Working in healthcare is often synonymous with long hours and stressful work, so finding a good work-life balance when you work in this industry is important. When caring so heavily for other people’s health and having your career be focused on the health of others, it’s easy to let your own slip. Nevertheless, just as much focus should be put on your own health in the same way as it’s put on those you care for within your job, and that’s where a good work-life balance can make all the difference.
Whether you’re a doctor, hospital worker, pharmacist, dentist or graduating from nurse practitioner programs, there’s always a need for a healthy work-life balance.
Why is a Good Work-Life Balance Important in Healthcare?
A good work-life balance is essential no matter your job, but it’s even more essential with those jobs where your hours and work can be demanding and stressful, like within healthcare.
Without the right work-life balance, you’re more at risk of becoming burned out in your job and in your life. This means a higher risk of stress, health problems, exhaustion, and even mental health problems. Because a lack of work-life balance can be so overwhelming, issues such as anxiety or low mood can easily occur over some time if your downtime is completely neglected and all you do is work.
Furthermore, roles in healthcare carry a lot of responsibility when it comes to caring for other patients. Roles such as doctors and nurses within nurse practitioner programs mean that you’re meeting a variety of people who depend on your dedicated care. If your work-life balance is suffering, this can easily mean that your own work capabilities and mindset are suffering, too, resulting in you feeling as though you may be exhausted or demotivated.
While there are always going to be those moments in a career where you may need to work extra hours or put the time and effort in — especially within healthcare which relies so much on training, hard work and progression — it’s still important to balance out any extra work you have to do by making sure you still have time to relax and concentrate on your own wellbeing.
Signs Your Work-Life Balance is Suffering
Here are the biggest red flags to watch out for when it comes to your work-life balance and how it could be negatively impacted.
- Constantly feeling like you have too much to do, and you never seem to be able to get straight
- Feeling completely exhausted
- Unable to get a good night’s sleep, or sacrificing sleep to get jobs done
- You can’t remember the last time you had time for yourself to relax
- Your days off are spent trying to catch up with chores or other work duties, so it never feels like a day off
- You are distracted or struggling to focus
- You have low mood and irritability
- You may be losing weight from stress
- You constantly feel stressed
- Your meals are always rushed, or you don’t feel like you have the time to make healthy meals
- Your sole goals are focused only on career progression, and you’re sacrificing everything else
- You’re constantly self-critical over your work
- You’re always striving for perfectionism in everything you do and being judgmental about everything you do if it’s not what you would consider being perfect
- You’re losing passion for a job you usually love because it’s become too demanding or you feel overworked
- You’re trying to achieve too much, such as unable to find the balance between work shifts and studying for medical career advancements like with nurse practitioner programs or online courses
- You receive negative comments from other people that you’re always working and never have time for anything (or anyone) else
How You Can Manage a Good Work-Life Balance When You Work in Healthcare
Here are just some of the ways you can try to achieve a better work-life balance within a healthcare career, whether you’re preparing ahead, or whether you currently feel as though your own balanced life is suffering.
- Consider Roles with Working Hours to Suit You
There are plenty of role options when it comes to healthcare, which means plenty of working hours and patterns, too. If there is a particular working pattern which would best suit your lifestyle to get the best work-life balance, you might want to consider aiming for that specific role within healthcare. This could be working early mornings, evenings, or even nights, if that best suits other commitments you have in your personal life.
If you’re currently working a role whose hours seem to leave you no time to fulfil anything in your private life and which you feel hinder everything you want and need to do, you might want to consider making a switch when it comes to the working patterns available to you. For instance, flexible roles within nurse practitioner programs may mean you can more freely work throughout the day.
- Study Online to Progress Your Career
Studying online is a flexible way to advance in your healthcare career, or else fulfil the qualifications needed for your role, in a way that best suits you. Studying online means you can more easily fit your studies around your work and life so that they can be the least disruptive as possible. It also means that you save time on commuting to a physical institution which can then be spent at home or as spare time instead.
Studying online also means that you can spend more time at home. Although you’ll still need devoted hours to study, and privacy, it’s still more pleasant to be able to study in your own home space and take a break for five minutes either to relax between studying or spend time more easily with loved ones if you live with others.
There are plenty of options when it comes to studying online within healthcare and advancing your career, like dedicated nurse practitioner programs.
