Before entering the profession, most trainee nurses will be concerned with passing their exams, getting a job, and offering excellent patient care. However, an equally crucial aspect of working as a nurse is balancing the job with your personal life and happiness. As a nurse, your career will focus on caring for the people in your ward or clinic. At times you may even put their needs before your own by taking extra shifts or working longer than your set hours to ensure every patient is seen. This level of commitment is standard in the profession, but the ability to switch off in your personal life and unwind at the end of each day is also normal. In the long run, you need to be able to take a step back, recharge your batteries, and manage your overall well-being if you are to have a lasting career in healthcare.
Choose nursing and get a job for life
Job security is one of the many reasons people are attracted to healthcare, as nurses can expect a role for life. Also, the current lack of medical professionals means they will find employment very quickly after graduating. If you’ve felt that healthcare is a calling but have been unsure of how to fit in the required training with your existing commitments, you can now qualify remotely through a distance learning course like those offered at the University of Indianapolis.
An accessible and affordable option, the Accelerated Bachelor Of Science in Nursing at the University of Indianapolis combines 100% online coursework with local placements and supportive academic advisors. If you have wondered what are the requirements to become a registered nurse, the university accepts graduates with a bachelor’s degree in any field, so you don’t need any prior medical experience to enroll.
After 15 months of study, you’ll graduate ready to find your first professional job as a healthcare worker. It will be an exciting and rewarding time, but in the early days especially, it can be a challenge to manage your time and energy, and that is due to the unique nature of the job. Nurses can work long shifts in busy environments, and there are physical demands such as the endless walking between units and around the ward. There can also be emergencies to deal with and incredibly-joyous events, such as babies being born and people recovering from a life-threatening condition. As a result, switching off when you get home can be tough. However, there are ways to leave your emotions on the ward and feel refreshed by the time you return.
Take care of yourself
Practicing self-care in your downtime means you are ready to provide quality, compassionate, and consistent care when you are back on the ward helping patients. This sounds like common sense, but when you spend your days focusing on the needs of others, it can be difficult to remember yourself. This is not a luxury, so you should always insert some form of self-care into your daily routine. This includes monitoring your health, along with your social, physical, spiritual, and psychological well-being. In practice, that means scheduling time for meeting with family and friends, eating well, and doing things you enjoy. It can be as extravagant as taking a city break once a month, or as simple as relaxing in a bubble bath at the end of a busy shift. There is no single correct way to practice self-care, so long as you have a plan that works for you.
Set boundaries that divide your professional and personal life
Work-related concerns can make it hard to relax and enjoy time with your family if those thoughts come home with you. Therefore, when you are not on a shift, make the effort to disconnect fully by putting emails and phone calls on hold. Instead, try to focus on yourself. For example, if you are already planning to go for a meal or watch a film with friends, you should feel confident in turning down an extra shift.
Boundaries are different when you are on the ward. Professional boundaries refer to the ways in which you manage your relationship with patients. This is necessary because giving medical care puts nurses and other health professionals in a position of authority over patients. Therefore, to keep patients safe and to help nurses make a distinction between their personal and working lives, they abide by a series of professional boundaries. These include not offering your personal information, not sharing the care of patients with co-workers, and never taking sides if a patient and their family disagree.
Planning and prioritizing your workload in advance
If you fail to plan for your shift, you may have a more stressful time at work than is necessary. Start by thinking about which settings tend to be difficult and considering ways in which you will cope. Whether it is knowing what to say or do in a particular situation or when a certain issue arises –d say with a patient’s family – thinking about how you will respond and putting a plan in place can set your mind at ease.
In work, it’s best to have a schedule for the tasks that you’re responsible for. Then you can set about prioritizing each job based on how urgent and important it is. Delegating part of your workload is absolutely fine. There is no shame in asking for help – in fact, it is encouraged because teamwork is an integral part of nursing. By taking care of any tasks that you know are critical as soon as you can, you ease some of the pressure and can start to relax into the day.
Furthermore, if you have the opportunity, use digital tools and apps to help you work more efficiently. Time can seem to move faster during a busy shift, so set reminders, have a to-do list, and create a schedule to make managing your tasks easier.
