As physicians, nurses, paramedics, and other EMS and medical professionals, we dedicate our careers to protecting the health and well-being of our communities. But all too often, we are so focused on others that we have a hard time rationalizing taking time for our own well-being.
Finding a balance between demanding careers like nursing and family life is not only possible but also essential to performing and feeling your best.
So, as you juggle hectic work schedules, family life, clean living, BLS certifications, CPR renewals, and social obligations, use these healthy tips for healthcare providers to make prioritizing your health and happiness more manageable.
Sleep, Eat, and Exercise Well
Your physical health is directly correlated to your mental health and job performance. As you face life-threatening situations, delivering life-saving interventions, you need to be at your best. That all starts with your sleep, your diet, and your exercise routine.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that the average adult get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble getting an uninterrupted stretch, try to squeeze in a solid nap during the day before your shift begins.
Eat a balanced diet, avoiding sugary or greasy foods when you can. Instead, opt for snacks that are high-protein and high-energy. Shift workers are more prone to sleep disorders, chronic disease, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease than the general population, but there are many ways maintaining a healthy diet and exercise can combat these negative health effects. For diet strategies to improve your overall health, you may enjoy reading “Dietary Strategies for Shift Workers to Boost Energy and Reduce the Risk of Chronic Disease,” “Dietary Strategies for Shift Workers That Decrease Inflammation and Improve Cardiovascular Health,” or “Dietary Supplements Proven to Help Shift Workers Have More Energy and Get Better Sleep.”
Make time to exercise each day. If you are struggling to find time to exercise, get creative in finding small ways to boost your physical activity. Take the stairs at work. Play a sport during your family time. Lift some weights while you watch TV. Ride a stationary bike while you read or work on your certifications online. Even a short walk outside during your lunch break and 10 minutes in the sun will boost your mood and energize you for the job ahead.
Communicate With Your Support Network
Even when you are doing everything right, life happens. That’s why having a support network is so important. As you contemplate your support network, consider expanding it beyond your spouse, family members, and friends to include co-workers. Your fellow healthcare professionals have likely experienced burn out or frustrations at work and might have advice that pertains to your specific situation. Check-in regularly with them so you can both support each other when challenges arise.
Don’t be afraid to keep your support network in the loop and ask for help. For more tips on how to build resilience and create better communication during stressful situations at work and at home, you may be interested in the free 30-minute webinar “Building Resiliency as First Responders—A Complete Approach.” While the webinar addresses first responders, many of the challenges and traumatic experiences we face as healthcare professionals are similar to those emergency personnel experience, and the tips in this video are very applicable to the stressors we face in our daily lives.
Schedule, Schedule, Schedule
Whether you are working to balance your work as a doctor and family life or your work as a nurse practitioner and family life, the best thing you can do is make a schedule. Have a master calendar with your work schedule, social schedule, and personal time all in one place.
If it isn’t on the calendar, it won’t happen. But, if you schedule your time wisely, you’ll ensure there is always enough time in the day to do what you need — and what you want — to do.
This calendar is also the perfect place to put important family events like appointments, recitals, or field trips so they don’t fall through the cracks. Schedule your exercise time, sleep, meals, and periods to relax.
Having a schedule will allow you to visually see where you are spending your time and how much of your focus is allocated to work, your family, and yourself. This will help you as a doctor, nurse, paramedic, or EMS professional with long work shifts to understand how you are balancing and prioritizing your time and where adjustments need to be made. Are you setting aside enough family time? Are you getting enough personal time? Are you letting your physical or emotional health slip through the cracks?
By putting these tips into action, you’ll be on your way to a healthier, happier you. You’ll perform better at work and be able to deliver quality care to the people you serve.
- Swanson, D. How to Balance Nursing School and Family Life. The Daily Nurse. Aug 20, 2018. https://dailynurse.com/how-to-balance-nursing-school-and-family-life/
- Zagorulya, M. Living to Save Lives: The Career of a Paramedic. Journal of Young Investigators. Jun 1, 2014. https://www.jyi.org/2014-june/2017/3/28/living-to-save-lives-the-career-of-a-paramedic
- National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times. SleepFoundation.org. Feb 2, 2015. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times
- Colduvell, K. High-Protein & High-Energy Snacks For Nurses. Nurse.org. Jan 27, 2017. https://nurse.org/articles/high-protein-high-energy-snacks-for-nurses/