After COVID-19, interest in healthcare professionals and their plight has increased, with a focus on the demand for nurses. If, like many, you find yourself interested in pursuing this important, in-demand career, then you might want to learn more about nurse work-life balance before signing up for a nursing degree or an online RN program.
This article will address what work-life balance as a nurse typically looks like, whether or not nurses work on weekends, individual factors that lead to poor work-life balance in the nursing career, and the importance of this balance for hospital nurses.
What Is Work-Life Balance?
Work-life balance is the term used to describe how people split spending time and resources between their personal and professional lives and the amount of stress this division places on the individual.
What Does It Mean to Have Work-Life Balance?
A healthy work-life balance is taking reasonable care to devote adequate time and energy to work, leisure, and family life. Often, a job demands more time and energy than an individual can freely give without sacrificing some facet of their private life.
In other cases, things that should be done on personal time start to interfere with job performance. When this becomes a part of daily life rather than an irregularity, there is no healthy work-life balance.
Why Is Work-Life Balance Important for Nursing?
Nurse work-life balance is essential because of the nature of the healthcare industry and the role that nurse work-life balance plays in favorable outcomes for patients. Many nursing responsibilities, such as elderly care and direct patient care, require professional efficacy and an energy level above and beyond other fields.
According to findings from the National Library of Medicine, this high pressure has led to a predictable relative prevalence of mental health issues among current nurses, even in regular times before the pandemic. This sort of nurse burnout is what proper nurse work-life balance would help prevent.
Nursing Job Responsibilities
Nursing jobs are not inflexible, and as such, the responsibilities a nurse might have may vary quite a bit from one to the other. The following are some general duties and complementary roles that most full-time nurses have in common.
Taking Care of Patients
A nurse’s most common responsibility is providing direct care to patients in a medical facility. This usually encompasses whatever is needed, from keeping patients clean to providing healthy snacks and a listening ear. This facet of a nurse’s duties is what makes the profession one of the most vital in the healthcare workforce.
Due to current workplace management systems, nurses often also find themselves at the helm of public hospital administration. They carry out many crucial functions in this capacity ranging from creating and updating records relating to patients to inventorying and scheduling treatments and appointments.
Routine Medical Procedures
Nurses are often in charge of carrying out standard medical procedures such as temperature and BMI checks and other tasks like taking blood and urine samples. They do this in tandem with their administrative functions, creating and updating records of the tests carried out and tallying the incurred liability.
Patient Liaison and Support
Since nurses carry out so many functions within the healthcare workforce, they are the only ones that can properly function as a bridge between other healthcare professionals and the patients being taken care of. As such, hospital nurses are often responsible for eliciting a proper description of issues from clients and explaining the prognosis to patients.
In one of many complementary roles, more tenured nurses might carry out training programs for other staff nurses to ensure a high quality of care or act as nurse managers to oversee their acclimation.
Effective nurse managers are also essential to the healthcare industry because they allow for quick assimilation of new staff in a field that has little room for error. Due to their importance, these tasks require comprehensive management skills.
How Many Hours Do Nurses Work?
As essential healthcare workers, full-time nurses usually work day or night shifts of ten or 12 hours to provide adequate direct patient care round the clock, according to the National Library of Medicine.
There are many exceptions, as the nursing profession is full of concessions to keep up with the workload, which adversely impacts nurse work-life balance. Extra shifts and overtime aren’t uncommon, despite evidence from the Health Affairs journal that this does more harm than good and leads to job burnout.
Do Nurses Work on Weekends?
Depending on the needs of different healthcare organizations, full-time nurses may or may not work weekends. Some nurses may not be required for any weekend work, while others might.
Some nurses, such as those actively engaged in elderly care, might even have duties outside the hospital setting that are carried out on weekends.
How to Achieve Work-Life Balance as a Nurse
- Effective Time Management: Time management is the most critical step in achieving a healthy work-life balance. Only when this is in place can people experience harmony between their professional and private lives. As such, circadian rhythms should be observed and well outlined.
- Exercise: In line with previous studies, findings on Harvard Health have shown exercise as an effective method to help relieve stress and many other physical health benefits. It doesn’t have to be intense, time-consuming routines. Even a quick 10-minute walk will do wonders for you whenever you have some extra time.
- Evaluate Job Satisfaction: Job dissatisfaction could easily lead to work-life imbalance. Considerations like nurses’ salary satisfaction and fairness, satisfaction with welfare benefits provided, and preference between a private and public hospital post can actively impact nurses’ professional lives and their ability to withstand the workload present.