- Take Time Off When You Need To
You’re entitled to a vacation or extra days off whenever you need them, and that’s what vacation days are there for. You don’t even have to go on vacation or travel anywhere officially; if you need a week off simply to spend at home to catch up on pastimes or relax, then that’s highly encouraged if you’re feeling overworked or exhausted.
Healthcare sectors and departments like doctors or nurse practitioner programs will always have steps in place to cover your work with a dedicated health professional, so you should never have to worry about taking time off when you need to.
- Decide Your Set Working Hours — and Stick to Them
A lot of healthcare positions demand extra hours of you, whether it always needs to have your phone on, be on-call or if patients want to speak with you outside of set working hours. While it can’t always be avoided, it’s a good idea to decide your set working hours and be very strict with them — as well as letting everyone else know when your working hours are.
If anyone such as patients or colleagues are asking to contact you during unsociable hours, such as late at night or weekends, and you’re not obliged to take that communication, it’s okay to say unfortunately you don’t work on the weekends and instead provide them with the information of a colleague or service which are available during the times you’re not working.
It can be difficult to say no to patients with whom you become close, such as through nurse practitioner programs when you work closely with families who you get to know on a personal level, but it’s important to set those boundaries and maintain that professional relationship so that everybody understands your working hours and when you are and aren’t available.
- Be More Organized and Productive
The smarter and more organized you choose to work, the less time spent wasted. You could feel less stressed if you work in a more organized way with your set working hours and limit the risk of having to work extra long hours in order to get on track with everything. The more productive you are, the better you’re going to make use of your set working hours and accomplish everything you can within your given time frame. This can help to avoid having to work overtime, stay late at night or even take work home with you to get it done.
- Be Productive with your Down Time, Too
If you actually do plan your schedule in an organized way to be able to have regular downtime and time spent at home, you don’t they want to waste it feeling exhausted, doing nothing, sleeping or perhaps simply worrying about when you have to go back to work next. It’s important to find a healthy routine during your downtime, too, so that you can always make the best of it and always feel organized.
Hobbies and pastimes which you enjoy and which you are passionate about will help to decrease stress and have you feeling more mindful and able to concentrate on something other than your work. A good fitness routine is imperative to have you staying active and feeling motivated outside of your job.
If you have to study during your downtime, such as if studying for nurse practitioner programs or online healthcare courses, then always be sure to still plan for breaks or fit in healthy meals and exercise breaks so that you’re remaining healthy and taking a break from the screen.
Additionally, you should also be making use of your downtime to concentrate on self-care and your own wellbeing. Spend some time reconnecting with yourself and understanding those areas which may need a little work, such as eating habits, fitness, relaxation or finding a passion for something again if you’ve been feeling low.
Concentrate on making your downtime productive and positive.
- Speak to Your Workplace if Necessary
Sometimes, through no fault of your own, it may be that working demands have simply become too much. Perhaps you feel as though you have too much responsibility or maybe what you’re being asked to do can’t easily be fit into the working hours you have been set. Speaking to those in charge, whether it’s a team leader you trust, your boss or a colleague who can offer advice, can help to alleviate some of the burdens and hopefully plan a healthier working pattern for you.
It may be that your superiors didn’t know that you feel overworked or that they were putting too much pressure on you, and it may easily be able to be rectified if you openly communicate about how you’re feeling.
Often, simply the act of speaking with someone and getting it out in the open can help to alleviate the build-up of stress which you may be feeling if overworked.
Additionally, if you are undertaking any online studying for your healthcare career, like with online nurse practitioner programs, it may be that you can move around your deadlines or speak to your course leaders to plan out a better schedule if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Open communication is key.
- Fit in Socializing Where You Can
It’s important to find time for the others in your life who you care about, too. While it’s always okay to give yourself the alone time you need, it’s also about finding balance with those you want to spend your non-working time with, too.
To better socialize, it may take extra planning ahead of time to fit it in where you can. Could you meet up with a friend during your lunch break instead of sitting at a desk? Could you video call them during your break? Could you meet them before your shift starts for a quick coffee? Without extra planning, there may be many opportunities you’re missing to fit in quick catchups with those who matter.
In conclusion, a good work-life balance is not only about taking the right steps to find more time for yourself but also about being aware enough to notice any red flags that you’re working too much. So, whether it’s long healthcare shifts, training shifts or online courses like nurse practitioner programs, always make sure you have time for yourself, too.