Podcasting, where do I start with this one. I don’t know about you but I absolutely love podcasts. I’m a natural-born book lover, I’d choose books over movies any day of the week. When I was little my head was always nestled inside a book and still is. I think it’s one of the reasons I love writing this blog and reading other peoples blogs too. I love language and the way we can offer so much value, emotion and purpose with words.
So with that said, I was surprised to find a love for podcasts over the last few years. What didn’t take me by surprise was the reason why I fell in love with the podcasting space so much and that’s the personal connection.
Most of the podcasts I listen to are created by my most loved bloggers and authors. After I’ve listened to a podcast I feel such a deeper connection with the author of that book or blog post just by knowing what they sound like. I feel like I’m a part of their journey and I’ve been invited onto their sofa for a cuppa.
To me, podcasting feels just that little bit more personal than blogging.
Why It’s Take This Long to Start My Own Podcast…
I’ve thought about starting my own podcast for a while even when this blog was solely focused on travel. I loved listening to other peoples travel podcasts and hearing travellers of the world being interviewed telling their unique stories. I thought about taking the leap into starting my own so much but never plucked up the courage to do so.
In hindsight, considering the turn this blog has now taken I’m pleased that I didn’t. In fact, it just proves to me how important not rushing into something really is and taking the time to really dig deep into why I want to do something.
Since rebranding Alicia Overseas, to a blog that helps nurses slow down and create a balance between work and home before burnout, I knew that a podcast was going to be non-negotiable. As soon as I made the switch in my content I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
My gut has been aching for me to just do it and this time I’m going to listen to it and take the almighty leap into the world of podcasting.
In this post, I thought I’d share a little of what you can expect from the podcast and my reasons for starting, call it a little sneak peek into my thoughts and mind.
I’ve already said above why I love listening to podcasts so much and that’s for the personal connection and warmth I feel when listening to other podcasts. I feel like personality shines through podcasts and I’m hoping I can offer a friendly warm invite into my world through my own podcast, which YES does have a name…
Introducing ‘Balance Before Burnout, For Nurses’
I want to connect even more deeply with my readers and give as much value as I possibly can. I want you guys to get to know me as best as you can. When I’m writing my blog posts I often cut them so much shorter than I would like because I really can go on and on. I’m the same when it comes to talking. I love to talk and chat with likeminded individuals and I want to carry the conversation on from the screen to wherever you may be listening. There are topics I’ll be covering here at Alicia Overseas that are worth even more conversation than a simple blog post and topics that will suit a podcast much more than a written piece.
Another big reason as to why I’ve started a podcast is to connect with other nurses who are passionate about ensuring health professionals know how to take care of themselves. The podcast will initially be a solo endeavour but I plan to have some incredible guests on as we go on.
I’ve recently connected online with some nurses making huge movements and shifts in our nursing world and I would love to get their take on creating more balance and less burnout so I can provide you all with the most value and best actionable tips going forward.
What is Balance Before Burnout About?
So I guess whilst I’m here I should give a little insight into what the podcast is going to be about! Well, it does exactly what it says on the tin. This podcast is going to be all about teaching nurses how to slow down and create more of a balance between career and home life before reaching burn out. I’ve seen first-hand nurses all over the world struggling to enjoy both career and life outside of the hospital. I’ve personally experienced some dark places in terms of burn out which is what had led me into this passion.
The podcast is going to super accessible with nurses in mind. I’m a nurse so I know what nurses can and cannot manage so these podcast episodes will be short and around 20 minutes long. This gives nurses the opportunity to be able to listen on the go, on the drive to work, during a lunch hour, after work or on days off. I’m covering topics that I know you guys will want to listen and from what you’ve told me you’d like more of.
So When is it Happening?
Well, you can listen to the first episode of Balance Before Burnout: For Nurses RIGHT NOW – AS IF!!! Yes, that’s right the podcast is now live on iTunes and Spotify!
I’m so stoked to share it with you all! So if you’re a nurse looking for more balance in your life then this seriously is the podcast for you!
PS. If you’ve found yourself here and you’re not a nurse then it doesn’t matter so much of what I’m going to be sharing will be so adaptable for other careers and everyday life! But if you do know a nurse who you think might benefit from this kind of a podcast then please send them my way so I can get the word out about how important it is for nurses to take care of number 1 and find balance before burnout.
Personally, I always feel like there’s a negative connotation attached to the word ‘habit’. I think it’s because as children and throughout society we always use the phrase ‘it’s just habit’ as a negative. For example, biting our nails, picking our eyelashes, snoozing the alarm. We do these things out of habit right? But why do habits have to be negative? Well, they don’t. Any action can be turned into a habit if we want it to become one or better yet, become a bigger and more important part of our lives. Healthy eating, running, swimming, exercise of any kind, reading, time management, morning routines, seeing friends, cooking, shopping, literally a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g can become a habit. It’s actually when we make these things we do for joy a habit that we can suddenly fit them into our busy lives..