- Adequate Rest: Like with exercise and a healthy diet, countless previous studies have proven the need for adequate rest to facilitate proper work performance. As already discussed, several previous studies focused on medicine and healthcare workers have also shown a causal relationship between lack of rest and medical mishaps.
- Set Boundaries: As a nursing staff, it is important to set healthy limits with patients concerning the depth of relationships with them. While it is important to provide adequate patient care, there must be a limit to the degree to which you involve yourself in a patient’s personal life and vice versa. Depth of relationships can lead to a conflict of interest and increased difficulty maintaining a healthy balance.
Healthcare Companies With the Best Work-Life Balance
Not every company in the medicine and healthcare services industry is equal in terms of its effectiveness for nurse retention and preventing turnover among nurses. This can be expressed in terms of factors of nurses’ work-life balance that are taken care of by the organization.
Note that this list is non-exhaustive, and does not consider healthcare companies ranked based on financial compensation. That is because the highest paying healthcare companies, do not necessarily provide the best work-life balance. With that in mind, here are some examples of companies that provide an attractive work-life balance.
Oklahoma Heart Hospital
- Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Heart hospital boasts a stellar nurse-to-patient ratio and has a work culture designed to provide both adequate patient care and prevent burnout through an employee assistance program. The hospital employs an adequate nursing workforce and still manages to keep turnover among nurses minimal.
Southern Ohio Medical Center
- Location: Portsmouth, Ohio
With the highest effectiveness for nurse retention of any featured company, Southern Ohio Medical Center has maintained an impressive 95 percent retention rate in recent years.
Internal employee assessments rank it as one of the best as regards satisfaction in medicine and healthcare workers. Individual factors that contribute to this high satisfaction rate include comprehensive management, adequate health care provisions, and salary satisfaction.
The Houston Methodist Hospital
- Location: Houston, Texas
Unique in terms of its current workplace management system, the Methodist Hospital System prioritizes the convenience of healthcare workers. The system allows employees to see to the care of patients without incurring burnout, even when performing critical care functions. These perks include self-scheduling and annual incentives for performance.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
- Location: Nashville, Tennessee
With a laser focus on new nurse retention rates, Vanderbilt offers a comprehensive and competitive residency program, aimed at ensuring an adequate nursing workforce going forward. For those with a newly minted nursing degree, this is a great choice to better yourself in a nurturing, hands-on environment within the healthcare industry.
Hackensack Meridian Health
- Location: Edison, New Jersey
Meridian Health focuses more on career progression to reduce turnover among nurses. Because of this, they offer many incentives and subsidies to facilitate acquiring new qualifications and research, as well as galvanizing prior knowledge and previous studies in the field.
Is Work-Life Balance Possible for Nurses?
Yes. Healthy nurse work-life balance is not only possible but vital to proper healthcare as this greatly reduces the turnover among nurses. Studies published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information have shown links between physical or mental exhaustion in full-time nurses and reported medical mishaps. These findings are consistent and show a clear causal relationship.
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By following the recommendations outlined prior and keeping work-related stress factors (as well as any individual factors that might be contributing) to a minimum, it is quite possible to achieve work-life balance as a nurse. Consequently, achieving this balance will set you down the path to becoming an effective nurse manager.
Nursing Work-Life Balance FAQ
Yes, some nurses do work from home. While not feasible for those tasked with direct care or critical care cases, certain nursing jobs with a higher focus on the liaison, training, and administration of certain facets can be carried out by nurses remotely.
For instance, an effective nurse manager might be able to primarily work remotely (with infrequent in-person visits). Like much of the nursing workload, it all comes down to many individual factors and the hospital nurse staffing system in place.
Every state has a board of nursing that serves the dual purpose of regulating the nursing industry and looking out for the best interest of nurses in that state. These responsibilities of the board of nursing include licensing nurses in the state and commissioning studies into the effect of current conditions on workers.
Yes. Any registered nurse can work part-time if such opportunities exist near them. Due to the need for consistent and uninterrupted care required at most medicine and healthcare facilities, part-time nursing jobs generally involve work outside of the hospital environment.
This work can include checking up on homebound patients, providing counseling for those with addiction issues, and so on. Also, there are several alternative careers for registered nurses looking to pivot to a career path that will allow for easier part-time schedules.
Nurses are generally not entitled to paid leave on a widespread level. However, in a bid to improve nurse retention and combat job fatigue, many employers will grant paid leave in many cases if requested. In the case of maternity leave, many state and local laws require this as a matter of course.
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