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Work-Life Balance for Nurses: Techniques to Prioritize Self-Care and Enhance Well-Being

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Work-Life Balance for Nurses: Techniques for Setting Boundaries and Taking Time Off to

Recharge


Achieving a work-life balance in the healthcare profession, particularly nursing, can be daunting. Between the chaos of long shifts and the endless empathy you feel for your patients, you need to remember that your health is also a priority, and you need sometimes to put yourself first.


According to research, achieving work-life balance is exceptionally difficult for nurses in the healthcare industry. Long shifts and the emotional toll of empathizing with patients can contribute to a chaotic and demanding workplace. However, nurses must put their health and wellbeing first. Studies have emphasized the significance of self-care and the detrimental effects of ignoring your needs.


A crucial strategy for achieving work-life balance is setting reasonable expectations. Nurses can effectively manage their time using instruments such as a journal or calendar. This permits a better balance between work, sleep, personal time, and leisure activities. Research indicates that individuals who actively manage their time and prioritize their requirements experience less stress and greater personal and professional fulfilment.


In addition, nurses can only attain work-life balance by recognizing and addressing stress. Numerous studies have highlighted the high levels of stress in the nursing profession, which surpass those in other industries. Nurses must find healthful ways to express themselves and manage stress. Regular exercise has been shown to stimulate the release of endorphins, enhance mental health, and contribute to overall health. Whether it involves going to the gym, engaging in mindfulness activities such as gardening, or learning new routines, finding a stress-relieving workout that combines mental and physical focus is effective.



Taking regular breaks is another essential aspect of nurses' work-life equilibrium. Allowing yourself an extra few seconds to a minute between patients can have significant benefits, even though it may be challenging to do so amid a heavy burden. These brief pauses provide physical and mental rest, hydration, and revitalization opportunities. By prioritizing their health, nurses can increase their energy and provide superior patient treatment.


Time management and stress reduction, addressing nutritional requirements, is crucial for achieving a healthy work-life balance. The hectic nature of nursing shifts often leaves little time for appropriate meal planning and consumption. However, research highlights the significance of consuming a nutritious and balanced diet. Planning meals and snacks can assist nurses in maintaining their vitality throughout the day. Incorporating multivitamins and meal replacement bars into their regimen can also help bridge nutritional gaps during these brief intervals between patients to save time and ensure adequate nutrition.



Establishing healthy emotional boundaries is an essential aspect of nurses' work-life balance. Empathy is valuable in this profession, but it can harm their emotional health. Research indicates that establishing boundaries can safeguard nurses from the potential adverse effects of trauma and emotional stress. Nurses can dissociate and protect their mental health by limiting their personal knowledge of patients' lives, aspirations, and ambitions.






But, how can you achieve this?


Achieving Work-Life Balance for Nurses: Essential Techniques and Strategies


Set realistic expectations for your time using a journal or calendar

Begin to organise your to-do list, by sense-of-urgency as well as enjoyment. Not every

ounce of your soul should be dedicated to the hospital; pencilling out what is important to

you can help dictate that. The number of hours you dedicate to work, sleep, your free

time, hobbies, or socialising, should each have its own time slot in your life. Invest in a

journal or calendar to help achieve this goal.

Come to terms with the stress and find a way to express it.

A study on the work-life balance of nurses shows that this profession is one of the most

stressful jobs ever! and not just in healthcare but even when compared to other

industries. Acknowledge this and engage yourself in an activity that allows you to

release your stress in a healthy way. Exercise has been shown to increase “happy”

endorphins in the brain as well as contributing to your overall health. Whether it's hitting

the gym, gardening, or learning new internet dances, find an activity that requires both

mental and physical focus.

Take a break.

While this is easier said than done, allowing yourself an additional thirty seconds to a

minute between patients can help keep your energy up. Take a seat, grab a sip of water

or a snack, and allow your mind to relax. Don’t allow guilt or a supervisor to cloud your

mind about taking your allotted breaks during a shift. If you are not physically and

mentally fit, you cannot give proper care to your patients.

Achieve your basic nutritional needs by adjusting or planning out your diet.

We’re all familiar with the food pyramid and information about eating a healthy balanced

diet. Nursing shifts can be hectic, so planning out your meals and snacks ahead of time

can keep your energy up during the day. Bring multivitamins and meal replacement bars

for those thirty seconds between patients that we mentioned before. If meal prepping isn’t a priority for you in life, consider purchasing this as a service to free up your time and help fill your nutritional needs.

● Create healthy emotional boundaries between your patients and your life.