A great quote that sums this up perfectly is “Motivation is what gets you started and habit is what keeps you going”
So how does having healthy habits help nurses?
People often say that nurses are the best people to have around as family or friends. Nurses love helping people and taking care of others. Where nurses fall down though is looking after ourselves. We’re very good at nourishing our loved ones but what about us? When do we take the time care for ourselves?
The only way that I believe we can truly help others wholeheartedly is when we nourish our own health, mentally and physically, the better we will be able to take of others. Until then we aren’t ever going to be showing up as our best selves. I know that sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it?
Well, let me tell you from experience, the only way you’re going to be able to continue nursing long-term and take care of everyone you love is by taking care of yourself first.
The nursing army is a badass team of people both inside and outside of work. We are the glue that holds so many seams together when all is falling apart. We advocate for our patients and their families. We hold a hand as a family member watches their loved one go, we cry with families who lose children far too early, all whilst boosting our colleagues when they need it and spreading joy around on the gloomiest of days. That’s all before we go home to our partners, children and families to maybe cook dinner, bathe the kids, put the washing on and all those mundane jobs that must get done.
We are amazing but imagine how much more great we could be if we spent a little more time advocating for ourselves?
The way that I’ve learnt to successfully advocate for myself a little more is by creating a life that I love. From days at work to days off work, I transformed my days by filling them with exactly what I want too! I decided that if I was going to be happy as a nurse and be able to show up for my patients and my loved ones as the best version of myself I needed to find a way to inject more of what I wanted and what brings me joy into my life and make it a consistent habit.
Creating Healthy Habits For Yourself Everyday
The most challenging part of creating a life you love is that it can be challenging. We often have no idea where to start or where we want to end up and that’s okay. I hired a life coach to help me figure this out and perhaps that’s what you need too. Or maybe you just need a few tips and hints to create some healthier habits for yourself which I’m hoping you might find here.
The first thing I recommend doing is a big old brainstorm about what you want more of in your everyday life. Not the big things like skydiving or sailing the Whitsundays, we all wish we could holiday every day. No, what I want you to do is focus on everyday life, what do you want more of in your day to day? Because that’s the life we are living and the one we all should be cherishing.
Do you want to read more? Exercise more? Eat Healthier? Have More Time Off? Spend More Quality Time with Your Family? Write down all the things you’d love to have in your everyday life. Then afterwards start thinking about how you could inject your life with more of these things?
To make it a little easier I’m going to share some of the healthy habits that I’ve adopted recently that have changed my life as a nurse and person.
Healthy Habits to Adopt as a Nurse
Break Times – More Reading Less Scrolling
One of the feelings I wanted to get rid of was feeling like all I did was work during my run of shifts. I felt like I could only be Alicia the Nurse instead of Alicia the Person. So I started finding ways that would help break up my days to enjoy life, before, after and during a shift. Starting with using breaks at work for what they meant for..taking a break!
I’m a book fanatic. I always choose books over films and getting lost in a story is my favourite thing to do. When I first became a nurse four years ago I completely stopped reading during the days I worked because I simply couldn’t find the time. But somehow I was managing to keep up with what all my friends were doing on social media? So, I ditched the mindless scrolling on my lunch break.
If you watched my IGTV about how to have a more joyful shift at work then you’ll know how I feel about switching your brain off for a bit during your lunch break. Take some time to think about how you spend your break at work, do you sit gossiping for half an hour with your colleagues or scrolling Instagram. What could you do in that half an hour that brings you joy? For me it’s reading or listening to a podcast. I take my book and headphones to work and let myself indulge in 15 minutes of great fiction/one of my fave podcasts. I find it breaks the day up and takes my mind off nursing for a moment.
Okay, this one is quite a new one for me but it’s already having a huge impact on my life as a nurse. If you haven’t already then I urge you to read The Morning Miracle by Hal Elrod because it could have the possibility to change your life completely. I’ve never titled myself as a morning person, in fact on my days off if the time was anything before 11:00 I wasn’t getting up.
Then what do you know, by the time I’ve got up, showered, had breakfast and can do something with my day off its 2 pm and what’s left of the day is slim. Compare that to the girl who now gets up at 5 am on my nursing days and 7-8 am on days off, I have so much more fulfilment in my life. That time was there all along I was literally just wasting it in bed!
I could chatter on about The Morning Miracle for ages and I will do a separate post on how I adapt it to my life as a nurse this month but for now I urge you to buy and read.
If you want a quicker simpler fix to having more of a nurse life balance on your days off then try setting your alarm half an hour earlier. Get up, drink water, get out of your PJs, get a hot drink and read a book, or go outside, blog or whatever it is you like to do. Dedicate just half an hour or hell, even 10 minutes, to yourself before a shift and you will notice a huge change in your mindset on shift.
