Balancing Work and Home Life as a Nurse

Nurses deal with stress from medical emergencies, death, long work hours, and hard work. Nurses perform their job under high pressure while striving for patient satisfaction. Nurses must balance their work and home life to care sufficiently for their patients. Exhaustion, strain, and burnout are common among nurses who do not take time for self-care. The high stress of nursing contributes to staff illness, call offs, and high turnovers. It also contributes to poor mental health and high burnout rates. Nurses can achieve work-life balance by using techniques for living harmoniously in their professional life and personal life.

What causes stress for nurses in the workplace?
Nurses take in tremendous stress while working, from being in charge of lives and preventing death during a 12 hour shift. They are pulled in multiple directions between high patient ratios while communicating with doctors, family members, and other healthcare staff. Nurses will often feel overwhelmed and frustrated during their shift, trying to multitask all parts of their day. Day to day nurses struggles with chaotic shifts, long hours, overtime, exposure to trauma, and death. Here are some stressors for nurses in the workplace:

  • Understaffing– Many healthcare facilities are understaffed. Understaffing causes nurses to pick up extra shifts, work extra hours, and care for additional patients, creating unsafe work environments for the nurses and the patients. Staff shortages are currently a significant challenge healthcare facilities face, leading to fatigue and burnout.
  • Miscommunication-During a 12 hour shift, nurses constantly communicate with multiple departments, several doctors, staff members, families, and the patients themselves. Nurses are often relaying messages back and forth through various departments and doctors. The constant relaying of messages throughout the day can lead to miscommunication and forgotten notifications when nurses are overwhelmed. 
  • No lunch or breaks– Nurses will often go their 12 hour shift without a lunch break and sometimes even a bathroom break. Nurses can not abandon the patients to go to lunch and take uninterrupted time to themselves during the day. Many facilities are understaffed and can not provide coverage for the nurse’s patient assignment to take breaks.
  • Unhelpful management– Most management in healthcare does not have actual nursing experience. If management does have some nursing experience, they may have been away from working bedside for long enough not to know the constant changes in healthcare. Sometimes nursing management does not get the final say in significant changes that comes down from corporate. Many changes pushed down from a corporate level do not benefit or make safer nursing practices.
  • Lack of cooperation– With staffing shortages worldwide, it is hard to find help when needed. Nursing is a position that requires teamwork from several people to care for the influx of sick patients. Many ill patients are not able to care for themselves. They need help eating, drinking, bathing, and toileting. Nurses are often needed in multiple places simultaneously, and a lack of cooperation causes extra stress in the workplace. 

Top Tips on Balancing Work and Home Life as a Nurse

Maintaining work-life balance and mental health is a prominent issue amongst nurses. The constant stress can show in their work by making medical errors that endanger patients. Nurses must take care of themselves in the workplace and maintain a healthy home and work balance not to make mistakes. Here are some tips to help create a positive work-life balance:

  • Time management-Learning appropriate time management can help organize the day and make it easier to navigate. Plan dates with friends and family on days off to ensure personal time to see them. Set time aside to get appointments and chores out of the way, such as cleaning and shopping. Creating a personal plan on spending your days off can help you be productive and relieve stress in day-to-day life. 
  • Saying no– Frequently, a nurse will be asked to work overtime. Saying yes to picking up extra shifts and staying late after work is common among nurses. It is necessary to take time to have alone time and do things that are fun and relaxing away from work. Learning that it is ok to say no despite how management and staffing may feel is essential for mental health. 
  • Detach from work– It is easier said than done. Trying not to take work home with you is no easy feat, especially when you spend days with a person caring for them while sick. Learning how to separate yourself from the work environment at home can relieve some stress in mind during the day. Some people may think that this may create cold or calloused nurses. However, establishing healthy boundaries and relationships with work is essential to keep nurses grounded in their home and personal lives. Do not replay the stressful situation in your mind. Instead, find something holistic and productive to focus attention on. Find healthy ways to release stressful work situations. Take up journaling, vent to a trusted friend (while keeping HIPPA, of course), or even talk to a counselor. 
  • Creating good work relationships-It is vital for nurses to make friends and have good relationships with their coworkers. Not only does it provide a positive work environment when everybody gets along, but nursing requires teamwork. It is easier to work with a team where people get along. Try to maintain professionalism when there is conflict in the workplace and not jump to conclusions.

Tips for self-care

Many nurses spend more time caring for others and not themselves. Physical and mental exhaustion can lead to mistakes in a healthcare environment. Nurses with poor work-life balance are at risk of putting their lives and their patients’ lives at risk. Self-care can help prevent stress and burnout that can cause mistakes in the workplace. Here are some self-care tips for creating work-life balance:

  • Self-care techniques– Nurses need to care for themselves with their already busy schedule and 12 hour shifts. Many nurses find it challenging to eat well, exercise, and sleep. Adequate sleep and nutrition are necessary for a healthy functioning brain and body. Taking care of your health will help prevent exhaustion and burnout. Physical activity such as working out, hiking, swimming, or biking can help lower stress and boost energy levels. 
  • Take time to relax– Take time to relax by taking restorative breaks. Relaxing can be getting a massage, a manicure, or meditating. Many nurses are so busy taking care of others they often forget to take care of themselves. Allowing yourself the time to care for recreational needs such as a hobby can help prevent burnouts and will enable you to restore your brain on your days off. 
  • Volunteer– Volunteering for a cause, project, and organization is excellent to dedicate free time to. Volunteering can help to improve mental health by providing socializing for a good cause while improving self-esteem. Nurses are known to always put others before themselves. Volunteering is an excellent outlet to bring self-fulfillment to life while still helping others. 
  • Establish a good support system– A good support system is important to self care as a nurse. Having family, friends, and roommates to help out and support needs can take the burden off of everyday life. Nurses can have the guidance, encouragement, and support needed to deal with life outside of the workplace with a good support system. 

Overworked and fatigued nurses will experience burnout and make critical mistakes while caring for patients. Nurses risk jeopardizing their mental health and physical wellbeing to care for their patients and loved ones. It is very common for nurses to put others’ needs ahead of their own, leading to fatigue and burnout. Creating positive work-life balance changes and adding self-care to your routine can help you be a better nurse.