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2 key work-life balance tips for nurses

Shutterstock | wavebreakmedia
Shutterstock | wavebreakmedia

Every person in every field has the challenge of trying to maintain a work-life balance. Nursing can be a particularly tough field for this because there are so many things to say no and yes to.

I believe that the most important aspect of maintaining this is knowing and believing that you, yes you, deserve to have a balance between your work life and home life. You are not a workhorse and your whole purpose in life is not focused on your job. You deserve the time that you need to enjoy the non-work parts of your life. You deserve to have time to enjoy the world outside of your office or nursing unit.

Conversely, you also deserve to enjoy your time at work. You deserve to be challenged, needed, excel and enjoy what you do. While some people think it’s the hospital’s job to ensure this occurs, I believe otherwise. I believe it’s up to us to find and cultivate professional and personal satisfaction with our jobs. We have to be accountable and part of our own professional happiness.

The key to live and love nursing for years to come is to understand and recognize both sides of this.

Here are the two most important aspects of maintaining a good work-life balance.

1. Know when to say no. I know it can be difficult when you hear that the unit is short and they need someone and you have the night off. I also know it can be difficult when you just had to pay for a $600 repair on your car that you weren’t anticipating. But stop and think before saying yes. When was the last time you had some time to see to your life? Is laundry piling up? Is your house a mess? Do you have the energy to eat something when you get home before you fall asleep standing up? Have you seen any of your friends outside of work in a while? Have you had some time to just hang out with your spouse or kids?

It’s important that you know that a healthy, well-rested, motivated you is much more valuable to your work and loved ones than the half-asleep, living-in-a-fog, overwhelmed you. Make sure you’re taking the proactive steps to only commit to shifts, committees and extra tasks that won’t give you a constantly overwhelmed lifestyle.

You’re allowed to say no—even when you feel the death stare, the frustration or the anger from coworkers. They’re not you; they don’t know your limits and life commitments. Say no when you need to.

2. Know when to say yes. Sometimes we get a little complacent at work. We get to a point where we know basically what to expect or how to handle the unexpected with each shift. This is a pivotal moment in your career. You can either settle into a routine and become complacent, or you can dig deeper into nursing.

What do I mean by complacent? I mean that nurse who has been a nurse on your unit for years who complains when change occurs, but refuses to be part of the solution. The one you hate to give report to. No matter what, they’re never happy, there’s always something negative to point out. And somehow, they’re getting lazier and lazier by the hour. That nurse who started his or her career with passion, but is now just there for the paycheck. And it’s so painfully obvious.

When I got to the point where I was confident in my nursing care and felt like I could handle most things that could happen, I hit that crossroads. I could let myself get comfortable or I could discover the other aspects of nursing that are not at the bedside. When I started to get involved, I learned about evidence-based practice, certifications, research and performance improvement, and suddenly a whole new world of nursing was now evident to me. It had always been there; I just never understood its purpose.

This provided me with a deeper understanding of the field of nursing and therefore provided me with a deepened professional and personal job satisfaction. It has motivated me to be an even better nurse and a better person. I was in need of more challenges at work to maintain that level of work-life balance and didn’t even realize it.

Sometimes when we’re the least satisfied at work, but not overwhelmed, the solution is to get more involved and to dig deeper, not to sit back and complain. Stepping in to become part of the solution can provide a new sense of meaning to why you are a nurse.

Know when you need to take time for yourself and say no to more and more commitments, but it’s just as important to know when you need to say yes!

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Kati Kleber BSN, RN

Kati Kleber BSN, RN CCRN is a a nationally certified critical care nurse located in Charlotte, NC. She is the Nurse Advisor and Editorial Director of the #ProtectNurses initiative, and will be guiding the content we curate, create, and share back with you. Kleber, aka Nurse Eyeroll, is a popular blogger, the voice behind the wildly successful #ProTips series, and a frequent speaker on nursing leadership. You can buy her book "Becoming Nursey" at nurseeyeroll.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other sites. She also has two more books in the works, which will be published by the American Nurses Association and on shelves Feb. 2016!
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