”.
A growing number of nurses are leaving the profession – about 29,000 UK nurses and midwives (5%) left in 2016-17, the report states.
Those who took part in the study said they loved their jobs and cared passionately about what they do but most cited working conditions and feeling undervalued as reasons for leaving.
The study also revealed concerns about the impact of pressures on morale, retention and standards of care for patients and patient safety.
Lack of access to training and professional development exacerbated the sense of not being fully valued.
While the challenges that nurses face are real, it is possible for them to find work-life balance.
Due to the changing nature of the profession, along with rotating work rosters, finding balance means finding an approach that is tailored to a nurses’ specific needs.
Armed with an awareness of the pitfalls and the positive steps that can be taken to minimise stress, a more harmonious and healthy future awaits.
These are just a few ways nurses can work towards achieving work-life balance:
- Maintain mental health. Healthcare professionals need to maintain their own mental health and wellbeing so that they can perform well their roles, avoid burnout, and feel good in the process. Nurses who spend time looking after themselves will be in a better place to look after others.
- Get enough sleep. Better sleep can be achieved by implementing good daily habits such as going to bed at the same time, relaxing before bedtime, avoiding screen time (including TV) before sleeping, and steering clear of stimulants like alcohol and caffeine. For nurses working rotating shifts, it is important to keep sleep as consistent as possible around working hours.
- Exercise. Important for physical and mental wellbeing, exercise is often the first thing to fall off the to-do list when things get busy. However, it is essential to keeping stress at bay. At the very least, simply move more or take short walk breaks when you can.
- Stop chasing perfection. While most nurses want to do the very best, constantly striving for perfection is a fast track to burn out.
- Communicate. If there are recurring inefficiencies taking place at work or problems that need solving, be sure to address it with a department manager. Flag issues and suggest solutions where possible. Pushing through unresolved problems at every shift will only make time at work stressful, and possibly impact on productivity.
In the often frenetic and intense world of nursing, it is all too easy to feel overwhelmed. But it is possible to achieve balance by adopting some of these effective daily habits.