4 ways to create the work-life balance we all need

nurse power

The past two years have been incredibly difficult for healthcare workers. We were struggling with burnout before the pandemic, but the exhaustion and stress are only worsening. We are required to see more patients, sicker patients, for no extra compensation and what seems like less appreciation. Healthcare burnout is a serious issue that is affecting our physical, mental, and emotional health. We. Are. Struggling.  

Through my work as a nurse practitioner burnout coach, I have identified work-life balance is the #1 causative agent of burnout. We are spending more time at work which hurts our home/personal life. Here are four ways to create a better work-life balance that many of us need.

1. It’s ok to be imbalanced. Know work-life balance will never be 100% balanced. It is impossible to be completely equal. When you are at work, you should be focused on work. When you are at home, you should be focused on home. Some days are better than others. Some months or seasons are worse than others. Let go of the idea that life needs to be balanced. Let go of the perfectionism. Let’s work on shifting our priorities to what we want. I’m going to guess that many of you want to be home more. Want more free time. Want to spend more time with your family. Let’s work on balancing life more towards home and less time trying to make it perfect.

2. Set boundaries. Maybe you need to set some boundaries with family, friends, employer, coworkers, or patients. Setting boundaries is like creating limits and protecting your time. If your burnout is caused by you constantly doing things for everyone else, you need to set some boundaries. We must learn to put our needs first. It is not selfish. It is not rude. We have to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others. If we fail to set boundaries we become resentful of our work. Make the decision (and stick to it!) to not pick up extra shifts. Set a boundary with yourself to not check work email at home. Set a boundary with patients that you will only give out medical advice during a clinic visit and not respond to the typical three phone calls a day. Setting boundaries help us to put our needs first.

3. Actually do self care. We are our best when we love ourselves first. I’m going to guess most of us know what empowers us and makes us feel good. Maybe it is going for a 30 minute walk twice a week. Maybe it’s getting eight hours of sleep a night. Maybe it is going to dinner with friends. Maybe it is writing in a daily gratitude journal. Selfcare does not have to be difficult but we do have to do it. We need to fill our own cups first before we can take care of others!

4. Ask for help. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to admit you’re struggling. It’s ok to not be ok. Ask a family member or friend for help with your children. Hire a housekeeper so you can take the cleaning off your plate. Talk to administration about your burnout and ask for extra help or understanding. Purchase an online course to help you overcome the burnout. It’s ok to ask for help. You don’t have to do this alone! 

Make a commitment to improving your work-life balance. It is possible to overcome the burnout and get your life back.

Erica Dorn is a family nurse practitioner and burnout coach. Erica created the Burned-out Nurse Practitioner to help overwhelmed NPs create work-life balance and conquer burnout. Erica offers helpful blog posts and online courses. Check out her website at https://www.ericadornnp.com/ 

If you are struggling with work-life imbalance because of excessive charting, check out Erica’s 7 Tips to Save Hours on Charting! https://chart.ericadornnp.com/ 

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