Healthcare workers are often overworked as the industry is fast-paced and workers are short in supply. For instance, during the pandemic, the healthcare sector was severely understaffed. The virus was new, there wasn’t enough information to prevent its spread, and front-line workers like nurses and doctors were at high risk. The burden of responsibilities on the healthcare staff disrupted their work-life balance.
Fast forward to 2022, the spread of the virus is somewhat under control, and the situation has subsided. As a result, health care professionals may have returned to their pre-pandemic routines. However, there remains an imbalance between healthcare staff’s professional and personal lives.
Nurses, doctors, and surgeons work around the clock to provide medical care for patients, often without considering their health and well-being. As a result, healthcare jobs are rewarding yet stressful. However, don’t put your health on the back burner for work. Here are five ways to maintain a healthy work-life balance if you’re actively working in healthcare.
Know your goals
Working in the healthcare sector is purpose-driven. Not every person has the temperament to cater to the medical and healthcare needs of others. For some professions like nurses may come as a natural calling. Others might not view themselves working in a fast-paced, strict, and intensive environment. Before enrolling in an online MSN or any other medical program, ask yourself if this is what you truly want.
Nursing, for instance, is more demanding and challenging than a medical consultant’s role. However, since nurses carry the burden of improving patients’ lives through primary care, it can become overwhelming when their job affects their personal life.
As a nurse, you would constantly be on the go. It is exasperating to your mind and body if you only work and do not take the required breaks. For instance, as a nurse with a family to look after, you might be better suited for small-scale clinics or telemedicine roles. This way, you can create the optimal work-life routine that doesn’t jeopardize your health or professional life.
Accept you can’t change everything
While it’s good to know your life’s purpose aligns with your role in the healthcare field, it is crucial to understand that you can’t change everything that needs improvement. For example, perhaps your life’s passion is to help underprivileged communities or ensure senior citizens have timely access to healthcare. You may have noble goals and aspirations to bring a change, but it may not be possible to change everything.
Overburdening yourself with workplace stress can impact your physical and mental health. If you find yourself getting stressed about work, talk to someone. Acknowledge what you can and cannot change to a counselor, friend, or confidant. Develop coping mechanisms for workplace stressors, like creating healthy boundaries with colleagues and patients.
Organize your life
One strategy for overcoming workplace stress while juggling personal life is planning everything. Whether you’re the department head or floor manager, there are plenty of ways to incorporate your personal goals with organizational goals. First, allocate time daily to reflect on scheduled tasks, appointments, and personal life responsibilities.
Taking care of your family’s needs can be stressful while coping with work if you’re in a leadership role. Develop productivity systems and positive habits that work for you. Don’t over plan, but jot down tasks and sort them out by priority or deadline.
You can use digital or paper planning systems, like a calendar, to stay on track with your personal and professional appointments. While doing so, make time for activities you enjoy, like reading, camping, or spending time with your family.
Working in healthcare is demanding, but it shouldn’t undermine your family or personal time. Routine tasks like meal planning, grocery shopping, and spending time with your children or partner require as much effort as taking care of your patients. If you struggle, pause and reflect on which tasks need your utmost attention. Deal with those and then focus on the rest.
Look out for your emotional health
Since healthcare is a service-driven field, you would interact with many people daily. Therefore, engaging in meaningless and small talk with co-workers or patients is tempting. Sometimes small talk is harmless, and light banter might uplift your mood. But if small talk with a patient or co-worker turns into tedious conversations that become emotionally draining, avoid it.
As a nurse or consultant, you want to appear approachable and helpful, but you must look out for your health. Start by prioritizing your emotional, physical, and mental health. Set boundaries like leaving work when it’s time and disconnecting from stressful situations. Make it an intention to disconnect from workplace stressors as soon as you leave work. Don’t replay emotionally draining conversations in your head.
If you need a healthy medium to vent, discuss it with a mental health practitioner or talk to someone you trust. Journaling and yoga might also help in destressing your mind and body. Already your role as a healthcare worker is physically and emotionally demanding. You don’t want more time-wasting activities that take away whatever little mental peace you have after a day’s worth of shifts.
Manage your time
Healthcare professionals find it challenging to make time for themselves due to the demanding nature of their job. However, certain time management tips can help you invest your time in positive and healthy experiences. Instead of spending all week at work, schedule an out-of-work appointment every week with a friend or loved one. When you’re meeting them, have meaningful conversations about life and work. Don’t engage with someone that emotionally drains you.
Apart from meeting loved ones, check whether you prioritize your physical and emotional health. For example, are you getting enough sleep? Are you doing things you love, like reading or walking in the park? Are you exercising regularly? Include positive habits into your routine to prioritize yourself.
Years of not prioritizing your mental and physical health may lead to burnout, stress, hypertension, and even mood irritability. Also, set limits with colleagues and patients while still seeming approachable. Every patient needs you, so you have to manage your time accordingly.
Lastly, disconnect from the world when you need to. On days off, stay off social media or work calls and emails. Keep your home and work life separate by shutting off the phone or putting it on do-not-disturb when you need time off.
Like professionals in other fields, healthcare workers can attain a work-life balance through consistency and realizing that they deserve downtime and care. It is difficult to make abrupt changes in your routine when all you’ve done is prioritize work over your personal life, but worth the effort. Your future self would thank you for taking the time to understand your needs.