The Importance of Work-Life Balance for Nurses: Techniques for Self-Care and Boundaries

Empathy is likely a part of the reason you chose this career, but the cost to your

emotional health can be detrimental. Make a list of boundaries you’d like to implement to

avoid allowing some of the trauma you encounter to become a part of the person you

are outside of the workplace. Things like limiting your knowledge of the patients’

personal lives, including dreams and aspirations can help you dissociate and protect

your mental health.


Empathy is fundamental to nursing, allowing healthcare professionals to develop a deeper connection with their patients. However, witnessing agony, suffering, and loss can be emotionally exhausting. Due to the nature of their work, nurses are more susceptible to compassion fatigue, burnout, and emotional exhaustion, according to research. It is essential to establish boundaries to safeguard your emotional health.


Limiting your knowledge of patients' private lives, ambitions, and aspirations effectively establishes boundaries. While it is essential to demonstrate empathy and emotional support, becoming too immersed in their personal stories can cause you to bear their emotional burdens outside the workplace. By maintaining a degree of professional detachment, you can defend your mental health more effectively.


Nurse's Guide to Work-Life Balance: Setting Boundaries and Recharging for Well-Being

Another method for dissociating from work-related trauma is engaging in self-care activities that promote relaxation and rejuvenation. This may involve exercises, physical activity, mindfulness practises, or quality time spent with loved ones. Engaging in activities that bring you pleasure and satisfaction outside of work allows you to shift focus and emotionally refuel.


In addition, seeking support from employees or participating in peer support groups can be a valuable outlet for dealing with the emotional challenges encountered in the nursing profession. Sharing experiences and emotions with others who comprehend the unique demands of the position can provide validation, empathy, and perspective.


It is essential to remember that setting boundaries is not a sign of frailty or a lack of empathy; instead, it is a crucial aspect of self-preservation and sustaining a nursing career. By implementing these techniques, you can safeguard your emotional health, prevent exhaustion, and continue to provide compassionate care to your patients.


By actively prioritizing your mental health and establishing boundaries, you can maintain a healthy balance between empathy and self-care, ensuring that you can provide the best care possible to your patients while preserving your own emotional health and resilience.


Nurses hold incalculable value in our society, not only for their essential skills and knowledge but also for their profound influence on the lives of patients and their families. Their unwavering commitment, compassion, and altruism are the cornerstones of healthcare. Nurses are a reassuring presence in vulnerable moments, a sympathetic ear in distress, and a beacon of hope when all seems lost. They provide medical care and a sense of comfort, comprehension, and genuine human connection in addition to their professional duties. Nurses are regarded with profound gratitude and respect as unsung heroes who labour tirelessly to heal, support, and advocate for those in need.


Their contributions to the health of individuals and communities have left an indelible mark on the hearts of innumerable patients, families, and coworkers. Nurses are esteemed, admired, and respected for the profound difference they make in others' lives. Their presence is comforting, their touch is healing, and their compassion is motivating.







Reflection:

  1. Do you have a healthy work-life balance?

  2. What could you implement to improve your work-life balance?

  3. Do you think taking an extra few seconds between patients could help you reduce your

  4. stress levels and help you provide better care?

  5. What steps can you take to improve your time management skills and ensure that you have dedicated time for self-care and personal activities?

  6. Have you considered seeking support or resources, such as counseling services or professional development opportunities, to enhance your work-life balance?

  7. How might achieving a better work-life balance positively impact your overall job satisfaction and ability to provide quality care to your patients?

  8. Are there any changes or adjustments you can make in your daily routine or habits that would contribute to a healthier work-life balance?


 

Sources:

  1. https://online.marymount.edu/blog/nurses-work-life-balance-tips

  2. https://www.healthstream.com/resource/blog/work-life-balance-in-a-nursing-career

  3. https://nursingonline.nsuok.edu/degrees/rn-to-bsn/ways-achieve-work-life-balance/

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8380556/

  5. Marymount University: "Nurses' Work-Life Balance Tips" - https://online.marymount.edu/blog/nurses-work-life-balance-tips

  6. HealthStream: "Work-Life Balance in a Nursing Career" - https://www.healthstream.com/resource/blog/work-life-balance-in-a-nursing-career

  7. Northeastern State University: "Ways to Achieve Work-Life Balance" - https://nursingonline.nsuok.edu/degrees/rn-to-bsn/ways-achieve-work-life-balance/

  8. PubMed Central: "Work-Life Balance of Nurses: A Literature Review" - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8380556/

  9. Medical Locums: "7 Work-Life Balance Tips for Nurses" - https://www.medical-locums.co.uk/news/2022/01/7-work-life-balance-tips-for-nurses

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