7 steps to establish work-life balance as a nurse practitioner

work-life balance as a nurse practitioner

Do you find yourself spending more time at work and less time at home?

The term work-life balance seems like a fictitious concept that is not possible for nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners are overwhelmed with seeing patients during the day, managing the other tasks (med refills, prior authorizations, analyzing diagnostic data, reviewing documentation, etc.), and then finding time to sign the dang charts. This is why many nurse practitioners stay late at the office or bring charts home. Nursing practitioners sacrifice time to chart that they could be spending time with family or friends. We usually put our own needs on the back burner.

This is what causes a lack of work-life balance as a nurse practitioner and can create nurse practitioner burnout.

If you experience this work-life imbalance as a nurse practitioner, you are not alone. While it will never be perfectly balanced, there are a few things we can do to create a better balance while still working as a full time nurse practitioner.

Define what work-life balance as a nurse practitioner means to you

Work-life balance is a catchphrase thrown around a lot, but what does it mean to you?

For some nurse practitioners, work-life balance means getting out of the office by 6:30pm to attend their child’s sporting event.

For other nurse practitioners, it means utilizing the four hours of admin time to finish up charting and have their weekends free.

Other nurse practitioners would rather take three weeks of vacation days, just because.

There isn’t one right way to define your own balance. If you are reading this, it is likely your work and life are not balanced. Nor will it ever be 100% balanced. Sometimes, you will have to give more to work than you do at home. But we should be allowed to also give more at home than work. Take some time and think through what you need from each category to be happy with your work-life balance as a nurse practitioner.

Once you’ve determined what it means for you, you can take steps to make sure that everything is in alignment—or at least know when something isn’t working as well as it should. It is important to create a work-life balance as a nurse practitioner that is specific to your life!

Prioritize Important Tasks

As a nurse practitioner, you have a lot of responsibilities on your plate. It’s easy to feel that there are never enough hours in a day between handling patient care, charting patient encounters, refilling medications, and attending to the never ending amount of patient messages. If you are also a human, you likely have responsibilities at home. Preparing meals, cleaning, spending time with friends, attending a child’s school function, exercising your fur baby, etc. Our lives are extremely busy!

But while it can be tempting to accept every new task that comes along (even if you don’t have time), you need to be smart about which ones you prioritize. It is impossible to do it all! Prioritize what is the most important task at that one moment and improve your work-life balance as a nurse practitioner.

Learn How To Say No

One of the most common causes of lack of work-life balance as a nurse practitioner is lack of time. There are just not enough hours in a day to get everything done at work. Not to mention attending to your personal obligations.

One way to resolve that issue is by learning how to set boundaries and say no! Avoid being a people pleaser. Don’t set yourself up for failure by agreeing to take on something you don’t have time or resources to complete. Learn how to prioritize tasks, delegate responsibilities, and learn what you can and cannot take on.

Be upfront about your current obligations. It is ok to try your best to accommodate others’ needs. But make sure to protect your own needs FIRST.

Develop A Personalized Schedule For The Week Ahead

No two days at work are ever alike, so it’s up to you to establish a schedule that works for you.

The key here is finding a plan that will allow you to fully utilize your skills and give you enough time off to pursue other interests and spend time with friends and family. A good goal is to plan out your work week in advance, then double-check it on Sunday night before heading into Monday morning.

Be sure that there’s room left in your schedule to allow time for self-care and time spent with family/friends. Do what brings you joy and fulfillment. And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. This helps to create a better work-life balance as a nurse practitioner.

Take A Step Back At Least Once A Day

Many people are much more productive in shorter bursts. But every day, schedule some time to step back and think about your work from a broader perspective.

During that time, try to put it out of your mind entirely. Give yourself a chance to refresh mentally and get a real sense of what’s working and what isn’t so you can make better decisions going forward.

There are lots of ways to do this—take a walk over lunch break or grab coffee in between patients—but whatever you choose, be sure not to bring work along!

Make Time For Yourself

As a nurse practitioner, you know you need to make time for yourself. This can be hard when working long hours and dealing with an overwhelming amount of patient charts and other tasks.

However, to maintain your mental health and positive attitude, you have to treat yourself as one of your top priorities. Make sure that every day has time built in for self-care—even if it’s just 15 minutes at lunch or structured time in the evenings.

If your schedule makes it impossible to carve out downtime daily, take at least one full day every few weeks to de-stress and recharge. A day off is essential!

Make sure to build these opportunities into your work week so to give yourself time everyday! Prioritizing self-care can give you more energy and motivation to improve work-life balance as a nurse practitioner.

Be Patient – It Can Take Time

Work-life balance as a nurse practitioner is an elusive goal in many professions, but it’s even more challenging for nurse practitioners. Working as a nurse practitioner requires a high level of dedication, attention to detail, and long hours of documentation/other tasks.

Many nurse practitioners do not have autonomy over their own schedules and amount of patients they see in a day. This makes it difficult to create a better work-life balance.

Start with small changes and focus on one habit at a time. It may take time to create a better work-life balance as a nurse practitioner. It is difficult to manage time between family life and professional career fulfillment, so be patient with yourself – it won’t happen overnight. Follow these tips to help you set up boundaries on your own terms so you can be present both at home and in your career.

Erica D the NP is a family nurse practitioner and burnout coach. Erica created The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner to help overwhelmed APRNs create work-life balance, overcome nurse practitioner burnout, and advocate for themselves. The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner offers online courses, coaching, and support. Learn more at www.burnedoutnp.com

For time management and charting tips, check out The Nurse Practitioner Charting School– The one stop for all documentation resources created specifically for nurse practitioners. Learn more at www.npchartingschool.com

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