From the outside, nursing can be glamorized just as much as doctors can be. They provide lifesaving care, work in fast-paced jobs, deal with drama and yet always seem to have the energy to do more. Television can greatly skew the perception of what the reality is life for those working in healthcare, both in too positive a light and in too negative a light. The reality is always nuanced, and more importantly, there are so many ways for every nurse to find the right role and working environment where they can personally thrive the best.
Regardless of whether you currently work as a nurse or are interested in starting a new career in nursing, knowing how to make a good life and career for yourself will make a huge difference. Like with any job, it can be all too easy to get caught up in things and find yourself in a position that doesn’t suit you.
In the best-case scenario, you are bored; in the worst, you are burning out. Nursing comes in so many different shapes and sizes, and with so many people in need of great nurses who not only love what they do but also have the energy to do what they do, it has never been more important for nurses to find their stride.
Living a good life as a nurse means putting yourself first so that you can give your all to your patients. Doing it the other way around will continue to diminish you when you need to shine.
To help you find that perfect balance and to lead a fulfilling career and life, use this guide to get started:
How to Avoid Burnout
Burnout is one of the biggest threats facing any nurse today. Not only are nurses typically understaffed, and RNs are often underpaid for the work that they do, but they are also now placed in risky situations every day for the benefit of society. They know their work is important, but whether or not their job is the right fit is another matter entirely.
Being burned out at work, however, does not mean you cannot cut it as a nurse. It doesn’t mean you have to end your nursing career, either. Avoid or stop burnout instead by adjusting your approach and using these tips:
- Find a Role that Supports Your Energy
We all of different energy levels. Some of us are ready to go and thrive in high-stress situations because we live for the adrenaline. Others cannot handle it at all. Just because one person cannot handle working in a busy hospital, however, does not mean that they are not a good fit to be a nurse, but rather their perfect job can be found elsewhere. Just as there are nurses that struggle to work in high-stress situations, there are nurses that cannot handle the slow-paced system of a clinic. There is no right or wrong way to be a nurse, but there are right and wrong roles. Finding the role that helps you feel most energized is a key way to avoid burnout, either through stress or boredom.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Move
There are patients everywhere, so on top of finding the right type of nursing job for you, know that there are differences based on where you live. If you find that the chaos of working in a city hospital is too much, but you want to work in a department that is only commonly available within the hospital setting, try moving to a smaller town or to a new state (if you have a multi-state license) to find the right fit.
- Be Ready to Progress
One of the biggest causes behind burnout, especially if you currently work in a role that is both boring for you and exhausting. Being passionate about what you do and interested in either the processor in the case that comes your way can help you manage your energy because, though it may seem inappropriate to admit it, you are having fun. You don’t need to be gleeful about what you are doing or even happy about what is happening to your patients, but you do need to be excited about your actual job.
Being stuck for too long in the same role can make your job lose that sparkle, especially when the job itself is very demanding. That is why one of the most important tips you can take home with you from this guide is that you need to be ready to progress. How you progress can be working in a new department and learning on the job, or it could be done by advancing your qualifications.
Moving up offers many great benefits, particularly if you feel like “slowing down” or, at the very least, changing from a physically demanding role to one that is mentally stimulating but helps you manage your energy and your physical health much easier.
Earning an MSN is a great place to start, but if you really want to stay fascinated, earn more, and of course, open up a greater number of job opportunities so that you can direct your career to the role that best suits you next, then you will want to earn a DNP.
As there is no concrete data as to how much more you could earn with a DNP vs just an MSN, many nurses do wonder if a DNP is worth the cost and the trouble. So, is a DNP worth it? The short answer is that it depends. If you ever plan on transitioning into management or leadership roles or want to move into education or even policymaking, then yes. DNPs are more highly trained and better prepared for a career outside of direct patient care.
On top of being better prepared to work in leadership positions within healthcare, DNPs also work to shape public health policy, work within the administration, become nurse educators, work as consultants for a variety of different industries, and work in research. If you want to transition out of direct care and enjoy a well-paid post-nursing career that still relies on your education and training, a DNP can be the perfect tool to do just that.
- Set Small Goals for Yourself
Progressing upwards through a career in nursing often means working while studying. Regardless of whether you are actively managing that juggle, or are undertaking the prerequisites, remember that smaller goals are important. Small goals are easy to achieve and making progress can be great for your motivation and mental health.
Every time you complete one of those smaller stepping stones, reward yourself. This could be with something small, like a nice meal out or a massage. Rewarding yourself is simply good self-care, especially if it helps you stay on task.
How to Balance Work, Life, and Health
When it comes to living a good life as a nurse, there needs to be a balance. Keeping to a strict routine may seem stifling, but done right, it can be just what you need to live better, work better, and be better. The goal of having a strict routine is that it helps you take care of yourself better, and more importantly, it gives you dedicated time to work or study, so you can properly relax without guilt or worry when you have your time off.
Doing a little every day (especially when it comes to your degree) can take the stress off, help you learn better, and help you achieve your goals with less fuss.
Don’t be afraid to cut corners, however. If you find cooking to be a huge, daunting task, then finding an affordable meal plan solution that is delivered to your door can be a great alternative. If you find that cleaning your home is too much to handle, then find a cleaning person to come in once a week or every two weeks.
Your energy and your happiness are worth the extra costs associated, and if you can afford it, then absolutely invest in the little methods to make your juggle easier.
What to Remember
There is a strange pressure on all of us to get it right the first time. If you don’t, then you made a mistake and have to live with it. It’s wrong to assume that choosing the career path or the job role that you have is ever a mistake. You will have learned something, both professionally and about yourself. You can also change.
Just because a role was a good fit for you when you were younger does not mean that it must continue to be a good fit for you forever. Being honest with yourself and what you need from your career will provide the biggest difference for your quality of life and career.
Sometimes you will need to retrain and earn another post-graduate certificate. In other instances, you may want to go further up and earn that DNP so that you can start helping people on a grander stage in policy or through education.
Listening to yourself, being aware and honest about your needs, and acknowledging that we all grow, and change will help you continue to make better choices for your future and to forge your own way forward.