Downtime after work
Just like having some dedicated time to myself in a morning, I also dedicate time to myself at night too. This applies to me more after a shift. I follow a simple routine of getting home, showered, eating and then doing something I love for as long as I have time for. I always get into bed half an hour early before I want to sleep to read. But before that I like to catch up with some things for this business of mine. Finding something to focus on after a shift can really help you let go of what’s happened during the day. If I feel I need it I’ll journal especially, if it’s been a hard shift or I’m feeling a bit icky about something that unfolded. Check out my simple journal process for nurses here!
Sounds silly but so many of us and in particular nurses do not prioritise sleep. I get it, as nurses we are used to running on empty. So many of us have trouble sleeping during the day time during our run of night duty and that often leaves so many of us having trouble sleeping at night too. As a nurse, our body clocks can be all over the place but I’m sorry that’s just an excuse.
Do whatever you need to do to get more sleep. Turn Netflix off and get to bed so you can get as much sleep as you need. I know that I need 8 hours so in the last few months I’ve prioritised this big time and I’m so much more joyful for it. If you struggle to sleep then visit your GP, try out melatonin, eat foods high in melatonin before bedtime, get blackout blinds, an eye mask, earplugs, move to the quieter neighbourhood, find a relaxation routine that works for you! If you’re going to succeed as a nurse you need to be able to sleep.
Over the years numerous studies have been conducted which shows that 28-55% of nurses in the United Kingdom and the United States of America are overweight. You don’t need to look at the studies to see it’s a problem you just need to have a look around. As nurses, we use excuses like working nights and having irregular shift patterns as to why we can’t eat healthily. This really is just an excuse.
There is no reason why we cannot eat healthily and do exercise. I’ve completely changed the way I eat recently and I feel so much better on my shifts. We need to concentrate for up to 12 hours at a time so we need to fuel our body with good food. If you have no idea where to start I really recommend reading some of ‘The Other Shift’ blog posts as they have some great tips for eating and working shifts!
Get Outside on Days Off
It can be so tempting to sit inside on your days off and catch up on rest. I used to do it all the time but the best thing for our bodies and minds is to get outside. When we are feeling low on energy we need to create our own. We all know that the hormones realised during exercise, even the light kind, make us feel energised and more awake so get outside on those days off! Take a walk around the woods, visit your favourite park, take a day trip to the beach or simply walk around the block. Whatever you do just get out into the fresh air. As nurses, a lot of us spend our days inside an air-conditioned hospital that circulates dry air around all day. We are around sick people all day so getting out into fresh air is exactly what we need.
This post is already way longer than I expected it to be so for now, I’m going to make this the final healthy habit that has the power to serve all nurses. Get organised in life. Make charts, big charts if you need too, make lists of things you need to do but get organised. I used to leave the food shop until the day I began nights, forget birthdays here there and everywhere and just feel completely unorganised.
But when my calendar became my best friend and I started planning my days I felt like a weight had been lifted. I now plan out every single day whether it’s day at work or off work. I meal prep for my shifts so I’ve got nutritious meals to take to work and yummy meals that I can simply reheat after a shift too! I always know when the next roster is coming out and I always know what I want to request in terms of shifts. It pays to be organised, we manage our time at work so why not try it out at home?
I hope that you’ve found some of these healthy habit tips useful. And I really hope you can find some time to think about what habits you might like to adopt to help you achieve a better nurse life balance and avoid burnout! If you have no idea where to start then take one of my habits and try to implement it in some way. If you need any extra tips then please shoot me an email at [email protected]
No-body should be at work for 12 hours a day. As human beings, our concentration is actually only at its peak for a measly four hours! So, whoever invented 12-hour shifts was certainly a little nutty, to say the least. However, for so many of us, these 12-hour shifts are our reality and as much as I personally love having more days off, those long shifts are gruelling! For a lot of us, the ‘benefits’ outweigh the negatives and the majority of health care professionals will continue to work these crazy hours whether we like it not.
Up until not so long ago, I hated my 12-hour shifts. I hated being out of the house for over 14 hours a day. I hated not seeing my partner for more than an hour in an evening. I hated not being able to have a routine the list could go on and on. These are all great excuses as to why 12-hour shifts suck right? But that’s the catch here they are excuses!
The long 12-hour shifts are as joyful or miserable as we make them. When given a choice between the two I’d pick joy any day of the week, wouldn’t you?
So, over the past few months instead of hating on the long-ass shift, I’ve been trying to embrace it and squeeze as much joy into these days as possible and guess what? It’s created a huge shift in how I feel about going to work. I’m learning that joy is found in the simplest of forms and the little things in life really are the things that matter. Without these little moments of joy in my day to day, my life would be nowhere near as fulfilling as it is right now.
Here are a few things that I’m doing to help inject more joy into my 12 hour days at work…
Start The Morning Right – With Your Favourite Drink!
