I’ve been asked twice, actually three times, this week about how I attain work-life balance. The first inquiry was made by a neighbor/mother to a toddler while brunching, the second by a single friend over happy hour cocktails, and the third by a nurse practitioner student in the throes of completing a project for her accelerated NP program. It seems that no matter our age or situation, work-life balance is a concept we all struggle with.

I’m rather idealistic when I discuss work-life balance. The reason? I feel like I actually have it. At times in my life this hasn’t been the case, but for a while now things have been a-okay (my one disclaimer is that I don’t yet have children and I hear they make life take a turn for the crazy). Some nurse practitioners don’t buy in to the fact that healthcare professionals can achieve such a state of harmony. In my last post on the subject, a reader commented that I must also believe in unicorns. All kidding aside, I say such a life is possible.

My most recent ask for advice regarding balancing school, work, life, family, and friends came from a nurse practitioner student. As I briefly reflected thinking of the best advice to give, I surprised myself with my answer. I hadn’t really thought about life in that way recently. “You can’t have it all, you can’t do it all, and you can’t be everything to everybody-at least not all at once” I told her. Looking back on why I feel that I’ve achieved work-life balance, it’s because I’ve learned to let go. Perhaps the secret isn’t doing more or being more, it’s doing less. It’s learning what deserves your attention in the moment. Let me describe what I mean when it comes to my own life.

There are weeks when I feel like I’m crushing it on the ThriveAP blog. My blog topics are on point and words flow freely as I type. Then, there are weeks when I’m pulling multiple overnight shifts in the emergency department and my brain feels like a pile of mush. Return of full cognitive function seems questionable at best. There are weeks such as the arrival of the Ebola virus in the U.S. when NYC travel and media commitments unpredictably drive my schedule. Finally, there’s family. The trump card. Health emergencies, in-person visits, and time with my husband take precedent over my other commitments (most of the time). These are the things of forever-if I don’t prioritize them (and I want to) I always regret it.

My secret to attaining a work-life balance is to strive for an overall balance rather than a week-to-week or day-to-day balance. When I’m working overnights at the hospital, family commitments and  professional obligations don’t stand a chance in competing with my need for sleep. But, the following week I make up for it by publishing a few kickin’ articles and going out on date nights with my husband. While my daily and weekly schedules often feels one-sided, my annual, and even monthly calendar seem pretty balanced overall. 

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The other key to my comfort with my work-life situation is that I’ve given up trying to be perfect. My father-in-law always talks about an ‘80% zone of comfort’. I used to be a perfectionist-a 100% zone of comfort kind of girl. My NP program essays all received high A’s. I always purchased wedding gifts on time (you have a year, you know). I went out with my friends until 2am then woke up for class at 6. I ran a marathon. Being all things to all people was utterly exhausting. I was going through the motions. Now, I operate on less of a perfectionist platform. Don’t get me wrong-I’m still a hard worker. But, if the font on the handout I’ve created for a speaking engagement isn’t exactly how I want it, that’s OK. If date night with my husband involves Domino’s pizza, sweat pants, and chatting on our deck, I embrace expandable waistbands and greasy food over stuffy restaurants, small portions, and stilettos.

As nurse practitioners, a lot of us are ‘type A’ people. For me, the secret to work-life balance was to tone it down a little. I got a broader perspective when looking at how I spend my time rather than focusing on a 24-hour rotation. So far, I can report back it’s going more than OK, especially since the very next step in my work-life balance equation is a couple’s trip to Aruba with my hubby (I’m choosing not to focus on the string of night shifts that will follow). 

Alright. I have an ‘80% zone of comfort’ with this post discussing my musings on my work-life balance so that’s all for now. How do other NPs manage competing work-life commitments?


5 thoughts on “My Secret to Work-Life Balance as a Nurse Practitioner”

  1. Rachel B. FNP-C

    Thank you for your thoughtful post on work life balance. My nurse practitioner journey has had many moments of imperfection and learning to “let go” has given me the space to create the job and life of my dreams. Because my time with my daughter is limited (shared custody) I keep her at the top of my list and do my best to schedule around mommy time. My first NP job was presented as flexible and family friendly, however, the reality was much different. It turned out I was the only Practitioner in my group with a young preschool child and the flexibility I was promised was not a value held by the other providers. I stayed for over 2 years out of respect for the group. Long story short, after 2 more years of opening myself up to the possibility of a flexible and fun job I have successfully transitioned from ER to Medical Aesthetics. I have a flexible schedule (I work days my daughter is not with me or during her school hours, better reimbursement, and lots more fun! It has been the toughest journey because of not wanting to let go of other commitments and not wanting to let others down. I have found that it was the letting go that opened up space to create a life I love.

  2. It is very true that you have to learn to prioritize when you are working Full time as a NP and juggling a family commitments, husbands, kids and their many afterschool activities & crazy schedules. Sometimes I have to admit to myself that I have met my limitations , its okay to say ‘no’. I also try to take time ” to smell the roses” and enjoy the small things like sipping a cup of chai tea & watching birds from the screen porch or sharing lunch with my kids after taking them for their monthly orthodontist apts. before rushing them back to school. Telling yourself the house does not have to be spotless is okay and its okay not to cook every night. I encourage each of you working NPs to give your self credit for all you do accomplish and enjoy life along the way . I appreciate each and every one of you!

  3. katherine vichorek

    I can’t wait to get to the balance stage because right now I am working full time and in school pretty much full time with classes and clinicals. I am exhausted so balance sounds great!!!

  4. I like your advice here. However (emphasis added:), it’s just not valid until you have children! 2 types of people: those with ’em and those without. The without are definitely clueless on this topic compared to the providers with children. (No offense intended)

  5. Just a short breather during the day helps me. As long as everyone is breathing, has a heart beat and a blood pressure; I can take 15 minutes time out to get some water, go outside, take a short walk, BREATHE !! That’s just shift balance. Just make it on a larger scale at home. No one will die if the bed doesn’t get made. As long as you have socks and underwear, laundry can wait. Or treat yourself to a housekeeping service from time to time. Use that time to have a spa day or take a nap. It really is the little things that matter.

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