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Year of the Healthy Nurse- Find Your Balance

Updated: Jan 16, 2018

Originally written for Scrubs Magazine on May 11, 2017

Increased life span, growing medical provider shortages and pending healthcare reform all contribute to the growing demand for quality care. Nurses, in particular, comprise the largest segment of healthcare providers in the United States and do so in many different roles. Although nurses are expected to forerun quality care, seemingly mastery of self-care and its importance continues to evade the industry. Nurses work long hours, exert themselves mentally and physically and adhere to extreme patient ratios. Many find the field rewarding; however, they also are no stranger to the deterioration that it has left on their body and emotions. This is evidenced by the ‘burnout’ and ‘compassion fatigue’ phenomena experienced among healthcare professionals.

While organizations such as the Institute of Medicine have outlined recommendations around the future of the nursing profession, their suggested implementations primarily focus on shortages, scopes of practices, and systematic changes.  In comparison, little has been done to evaluate and address the mental and physical welfare of the modern day nurse.How do the men and women of one of the world’s most trusted professions, give back to themselves?  Many don’t have the time or energy to care for themselves after giving their all to patients. Poor diets, awkward sleeping patterns, lack of exercise and, decayed social lives are all results of the inadequate and sometimes non-existent work-life balance of the modern nurse.It’s time for nurses to implement the same diligence into our own health that we teach our patients! Her are a few tips to help you find your balance!

1. Get organized. Define a routine and stick to it!Having a hard time finding the time to workout, spend with the kids, work on outside projects or be social? Don’t worry, you can zap this problem by becoming more organized and intentional. Having a daily routine, especially for workdays greatly increases efficiency. Powering your energy into a known plan or schedule increases the chances of you actually completing tasks.  For example, I used to be subjected to poor meal choices at my hospital’s cafeteria because before work I made no concrete plan of what my daily dietary consumption would be. This caused me to spend insane amounts of money and make poor food choices out of impulse.Once I began keeping a planner and becoming organized things changed. Just by writing my obligations down, I found many opportunities to prepare my own meals, on a schedule that once seem desolate and devoid of free time. Meal prepping completely revolutionized my diet and health overall. Not only have I saved money, but I’ve also gained and set a standard for myself.

2.Hold yourself accountable This may be the hardest step because accountability cannot be taught in this area. In order to understand the responsibility you owe to yourself to pursue a healthy work-life balance, you just have to want it bad enough!Free time can be fleeting and planning to “handle it tomorrow” is usually a one way segue into Never Land. By holding yourself accountable to your routine and saying no to procrastination, you allow the flow to define your new standard of living. Failing to follow through will only continue to carry you down the stream of dissatisfaction and burn out.

3.MeditateOn a lighter note, meditation is something we all can do. Meditation does not always require a yoga mat, binaural beats or breathtaking nature views. The only one element necessary is quiet. Find a quite corner where you won’t be interrupted to free your mind and gain inner peace.Many try to focus on nothing at all and clear their minds, but are shocked when they find this to be an impossible feat. Try to focus on one thing or an objective and work your way through it for 15 minutes. Mindful meditation is productive and calming.

4. Exercise To alleviate physical and mental stress, exercise is definitely essential.  Nurses are prone to work-related injury and for this reason alone; it should be our personal goal to be in tip-top shape. Don’t have time to make it to the gym? Make your work out work for you. Anything that gets your heart pumping is good to start with. Walking laps around your unit and stretching on your break is an easy add on and stress reliever during a long shift. Outside of work create your own unique routine tailored to your needs.

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