Because it is so difficult, you may wonder why helping nurses create balance is one of my passions. Some may even say it’s near well impossible because we rarely see it done well. We do seven on, seven off. Heck, we do 20 on, especially during many of our rigorous training programs. In the month of November last year, the only day I was not at the hospital and at home with my family was Thanksgiving Day. We do 24 hr shifts. We take post-call and do 28 hr shifts. That certainly doesn’t sound like balance. We miss bedtimes; we work weekends and holidays and miss soccer games. We work the night shift because it’s better for our families, but we personally feel lost, tired, out of balance, and just plain worn down in need of a little self-care.
Why tackle such a big problem? Because friends, it is so so worth it! If you look at the statistics, we are burning out like never before. And let me tell you what you already know, your family is worth it. You are worth it. And I will be bold enough to even say your calling is worth it. Not what you are feeling right now, but what you were called to in the very beginning when you started this journey. This is why I say “creating balance in medicine” instead of “finding it.” Balance isn’t the boogie man that hides under the bed and needs to be discovered. If only it were that easy. I’ve always believed in living intentionally or living on purpose, and here, in the area of nurse-life balance, we must do the same.
I think that starts off for us by defining the word. What is balance? I’ll be honest, I don’t love this word, but it’s the only one we have that is fitting in the English language, so of course I went ahead and redefined it.
“It may not be so much balance, that we are searching for. Rather, the knowledge that, for everything there is a season, and realizing when the rhythm of life commands a new season.” - Alex Skinner
Simply put, we can’t just run around our whole lives like chickens with our heads cut off. Know that there will be busy seasons. Some are planned and purposeful. When I decided to go back to nurse practitioner school my husband and I talked about it for a year before I even applied. Why? Because we knew we would be willingly throwing ourselves into a life that many would deem unbalanced and unsustainable for the next three years. We realized though, that it was just for a season, and now we are enjoying so much rest on the other side and life is so much sweeter, easier, and more enjoyable than ever before I started school. Some busy seasons are unplanned and we get thrown into them by no doing of our own. I think of a friend in her 30s whose husband recently died. I’m fairly certain that her life feels pretty unbalanced right now. Whichever it is, please know and believe that it is just for a season.
Here are a few of my fail-safes for busy seasons, that help me build in some balance. First, just say no. Easier than it sounds. Say no to picking up an extra shift, say no to planning the church picnic, say no to organizing the graduate nurse orientation day. None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but when you are living on purpose and intentionally trying to attain your goals you have to prioritize. Here were my top three priorities when I was in graduate school: my family, a few close friends, and graduating as a nurse practitioner. I was not going to sacrifice my family or my degree for something less important. My last suggestion to create balance in a busy season is to build pauses into your day. Take 30 minutes to eat lunch outside, go into the med room and take 5 deep breaths, don’t pull out your phone when you’re in line at the grocery store. All of these intentional actions force you to stop, slow down, relax, and think about what you are doing and how you are reacting. Ask yourself, what is really important right now.
Brothers and sisters, I see you. I am you. And my heart goes out to you. I am no expert, but I am passionate about this subject because it is something I struggled with for so long and still often do. We may not all be able to live these perfectly balanced lives, but by realizing what balance really is, setting our priorities, and living intentionally we can create balance in the world of medicine.
Alexandra Skinner, MSN, RN, ACNP-AG
"Creating A Balanced Life In The World of Medicine"