Using all the resources your employer provides
When you work for a healthcare organization, your employer can provide a range of resources that make a meaningful difference in your life. In fact, 83% of hospitals in the USA have set up wellness programs for the benefit of their workforce. These courses are designed to help you deal with any stress you might be feeling or to provide support when you give up smoking or lose weight. They may even include screenings to help you manage your physical health. Many facilities have subsidized cafeterias and small grocery stores on-site, so it’s easier for you to eat well at work and pick up the essentials for when you are at home.
Hospitals also make full use of apps and online services, providing wellness programs that are not just aimed at your physical and mental health. Some are designed to help you manage your finances more efficiently and others are geared toward more effective time management or getting a good night’s sleep. Each resource has been carefully developed to offer the maximum benefit for healthcare workers, so it’s a good idea to take advantage of every plan your hospital provides.
Shut off from work-related concerns when you’re at home
Caring for patients and working with their families is very fulfilling, but once you are home it’s important to find a way of shutting off and concentrating on yourself. This can help you control your emotions and maintain a level of professional detachment. It can be harder than it sounds, especially because nurses tend to be highly compassionate people; however, there are ways to improve this skill. Primarily, it can help to practice mindfulness – to be present while you are at home and put thoughts of work to one side. Remember, you cannot control the past or predict the future, so concentrate on what is happening in the present.
One effective way of putting work behind you is communicating your feelings to a partner, friend, colleague, or family member. Speaking to someone you know you can trust and rely on to listen is a useful method of tackling stress and managing your work-based concerns. You might be one of the many people who find it easier to explore their feelings in a journal. Often, writing things down can make it easier to process and understand them.
Taking the vacations you are entitled to
You probably joined this caring profession because you have a passion for helping others, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need and deserve a break at regular times. Taking all your allocated vacation days means you will have the opportunity to unwind and get back to just being yourself rather than being a nurse with responsibilities. Even spending a few days at home with your feet up is beneficial, but getting away altogether can be even better. A vacation in another state or abroad gets you out of your normal environment and puts distance between you and your workplace.
Moreover, being away from work disconnects you from other aspects of nursing besides patient care. There are no emails to answer, no deadlines to think about, and no early mornings. Instead, you can just focus on rejuvenating your mind and body. After having a break, you are likely to return to work feeling refreshed, keen to perform well, and ready to fully support your patients.
Set aside enough time for things you enjoy doing
Once you start work as a nurse, it’s easy to forget that you also need to pursue the personal interests and hobbies that make you happy. You will be spending all day caring for patients, and if you go home afterward to start caring for your family or doing chores, you’ll soon be fatigued. Hobbies do not need to take up huge chunks of the day or be expensive. You can try writing, sketching, or even just dancing around your home with your favorite music playing. Hobbies that you can pick up and put down as required are the best ones to incorporate into a busy schedule. Maybe listening to an audiobook, knitting, or doing a few puzzles would suit you. If you have a passion for athletics or motorcycles, you can follow those. Whatever you look forward to doing, whether it is active or creative, is worth exploring.
Things that bring you joy and help you to feel relaxed at the same time are ideal. Once you’ve established a hobby or two, try to make those activities a priority rather than viewing it as something to fit in with your lifestyle when you have the time. For nurses, relaxing outside of work is not an indulgence; it’s a necessity.
Establishing a good relationship with your employer
Nursing as a profession is based on excellent communication, and when it comes to the nursing team and their manager, it is crucial. Nurturing a healthy relationship with your manager will ensure they notice and appreciate your efforts. You are putting into place an important foundation, one that underlines your commitment to working as a team in both problem-solving and patient care. The same techniques that you use when speaking with patients – such as being empathetic, active listening, and showing compassion – can also be used in conversations with busy nurse managers.
Forming a bond with your employer won’t happen overnight. It’s like every other relationship – it will take time, hard work, and patience to get right. In the meantime, be honest in your interactions. If you have concerns, raise them at the earliest opportunity, and don’t let your emotions get the better of you, even when it’s been a tough shift.
Start your career as you mean to go on
As a student nurse, you can start to think about your work-life balance at the earliest stage of the training, and your tutors will have plenty of useful tips to get you started. Making healthy habits part of your daily routine is essential for your career and is a key element in personal development. Balancing work and personal happiness is possible in healthcare; moreover, it is a key driver in having a long, rewarding career in nursing.