As photographed beautifully above, take your favourite hot drink with you on your commute. If you’re travelling on public transport or walking having a hot drink can be a beautiful companion and really set you up for the day! If you drive then perhaps arrive at work ten minutes early and make a coffee or grab one en route! I always feel so much more balanced when I start the day this way. It focuses on the start of the day on something you find joyful opposed to the thoughts about the day ahead.
Take Yummy and Healthy Food for the Shift
For me, food is life (wave your hands in the air if you’re with me) and I love having something delicious waiting for me on my break. I also try to make healthy food for work. Our bodies create energy depending on how we fuel them. You need to be filling your tank up with goodness to keep yourself going for 12 hours! I made the change recently to try to eat a little better on my shifts and it’s made all the difference to my mood, mindset and energy levels.
Take An Actual Break From Work During Your Break!
How many of you reading this are guilty of sitting in the staff room on your lunch break and chatting about the day or gossiping?! This isn’t really having a break or a healthy way to distract your mind. We need to allow our minds to have time out even for just a small moment.
Take a book or listen to a podcast during your downtime. Perhaps you enjoy sudoku or colouring you can take something like that to do on your break, anything that gives you a bit of space to be mindful and focus on something other than your work. Your colleagues might want to chat/gossip which is fine but you don’t have too if you don’t want to. Remove yourself from the situation, sit at the other end of the table or simply go off the unit (more of this later on!).
I find that taking a book and just reading a chapter redirects my attention into that book and refreshes my mind.
This tip is definitely tailored towards nurses but I’m sure it could apply in other professions too. If you are struggling or aren’t happy with your patient/workload then speak up. In this profession, even though I know at times it doesn’t feel like it, you are NOT alone! If you feel out of your depth or have suddenly got incredibly busy then ask someone to help you. This attitude of ‘well we are all busy’ boils my blood.
Yes, we are all busy but we are much more likely to come out the other side if we work together. Take nursing for example, if you’re on a ward or a unit where you and your co-workers are drowning in tasks get together and make a plan of action. Tackle the most important first and then the others later.
By WORKING TOGETHER so much more is going to get done and you’re so much more likely to be able to leave on time! But you need to speak up or your coworkers may never know – I was terrible at this when I first became a nurse because I didn’t want to seem like I couldn’t handle my workload.
Go Outside When You Can!
Get outside and breathe some fresh air into your lungs! We all know how stuffy hospitals can be and on a lot of units, there’s hardly any natural light. I work on a busy Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and only two of our areas have natural light. Going outside for me is a must to keep onto of my mental health at work!
Take Food For Your Colleagues to Share
Who doesn’t love it when some kind soul brings in food to share? It doesn’t matter what shift it is when us nurses know there’s food being shared it brightens us all up! One of the units I worked on did this every weekend which got staff so excited to work! It’s nice to give back to one another and makes us so much more grateful for our working environment at that time.
Prepare Dinner for When You Get Home
Bringing joy into a busy 12-hour shift doesn’t just mean focusing on what you do at work but making the whole day feel more joyful just easier. I’ve always been very good at preparing food for work but not for my return home. I used to cook at 8 pm after a long day but after a while, I was getting fed up of being on my feet all day and then cooking. I ended up not giving my body what it needs and opting for beans on toast and takeaways more often than I should!
Now I’ve completely changed the way I look at eating after work and I always prepare something the day before that I can heat up after my long day. You can literally cook anything and reheat it. It’s so comforting knowing you’ve got something easy and nutritious to look forward to after a shift. I don’t know about you but when I got home I’m always starving so it’s great to know I’ve got something yummy waiting for me.
Plan to Do Something Nice After Work
Now, I can probably guess what you’re thinking as you read this one. How can you do something nice after a 12 hour day? How can you possibly fit anything else into the day at 8 pm? Well, it’s mind over matter my friends!
By doing something nice I don’t mean that you have to go out for a meal or visit friends/family. What I mean is consciously making some time for yourself after a busy day. Maybe you’ve got a film your saving for the weekend? Why not watch it after a shift? Read some of your books, enjoy a dinner with your partner or spend 15 minutes doing a hobby you enjoy – crafting? Drawing? It’s important to focus our minds elsewhere when we get home from work to help switch off our busy brains.
For me I love getting home, taking a shower or ideally bath which there seems to be a lack of in New Zealand, eating and then spending half an hour writing or reading before really winding down for bed.
Get Enough Sleep
Our bodies need sleep and when we are expecting our bodies to power through a long shift they need all the rest they can get! So be mindful of what time you’re going to bed before and after long shifts. Be conscious of the plans you’re making. I know nurses who go out the night before maybe for drinks and end up getting home really late and then getting up for work the next day. These are also the nurses who wonder why they’re tired all day long. Well hello? If you only got 4 hours sleep then you’re probably going to be tired!
