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7 Sure-Fire Ways to Achieve Work-Life Balance for Nurses

Northern Kentucky University's fully online RN to BSN degree program offers ADN-prepared nurses a convenient and efficient way to advance in their career and education. The combination of this solid education and the high demand for nurses today can make career advancement an achievable goal. But the nursing profession is also known for its strenuous hours, stressful working conditions and high rate of burnout. Achieving a healthy work-life balance is essential for avoiding burnout. But why is this so important and how can it be accomplished?

Importance of Work-Life Balance for Nurses, Hospitals and Patients

There are many reasons why nurses are prone to stress and burnout. Nurses have the weighty responsibility of the health of their patients. Performance expectations are understandably high. Plus, nurses tend to be selfless and motivated by empathy for those in their care. This can further increase their expectations of their own performance.

Nurses often work extremely long hours and have irregular schedules as well. This can be very disruptive of sleep habits, family and personal life, and other personal health factors. A healthy work-life balance can mitigate these disruptive factors. Nurses who value and maintain stability and health in their life outside of work are able to cope with stress better, minimize their experience with burnout and perform at a higher level on the job. This can also help improve patient care and the patient experience, leading to improved performance of the healthcare organization as a whole.

Here are seven ways nurses can improve their work-life balance:

  1. Commit to Prioritizing Your Work-Life Balance

First off, nurses should realize the importance of their work-life balance and prioritize it. Simply being intentional and committed to improving your work-life balance is a critical first step. This may seem idealistic or simplistic. But our brains are powerful. They drive our actions, our choices and our experiences as well as our perception of those experiences and their impact on us. Prioritizing and improving one's work-life balance is a conscious choice.

  1. Recognize and Value Your Needs and Desires

Part of this conscious choice and commitment to improving your work-life balance involves accepting that you deserve to be healthy and happy. As generally selfless people, nurses tend to value the needs of others over their own. But holistic health involves identifying and valuing your own needs as well as your goals in life. Decisions on how you spend your time should be based on what you want and need as well as what you want to do for other people. This means saying "no" sometimes. And it's not selfish to do so; you can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself first.

  1. Treat Your Work-Life Balance as an Evolving Part of Self-Improvement

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is not a binary one-or-the-other, fail-or-succeed sort of thing. It's an ongoing process that involves identifying the elements that cause stress as well as those with positive effects on your life, health and happiness. Commit to work on minimizing stressors and embracing healthy choices and activities. Use challenges and common stressors as opportunities for improvement and personal betterment. Focus on the positive and celebrate the ways you are moving toward work-life balance.

  1. Simplify

This process of bettering your work-life balance should simplify your life. It focuses your effort on what you have to do, as well as what you need and want. It also helps you prioritize the things that support your personal health. This means setting tangible, measurable goals for yourself, planning out how to achieve those goals, and sticking to those plans. Yet it also means experimenting, reflecting and seeing what works best.

  1. Manage Your Time

You probably have numerous obligations not totally under your control, such as work, relationships and family life, and educational pursuits, to name a few. So, identify what you actually have to do to meet your obligations most effectively. To whatever degree possible, regiment your schedule, fulfilling your obligations efficiently while also planning in time for meeting your own personal needs.

Try whatever you think may assist in your time management. Technologies like productivity trackers might help — or something as simple as a calendar with reminders. Delegating some responsibilities to family members or coworkers can also be important.

  1. Focus on Relationships and Communication

The health of our relationships is an essential part of our personal health and, accordingly, a healthy work-life balance. These relationships also form a person's support network. Plan time with friends. Seek out mentors. Get to know co-workers. Ask for help when you need it. Nobody should go it alone.

Striving for nonjudgmental open communication, honesty and empathy can improve these relationships with family, friends and coworkers. Open, empathetic communication is also integral to effective conflict resolution. Resolving conflicts in our lives can relieve immense amounts of stress.

  1. Take Care of Yourself

This is perhaps the most important, yet often disregarded, component of a healthy work-life balance. Taking care of yourself means sleeping well, eating nutritious food, exercising, and taking time for yourself and your favorite activities. We simply cannot function well without meeting these basic health needs.

Being selfless and helping other people should not mean sacrificing your own health and happiness. Nursing is an intrinsically gratifying profession. But beyond the intrinsic rewards, a healthy work-life balance is also necessary order to enjoy a long and successful career as a nurse.

Learn more about NKU's online RN to BSN program.


American Nurse Today: Achieving Work-Life Balance

American Mobile: 12 Steps to Nurses' Work-Life Balance

HealthStream: Work-Life Balance in a Nursing Career

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses

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