Registered Nurse,  Self Care

When Work is Your Life: How to Live in Balance as a Nurse


It is so easy to get involved in work outside of work hours. Whether it is because our closest friends also happen to be our coworkers or former classmates, or because there is always an onslaught of family and friends with health questions (“is this normal?” “should that be growing there?”) nurses are rarely truly off the clock. Because of this, we are at constant risk of throwing off our work-life balance. So how do we cope and come up with strategies on how to keep our personal and professional lives in check? Well wouldn’t you know it, I have a blog post about that!

Know your limits

Ok, I may have oversimplified things here. But really, you need to know your limits.  Will picking up one extra shift of overtime be a walk in the park and boost to the wallet? How about five extra shifts? Maybe that is too much. The important thing is that you know your limits and you set your limits. Staying within those parameters will keep you from feeling overwhelmed. You’ll just feel whelmed!

Establish a Work-Life Balance Nursing Care Plan

Because who doesn’t love doing work when they aren’t at work? Ok, probably most of us love discovering a problem, developing interventions and evaluating our success…otherwise we wouldn’t be nurses. So why not come up with a work-life balance NCP? There is even a NANDA diagnosis for this: Self-Care Deficit. Sure, it’s “supposed” to be about patients who can’t dress themselves, or bathe themselves, but doesn’t that kind of sound like a nurse on a day off? So figure out your own interventions on how to unwind when you aren’t working and remember to evaluate their effectiveness.

For example, I used to work full-time before having kids and up until I came back from maternity leave with my second. I had a really hard time managing work and my off time with my little guy. So my personal nursing diagnosis would be:

Self Care Deficit r/t work-life imbalance AEB feelings of guilt and stress, unhealthy eating habits, increased agitation at work.

Some of my interventions included:

  1. Ensuring all work was done by the end of my shift so that I wasn’t staying late and taking time away from my family
  2. Performing tasks that promote relaxation such as baking and cooking with my husband and children
  3. Finding a creative outlet for any emotions connected to difficult patient situations

I realized that despite my best efforts and all my interventions, I could not balance nursing and my personal life while working full-time. So after my second son I dropped down to part-time and then several months later chose to go casual (or PRN, as its known in some areas). For me, that is what was needed to restore my balance (I’m obviously not advocating that we all quit our jobs. That’s insane).


Define Your Essentials

What is essential to your happiness as a nurse? What is essential to your happiness as a person? Having a clear understanding of who you are and what brings you joy will help you in prioritizing your life. Maybe religion is the most important thing for you. Maybe it is travel. Maybe good food and good wine are what float your boat. Whatever your essentials are, make time for them. Fit them into your NCP and let others know about it – not only will this help you solidify your plan, but you might inspire them to create their own!

So to sum it up, you need to take care of yourself so you can take care of others. And you need a solid plan as to how you will achieve a work-life balance that, well, works for you! Nursing is not for the faint of heart, so sometimes we nurses need to spend a little extra time working on our own.

If you have suggestions of ways to balance your work and your life, let me know! If you want to talk more about it, like this post on Facebook or hit me up on twitter!

One Comment

  • Thomas Uzuegbunem

    I’ve never heard a NANDA diagnosis used in that fashion before. Very clever. Sometimes I do thing people especially nurses over commit. I think learning to say “no” is a good way to balance work and life.

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