I know that I’m a happier person after 7-8 hours sleep so. I always make sure I try and get this every single night but especially before a 12-hour shift! Ditch Netflix and get to bed earlier – you’ll thank yourself in the long run!
Finally, the most important one of all, be kind!
The energy that you give off will probably be a reflection of the energy you’re going to receive. So if you have a can’t be bothered attitude then your co-workers are likely to send that attitude right back at ya! Even if you’re having a bad day, we are allowed them, try to be kind.
Even just smiling will make the day feel a whole better and the motion of . smiling has been proven to make us happier anyway! You’ll probably find that by being kind to others you’ll cheer yourself up in the process. I’m a huge advocate for treating people the way you want to be treated. If you don’t, how you expect anything more and how can you expect a positive joyful 12-hour shift is there isn’t any kindness around?
I’ve always had a funny relationship with journaling. I’ve heard about the power that it has and the changes it can bring to a person from some of the most successful people around. Oprah, Jen Sincero, Brene Brown, all of these successful women that I look up to consistently talk about writing things down and getting our thoughts down on the paper. In fact, if you pick up any kind of self-help book or listen to any kind of motivational talk then writing down your thoughts or ‘journaling’ will come up in there somewhere. I’ve visited the concept a few times but never really felt like it had much value or brought much change into my life.
Until I really thought about the concept of journaling and what it was. It was then that it had the ability to change my life. Let me explain…
I feel like journaling has developed into quite the buzz-word over the last few years. As more and more people begin to work on themselves and take to the internet for the advice of others, journaling is almost always amongst some of the answers. But it wasn’t until I really sat down and thought about ‘journaling’ for what it really was that I realised it’s been around forever and I’d been practising it way before it became what it is today.
How many of you reading this used to write a little something called ‘Dear Diary’ in your teenage years? I know I did! I religiously kept a diary of my thoughts and albeit my latest crush usually took up the majority of the pages (oh to be 14 again)! But what I realised is that I used to use this method of writing down my thoughts every day when I had merely reached adolescence yet as an adult I seem to have a damn hard time doing so.
It was after this realisation that I understood just how easy this concept of ‘journaling’ really is and decided to give it a real go. I’ve dabbled in it over the years but never really stuck to it. I found myself following blog post after blog post writing answers to prompts that other people had found helpful. Whilst I now use some prompts I find the power of writing down my thoughts freely as they come so much more empowering and insightful. I’ve actually started addressing my journal as ‘Dear Diary’ once again.
Sometimes as adults we think way too much. Less thinking more action was exactly what I needed to implement in this case.
After a few weeks, I found myself writing down whatever came to mind every morning and honestly it’s had such a positive impact on my mindset and mental health. For me getting my thoughts out on paper is like a physical release for those thoughts and letting them all go. It’s like I’ve extracted them from my brain, dealt with them and either moved on or left them on the paper for another day. It really helps.
When I started to struggle in my nursing career with my mindset I started to write down my thoughts and feelings more and more but at first, it didn’t go so well…
Journaling as a Nurse – How Not to Do It!
When I first started writing down my thoughts about work my journal ended up looking a little bit like this:
Today another nurse was rude to me
Today I made a drug error
Today I felt like I knew nothing
Today I didn’t manage my time well
Today I didn’t stand up for myself
Today I didn’t have time to change my patient’s bedding
Today I didn’t have enough time to talk to my patients
Today a doctor made me feel like shit
Do you see the pattern?
My journal, or whatever you want to call it, became a complete self-loathing playground. And let’s face it, in any work environment, it’s so often our downfalls that are addressed more than our achievements.
How many of you get that sinking feeling when you see that work is calling your phone after you’ve left? Or when you get called into the office or when you get that dreaded email from your manager asking to make an appointment? As humans and because of how society has conditioned us to think about ourselves we are constantly thinking the worse more often than not.
This is when I decided to completely change the way I was journaling in order to help alter my thinking and create a more positive mindset and life for myself. Because let’s face it, no-one was about to come up to and tell me all the things I did well that day, people are far too busy for that, but I can tell myself. I have the power to acknowledge all of the things I did well instead of all the things I didn’t do well.
In just a matter of days my journal went from being the negative space you see above to something a little more like this:
Today I did the best that I could
Today I gave my patients 110%
Today I made my patient smile
Today I completed every necessary task
Today I sited my first catheter without supervision
Today I challenged the rude nurse
Today I made sure I took my break to recharge
Today I asked questions when I was unsure
Do you see the difference now?
By focusing on what went well in the day makes such a difference to how I end my shift as a nurse. Of course, doing this isn’t easy so I created some prompts to get me really thinking about the positive things that happened during my 12 hours at work.
If you’re a nurse and feel anxious, feel under-confident or lack self-esteem at work then I highly recommend giving this a go. Here are some prompts you can start off with to get you going.
End of Shift Journal Prompts
What went well today?
What did you do today that you are proud of?
