Nurse Wellness: Work-Life Balance Through Mindfulness

American Sentinel is supporting the ANA’s designation of 2017 as the “Year of the Healthy Nurse” with a new, four-part series about Nurse Wellness that will unfold over the next month. Read the other parts of this series here. This is the final installment.

In case you’ve missed it, the ANA’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation initiative is a reminder for nurses to take better care of themselves, in order to better care for their patients, as well as contribute to overall public health. When nurses are healthy, well rested, and safe on the job, they have more life- and job-satisfaction overall—which, in turn, has an impact on patient outcomes and quality of care. Many nurses struggle to find that elusive “work – life balance” due to 12-hour shifts, a lengthy commute, or stress on the job that spills over into family life. Often the struggle results from a focus on scheduling—juggling the actual number of hours and minutes spent at work with the other important things in life, like family, community, and relaxation.

But work-life balance is more than shifting priorities between your job, you family, and your personal pursuits. Don’t you want to be happy everywhere? Of course you do! And that’s why watching the clock or counting the hours you spend at work versus doing other things will never bring you a sense of balance. It’s why the new buzzword for balance is mindfulness.

The idea behind mindfulness is to cultivate the same joy and meaningful engagement wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, and whichever role you’re assuming at the moment. Mindfulness is slippery to define, but it’s essentially a conscious awareness of present-moment experiences with an open, non-judgmental attitude. It’s paying attention to the details of life right now and taking in the present with all five senses. Some people call this “showing up in life.”

Defining work-life balance as mindfulness makes it an individual choice, rather than a workplace culture that may or may not include balance. In healthcare environments, research is beginning to suggest that mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) can reduce a clinician’s stress or the likelihood of burnout. It is also said to promote empathy, compassion, and a focus on optimal care.

For nurses, mindfulness can result in better focus and less distraction—which in turn can allow you to make better assessments and respond more proactively than if you were reacting on autopilot. Mindfulness and its improved focus can also guide your performance on complex clinical procedures and enhance your communication skills because you are listening and speaking with greater attention. It can reduce stress and burnout. Clearly, all of these things can have a positive impact on clinical outcomes, particularly in a crisis.

These same principles apply to your life outside of work. Experts advise approaching each task or activity with that same conscious awareness of the “here and now” to eliminate anxiety about what you have to do—or where you have to be—next. For a crash course in mindfulness 101, check out this article in Nursing Times.

Do you see yourself as a healthy nurse? Our wellness series was conceived to help nurses actively focus on balancing all aspects of well-being: physical, mental, emotional, social, personal, spiritual, intellectual, and professional. Please take a look at the other posts in this series!