How does a nurse manage life outside the job? It’s definitely a learning process. Juggling my commitments and relationships has been crazy throughout the whole process of becoming a nurse, and into my first couple of years. I’m definitely not an expert on this kind of balance, because frankly, there are times that having a “normal” life outside of working three or more twelve-hour nights a week seems impossible.
Most new nurses don’t have the choice of either day or night shifts. New nurses often get placed on NOC right out of school, which is a HUGE adjustment! The body and mind get all whacked out on top of the normal stress of learning the job.
Then there is the social adjustment. One of the reasons nurses on a unit become like family is because we see each other more than our friends and family. With a husband who had a 9-5 career, kids in school and my learning how to be a nurse at my new job, we as a family had a pretty hard year after nursing school.
There are some nights where I’ve look around at my colleagues–docs and nurses alike–and thought about how half of them are divorced, another third of them are in troubled relationships, and the rest of us just barley squeak by day to day. Comparable to the divorce-fallout I witnessed in nursing school (we had 25% of the nurses in our class divorce during our program), it’s obvious to me that people in healthcare professions aren’t so great at managing a normal life outside the hospital.
It doesn’t help that nursing is such a stressful job, and in the beginning, when I was home, I was often decompressing from work related craziness. My husband became a sounding bored, I would cry all over him many times, and I was cranky from it all. Basically I changed into a person I hardly recognized.
An epiphany hit hard, after spending some time of being miserable and making my family miserable: I will always need a plan in order to make nursing work for ME–instead of just working as a nurse. First of all, I must take care of myself, which is always a challenge. Nurses need to sleep, eat right, exercise. And finding the time to do so is a challenge, but essential. So now I’ve carved out time for myself to sleep without interruption, adopted a healthy eating plan where I journal my intake, and exercise, well, I’m still trying to fit that into my life (OK, I hate exercising).
I still don’t know how to budget more time for friends and extended family, because right now my husband and kids come first. Prioritizing it all is difficult. Throw in the fact that I need a spiritual life which, for me, includes going to church, and I still don’t have it figured out. There just never seems to be enough time. And honestly, people outside of nursing just don’t get it. That’s why nurses need other nurses to talk to and relate.
Anyway, I am working on life as a nurse–right now I am swimming instead of sinking. Baby steps, right?