What did you learn today? (in nursing there is something new to learn every single shift)
What didn’t go so well today?
What can you learn from it?
These five questions are super simple and easy to ask yourself and write down after a long shift. The first three are the most important questions to focus on but note that I do think it’s important to reflect on what didn’t go well too.
It’s important to recognise what could’ve gone better but it’s even more important to acknowledge what you learnt from that situation so you can do it better next time!
Now It’s Your Turn
I challenge you to make a little bit of time when you get home to reflect on your shift. It only has to be 10 minutes but if you make this a habit after every shift you’ll find yourself noticing the things you do well during your shift.
I can almost guarantee that this practice will help you become a more positive nurse and human being in the long run! And if you’re not a nurse then this simple practice applies in any career!
If you really want to dig a little deeper then there are plenty of resources out there to help you on your journaling journey. Morning Pages is a great concept where you write freely about your thoughts each morning, exactly like I was talking about above but I didn’t come across Morning Pages by The Artists Way until recently – take a look here!
I hope you found this post insightful! If you did I would love it if you could share it with someone who might need it! Do you journal? Let me know in the comments below as I would love to hear your thoughts!
Nurses are usually the kind of people that put others before themselves. Of course, we nurses know that there are some exceptions to the rule. But for the most part, we are guilty of putting ourselves last in our long list of priorities especially at work. I’ve learnt a lot over the years as a nurse and after multiple bouts of burnout and break downs I finally realised how important saying no really is for our mental health as nurses!
Before I go on I just want to say that by saying no I do not mean turning into a lazy ass nurse who declines to do an extra task because it’s way above your pay grade. What I’m talking about here is saying no to anything that puts our own health or happiness at risk.
I’m talking about:
Staying on an extra three hours because the next nurse is late for the following shift
Not going to the bathroom because one more person needs your help with something that could literally wait 2 minutes while you go pee (nurses are quick)!
Swapping a shift with a colleague after feeling guilt-tripped into it
Picking up extra shifts on your unit because you feel guilty if you don’t
Going back into work after a sickness bout earlier than you should have because you feel guilty
Can you see the repetitive pattern here?
I don’t know about you but I used to be an all-round people pleaser. As a brand new nurse fresh out of university 4 years ago I wanted to please everyone. I wanted to please management and my colleagues because as a brand new baby nurse I wanted everyone to like me. So of course, I said yes anytime management wanted to change my shifts and picked up extra to help out the units I worked on.
This was all well and good but this carried on for the next four years of my career. I never wanted to let anyone down which in turn left to me feeling frustrated and exhausted mentally and physically. Even in Australia where I worked casually for an agency I would give in to their streams of texts or calls begging for me to go in.
Put your hand up if you’ve ever said yes to any of these things begrudgingly because you’ve felt like you had to, I know I have! Well, guess what sister, you really don’t have to and this is where the importance of saying no comes in.
The truth is though by not letting anyone else down I was constantly letting myself down.
How You’re Letting Yourself Down by Saying Yes to Everything!
By saying yes to taking on more work and swapping shifts which in turn would take my roster awful at times I was putting myself last. I was letting my physical health down by not getting enough rest in-between shifts. I often ate crappy meals because I hadn’t had enough time off in-between shifts to actually go to the shops and prepare some meals for my shifts ahead and there was definitely no time to get to the gym or yoga studio!
It’s not just our physical health that gets put on the back burner so often it’s our mental health too. To be a good nurse at work I now know that I need to take plenty of time for myself and other things that bring me joy in my life in-between my shifts. This is a huge reason why I no longer work full time as a nurse but that’s for a whole other post!
What I’m saying here is that by trying to please everyone else we so often let ourselves down in one way or another. AND if you’re one of those badass humans who can keep their-self in check whilst picking up all the extra slack then please tell me your secret – or don’t actually because I am so much happier and feel so much more empowered as nurse now I’ve realised I can speak up and say no to things that aren’t right for me that is okay.
I think learning to say no to things that I don’t want to do has empowered me the most this year which is why I’m starting off with this post. And, if you’re not a nurse and still find yourself reading this post then don’t worry you can apply I’m about to share to just about any workplace!
How to Say Start Saying No and Setting Boundaries at Work
For a people pleaser and highly anxious nurse at times it was so difficult for me to start saying no to things I didn’t want to do but I knew deep down I had to start setting some boundaries in my career. Below are my top three situations which I now say no to more times than I don’t that have changed my life as a nurse.
Saying No to Extra Shifts
All over the world, we are under the immense pressures that come with working in healthcare. The front-liners like doctors and nurses are busier than ever, whilst the waiting times for services like clinics and GP appointments soar. I’ve worked in the NHS in England which, as we all know, is massively under-budgeted and understaffed. But I’ve also worked in Australia and New Zealand and guess what? They suffer from the same problems.
Being understaffed and underfunded health care is a worldwide phenomenon.
