Nursing Lifestyle

Finding the Right Work-Life Balance as a Nurse

Finding the Right Work-Life Balance as a Nurse

Back in the 80’s, the term work-life balance was starting to get kicked around in the U.S. In a nutshell, it means being able to properly balance the demands of work with the demands of life.  For many, the 80’s almost marked the beginning of the elusive search for the perfect work-life balance, and many still don't know how they should achieve it.

A little history of work-life balance

Although work-life balance became very popular in the 80’s, it’s actually far from a new concept.  The phrase work-life balance was actually coined in the late 1800’s and led to the Labour Stands Act of 1938 to establish a 44-hour work week for most professions. 

When it once again became popular in the 80’s, it was used as a way to help women in the workforce obtain flexible working schedules and maternity leaves.  Although the original push for work-life balance was too geared primarily towards women who were expected to hold down jobs and careers while still maintaining the bulk of the household chores. It has since become a way to try and help anyone who is looking to find that balance between their working life and their personal lives. 

Today, the term work-life balance is used frequently and has even become a multi-million dollar industry on its own.  In fact, most self-help and career building books and tools revolve around finding the right balance between work and life.

The elusiveness of work-life balance

For many industries, work-life balance is still considered a unicorn.  Its existence is heard of but no one has yet to see or experience it.  This is particularly true for nurses and others who work in the medical field. Like many people who are struggling to get it all done at work and at home, nurses crave the so-called work-life balance. They want to live a happy stress-free life and not always having that nagging worry about a work deadline or family commitment.

The question is, however, not how to get work-life balance but rather, does work-life balance really exist?

Stop searching for balance, find satisfaction

Some people have speculated that finding a 50/50 balance between work and life is impossible.  The reality is that depending on a number of factors and life events happening, one will naturally take precedence over the other.  Take for example a nurse who is also a parent with young children. That particular nurse will naturally take more time off to be able to care for sick children, cover school holidays or for any number of reasons why. At that time in the nurse's life, the balance will shift towards their family.  Someone who maybe has older children and is able to be more flexible, cover more shifts or not hesitate when it comes to over-time will find that the balance will shift towards work. 

Instead of looking at work-life balance as an equal split between personal life and work life, it might be more feasible and more reachable to finding satisfaction in the workplace. Studies have shown that employees who are satisfied at work, perform better, take less sick days and are less likely to make errors.  A nurse who is satisfied with their job and their place of employment will find it easier to find satisfaction in their personal life.

What is workplace satisfaction?

This may be a little difficult to answer since satisfaction is kind of like art, it really depends on the eye of the beholder.  Everyone finds satisfaction in different areas of work and life.   

  • Some nurses may consider workplace flexibility the key to their satisfaction. For example, being able to choose what shifts best suits them and their patients. 
  • Younger nurses might want to see a workplace that encourages professional development by offering opportunities to expand knowledge and upgrade their skills.
  • Working in an environment that encourages employees to speak out and take action against policies and procedures that might not work or might require updating is another example of workplace satisfaction.
  • Some nurses might appreciate employers that offer a wide range of social activities designed to build teamwork and camaraderie amongst their employees.
  • The power of autonomy is another example of workplace satisfaction.  Nurses who feel that they can do their job without being questioned about every single action will likely be much more satisfied than those who feel they are micromanaged.

What about satisfaction at home?

Yes, the employers are typically the one who plays the biggest role in ensuring work-life satisfaction, but don’t forget, the employees also have a role to play and it’s the same for nurses. For example, finding satisfaction at home is entirely up to each individual.  There are a number of things that nurses can do to promote home life satisfaction, which in turn will also help in maintaining workplace satisfaction.

  • Try not to bring work home. Okay, this may be a bit more difficult for nurses who have a strong sense of compassion for all of their patients.  However, it’s important to sometimes turn it off when the shift is over.  Remember that always bringing home those rough shifts is not conducive to maintaining a happy home.
  • Practice self-care. That means that taking a bit of time every day to do something for just you.  Take a warm bath, work on a hobby, or read a book. Spending even just a few minutes on something that is just for you will make dealing with all of life’s other challenges, whether at work or a home, a little easier.
  • Understand that there are times where work will be top priority and other times where home life will be. 

More studies are emerging

In the next little while, the nursing industry will likely see more and more studies released on work-life balance and workplace satisfaction.  As long as both nurses and their employers openly participate in these studies by sharing their needs, wants and real-life workplace experiences, finding that work-life balance and all the benefits that come along with it is a true possibility. 

And for all those who have been searching to find that balance, perhaps it’s time to take a step back to really look at what they have been searching for.  Maybe it’s not work-life balance, maybe for them, that perfect balance doesn’t even exist - perhaps it’s more realistic to think about find