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A website for young nurses and the young at heart in Aotearoa

The Tea Room

Finding Work/Life Balance

Posted by Teniah on May 14, 2015 at 11:55 PM

A common thread of “needing to find balance” has been a topic of discussion among young nurses and new graduates across all fields of nursing. Finding work/life balance is particularly hard within that first year of nursing practice, but I believe that this “tug of war” between what we would “like” to be doing with our lives and reality, actually continues throughout the nurse’s career. The nursing profession requires that we always seek to further our knowledge and improve our performance. This, obviously, requires continued education and taking time to self-reflect. While I am no expert, I will take a few moments to discuss what I believe are some helpful tools in establishing this work/life balance. In learning how to manage this balance in our own lives, we will then be better equipped to give of ourselves to others.


Mindfulness is something that is relatively new to nursing research, but an art that has been around for centuries. I would suggest that actually mindfulness could be the missing link in the chain of balance.....Perhaps if we could find a way to increase our ability to be present, we could better attend to each task at hand, and then when finished, we could put that task away and move forward with the next thing.

Mindfulness is essentially the skill to recognise thoughts and feelings in the moment, acknowledge them, and then let them go. It is not about getting anywhere, or achieving anything. It is often referred to as a “non-striving” mode. Mindfulness allows you to be aware of your thoughts and feelings and find compassionate acceptance of them.

I believe that practicing mindfulness could impact a whole number of areas within nursing that most of us struggle with: not enough to time to spend with patients, managing relationships with our colleagues, separating our emotions and the experiences we listen to as professionals, setting boundaries between work and home. Those are just some examples that many young nurses have voiced. I actually believe that if we could learn the skill of mindfulness we could be more present with our patients, offer more compassion to our colleagues, improve the skill of emotional intelligence, and find true BALANCE in our own personal lives.

I used to think that when I graduated nursing school the whole drama of having to work full time and study was behind me....I used to think that I had graduated and would have plenty of time now to develop a social life, volunteer in my community, and actually RELAX – much like the Tui add, the reality of that is...“yeah, right!!”.....Finding time to have a movie night, play games, read a book, paint, or sit back and listen to music, is actually a real struggle. I don’t think it is just me, I believe it is a struggle that all of us face, whether you have been nursing for one week, or for decades; the struggle is still there.

I am by no means an expert and I am still developing my own personal strategy for finding balance. However, these are the things I have found most helpful:

1. Practice loving kindness meditation (It only takes about 10 minutes, helps promote good sleep, and allows you an opportunity to compassionately reflect on those whom you have crossed paths with).

2. Positive self-talk and self-awareness – At the end of your shift, reflect on how the shift went, and find something positive that you can take home with you. It could be that you encouraged someone, helped out a colleague, dealt with a difficult situation well, or had good time management. Whatever it was, feedback that positive reflection to yourself. I personally believe that self-awareness is one of the keys to effective and safe nursing practice (but that is for another blog!) This opportunity also gives you the chance to leave behind any negative feelings or words that were said to you on shift. Be mindful about that experience and how it made you feel; then let it go.

3. Roster time for you – I know that sounds silly, but I am a diary person, and I have pretty much every hour of every day booked out. So, I actually roster myself time. I circle a couple of hours per week that are totally MINE. (At least once a month I devote an entire day– this might include time with a friend but the focus here is on having FUN!) It might mean that I have to turn down doing a favour for someone else, but it means that I can re-charge and have the energy to give 100% to the tasks that are important to me.

4. Exercise – Going for a walk/run directly after work allows you a chance to unwind before moving onto the next thing. Exercise does not always mean sweating! Yoga is another form of stress relief/relaxation that I am a huge advocate for. I will not go into all the positive effects of yoga, but it is sufficient to say that it is a life-changer.

5. Boundaries – Set clear boundaries for work and personal life. Where possible, don’t hang out with work-mates after working hours. I’m not saying you shouldn’t appreciate the team-building lunches or opportunities to get together, but where possible, it’s best to develop relationship outside of work. Join a sports team, knitting group, singing club or whatever you are interested in. Make friends with people who share other things in common that you enjoy besides nursing. (This hugely promotes balance, and prevents burn-out.) While we all love our profession, we are complex people and we are so much more than nurses......don’t be afraid to pursue the other things in life that you love, and that make you happy!

6. Supervision – I’ll talk more about Supervision in another blog, but if you have not hooked up with professional Supervision, Workplace Support, or some form of debriefing/reflection, I highly recommend it. This is a healthy nursing strategy to find balance in your life, and to improve your nursing practice.

Balance is not something you find, it is something you create ~ Get creative and find what works for you!!


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