With budget cuts stronger than ever it’s often left to the nurses and doctors already in jobs to pick up the slack. AKA do the job that about five nurses should be doing! Cue the need for extra shifts. The thing with extra shifts is that they can be a blessing. Perhaps you’re saving up for that big holiday or wedding? Picking up an extra shift at work can be worth it when your paycheck arrives that month. BUT extra shifts can also be dangerous physically and mentally.
As I mentioned, and will probably continue to, I spent most of my career thus far as a people pleaser. Management only had to look at me with wide eyes and I found myself agreeing to yet again another extra shift on top of my already 4 12-hour shifts I was doing that week. As great as the extra money was, it started to take a toll on my physical and mental health. My body was literally exhausted and because I was exhausted cooking when I got home turned into a chore and it was beans on toast for tea for often than not.
It took me a while to figure out but money really isn’t everything. Sure, it helps but what’s that extra $100 compared to feeling happy, healthy and doing more of the things I love with those days out of work? To me that’s priceless. So now, in a bid for my own happiness, I only ever take an extra shift IF I want too! Maybe I’m on annual leave and want some extra cash? I might pick up something extra then but it will always be on my terms.
It is NOT your responsibility to staff the hospital or your workplace
It is so important for us as healthcare professionals to understand that it is not our responsibility to staff the hospital!
For so long I didn’t want to let my units down and I didn’t want my colleagues to suffer because trust me I know how hard it is! But unfortunately the lack of staff in the hospital is not my responsibility and it isn’t yours either! I show up and give 110% to all of my rostered shifts and if I want to take on extra work it will be on my terms and that is okay!
If you struggle with saying no then I’m laving some scripts at the end of this post that you can take a look at if you need a little guidance!
Staying Late (when you don’t have to)!
This one’s a biggie! Sometimes in healthcare staying late seems unavoidable. It’s ten to seven and you’re in a full-blown crash call situation. Now I am not saying to drop your airway responsibilities and run when it’s time to clock off time because those situations really are unavoidable. We all know that shit usually hits the fan just before hand over time.
What I’m saying here is not staying late when it’s avoidable which is usually 99% of the time. Now some of you may roll your eyes and be thinking ‘where the hell does she work’ (a very busy neonatal intensive care unit) but it really is true. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given as a nurse is this:
‘It’s a 24-hour service’
Now seriously just take a moment and really think about that phrase. It’s a 24-hour service. This honestly changed my whole perspective on my nursing career. We can all guarantee that on those shifts when you’ve literally not stopped giving IV after IV or admitting patient after patient, that will be the shift that you hand over to everyone’s favourite pain in the ass. You know the one who complains that you haven’t changed a pillowcase or replaced the nasogastric tube. It really is a 24-hour service so seriously if you know you’ve given that shift your all and there are a few minor things you haven’t got round to, don’t sweat it.
I’ll be no longer missing out on precious time with my family to do something that can be done by someone else who is actually getting paid at that time! It’s time to work on your time management so you can get all of the tasks you must do done for home time and anything else can wait.
Another is staying on for hours if someone on the next shift is going to be late. If you’re in at 7 am the next day do you really think it’s a good idea? Just think about what you’re agreeing to before doing it out of the goodness of your heart!
Here’s another one that luckily for my colleagues I would’ve to give into so easily previously! People in life, even our beloved nursing colleagues, can be very persuasive or good at pulling the guilt trip card.
It’s the usual story, right? Someone needs a shift swap and has hunted you down on the roaster as the only viable person that could possibly swap. Before you know it you’re agreeing to swap your Sunday day shift for a miserable Monday or swapping a day for a night even though you HATE working nights!
Now, I love helping my fellow nursing clang out but only if it’s beneficial for ME. You do not have to swap shifts if you don’t want to and no-one is going to hate you if you say no! Before agreeing to make swaps make sure that swap fits well into your life before saying yes! Take a look at your schedule maybe your partners of whoever you’d maybe spend time with on that particular day. Think about what you’ll be sacrificing by swapping the shift, if nothing then great go for it, but if not then don’t agree!
How to Say No – a Few Prompts
I know I make it sound so easy in this blog post but I know how hard it really can be to say no so here are the two sentences I always use!
“I’m not sure, I’ll have to check my schedule and get back to you” – This one is really easy so you literally can go check what you need to and get back the person.
“I’m afraid I’ve already got plans that day” I often come straight out with this one unless I really want to check my schedule. The first sentence can be a great starting point to use so you start to feel more empowered in your quest to say no more often! You can throw a ‘sorry’ into the mix if you’d like but I’m also trying not to say sorry as much too because really there is nothing to apologise for here – again this is another topic which will be getting a whole post of its own!
I hope after reading this post you feel a little more empowered to start saying no at work! Saying no to all of the above ties in with what I was talking about in my previous post. We have to take some responsibility as nurses. It’s no good saying yes to two extra shifts every week and then complaining you’re tired or that the government is overworking you. Yes they are and staffing levels around the world are at an all-time low but it’s up to us to stand up for ourselves too.
