Nursing, by nature, can require long hours and sporadic schedules — which can make it difficult to achieve a healthy work/life balance. As you embark on your next travel nursing assignment, follow these tips for avoiding burnout:
- Be honest with your employer about the number of hours you can handle. While you may be tempted to take on a few extra shifts to earn more money or simply prove your dedication to a new job, it’s always best to be up-front with the facility about your schedule. Know how often you can work and tell your boss if you anticipate needing to take time off or switching shifts with another nurse.
- Take time throughout the work day to prioritize your tasks. Even if you don’t have more than 15 minutes to eat lunch or sit down after bustling around for hours, make the time that you do have count. Write down the most important thing you have to accomplish that day, then include only three or four more tasks you know can finish. Keeping a short t0-do list helps you stay on track and also allows you to feel satisfied when you cross something off.
- Get outside for a few minutes each day to refresh. Clear your mind and reenergize just by walking outside the building or, should you have time, jogging in the morning or evening. The exercise will give you an energy boost, but sometimes even sitting outside on a bench if you only have a short break can make a difference, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
- Figure out ways to make your sleep really count. You’re probably already used to cramming naps into the afternoon hours or sleeping during the day when you have a late-night shift. Since it can be hard to train your body to sleep when it’s light outside, make your bedroom as inviting as possible. Invest in light- and sound-blocking curtains, buy soft sheets and pillows and keep your room as quiet as possible. You may consider making a sleep playlist if music helps you calm down or buying noise-cancelling headphones or a white noise machine to fall asleep faster.
- Make time for the things you love. Anticipating going to a great new movie with a friend or hiking with your spouse on the weekend can help you get through a long work day — and it can make the activities even more enjoyable. Even if you don’t have time for a girls’ night out right now, plan to squeeze in a pedicure or just listen to your favorite upbeat music on your way home from work. Small pleasures can make a big difference when you’re exhausted and feeling the effects of a monotonous schedule.
- Take care of your body and pay attention to warning signs. Sometimes you care so much about your patients’ health that you neglect your own. If you notice a cold coming on or start feeling depressed or anxious, be sure to get the medication and care that you need. You’ll be happier and healthier, and you’ll be a better nurse as well.
- Remember why you went into nursing. Everyone has ups and downs, but there can be weeks or even months of hard days when you don’t feel like you’re making much of a difference. When this happens, think back on what made you want to become a nurse. You may also find it helpful to keep a happy thoughts journal you can look back on later. Make a habit of jotting down rewarding nursing experiences when they happen to remind yourself that your career does matter and patients appreciate the care you provide.