I hope you enjoyed this post and even if you’re not a nurse and have read thus far then you can apply all of these tips to any workplace. If employees know they can take us for granted and take advantage then they will. It’s also really important to start learning how to say out of work too but I think I’ll write a different post on that too so stick around! If you did enjoy this post or know someone who could find it useful then please share it 🙂
Welcome, welcome, welcome! You have no idea how pleased I am that you’re reading this post right now. It’s a little different than the rest of my posts and a little taster of what’s to come. Most of you know that aside from blogging, travelling and all the rest of it, I’m a Registered Children’s Nurse. I followed my desire to help sick children and their families through the hardest times of their lives.
Now I want to help the nurses taking care of them.
I’ve always thrived from helping others, it’s what I love doing. Even by writing my travel blog I’m offering advice about travelling, it’s through and through in my nature.
But what I’ve realised over the last twelve months is that I’m very good at looking after everyone else but not so much myself. I’m not embarrassed to say that at 25 I still had little knowledge of how to take care of myself until not so long ago.
Now I’m not talking about putting on a face mask and having a hot bath (although those are great things too) what I’m talking about here is getting to know myself, what lights up my life and sets my soul on fire. I came to realise that I wasn’t sure that I knew myself very well at all.
Since starting my training to become a nurse somewhat seven years ago it’s been anything but a walk in the park. There have been some rocky roads taken and I almost completely gave up nursing on more than one occasion. I even jetted off to the other side of the world (read more about that here) in order to try and fall back in love with the career I worked my ass off to achieve!
You’ve probably heard the saying ‘running away from your problems is a race you’ll never win’ and whilst I wasn’t particularly running away from anything my nursing woes certainly followed me to Australia. I remember the very moment that I knew something had to give. I was due to go to work and found myself uncontrollably crying at the sheer thought of going in. Like shoulder shuddering, squealing noises kind of crying. I honestly had no idea how it got to this point.
It still took me a little while after that to do something about how I was feeling about nursing at that time but I knew that I couldn’t look after others well whilst I was feeling like this.
Shortly after this moment, I made the momentous decision to go down the road of self-discovery and really try and focus on the root of the problem. I dove into all of the self-help books, listened to all of the podcasts, Ted Talks and even sought out help from a professional.
It was during this quest that someone said something to me that really stuck and honestly changed my mindset forever and it’s this:
“Blaming puts other people in charge of your happiness.
Accepting responsibility empowers you to create your own”
I don’t know what it was about these words but they changed my outlook on my life completely. I’d spent the last almost four years blaming so many external factors on my unhappiness at work instead of looking inside.
Some things we nurses tend to blame for our unhappiness?
Working twelve-hour shifts, being underpaid, being overworked and understaffed, working in unsafe conditions, being exhausted from picking up extra shifts, being exhausted from switching from days to nights, being fed up of working around nurses who don’t pull their weight, feeling unhealthy due to lack of exercise which of course was due to bad shift patterns, not getting time off with my partner, being too exhausted to enjoy my days off, oh the list could seriously go on.
These are just some of the reasons that I was blaming for my unhappiness as a nurse. But after a lot of hard work and home truths that, at first, left me feeling embarrassed and honestly feeling like an unworthy person I realised that to alter the external factors we first have to work on the internal.
As a result of working on myself and my outlook on life, I’ve kind of come full circle. I’ve gone from being a pretty negative person to a much more positive one. Right now, I feel the most confident that I’ve ever felt, I feel the happiest at work I’ve ever felt and feel truly empowered to make any changes in my life that I feel are right and you know what? It feels absolutely fantastic! In fact, I’ve become a little bit obsessed with the power of positive thinking and the power of really getting to know myself.
This is why I really want to channel everything that I’ve learnt and am still learning on this journey to help other unfulfilled nurses! I’m going to be busy creating brand new content and I’m so excited about this opportunity I have to help other nurses just like me! If you can’t wait to get started on changing your life then I highly recommend reading ‘You Are A Badass’ by Jen Sincero – it’s one of the many books that has seriously altered my thinking during this journey!
Nursing is a hard gig, there are challenges constantly from sickness to staffing. We care with huge hearts but it’s vital that we nurture our own if we’ve got any chance of sticking around in this profession.
I’m going to be channelling so much of what I’ve learnt to reshape my own life to hopefully help you with yours!
Wish Me Luck!
PS. If you usually follow me for all of my travel content then don’t worry it’s not going anywhere I’ll still be writing about my musings on the road. After all, I might be a nurse by career but I’m so much more than that and travel is a huge part of my life. I wouldn’t be here writing this if it wasn’t for travelling! If you know a nurse who might benefit from some tips in taking better care of themselves then be sure to send them this post!