Balancing health and work as a family nurse practitioner

Nurses play a vital role in advocating healthy lifestyles and imparting essential wellness knowledge to their patients. For many experienced registered nurses looking for more responsibility, becoming a certified nurse practitioner is the next logical step.

However, when transitioning from staff nurse to family nurse practitioner through an upskilling course like the Texas Woman’s University’s online Master of Science – Family Nurse Practitioner degree, the calling to care for others may lead to nurses inadvertently overlooking their own well-being. Sometimes, they may even succumb to unhealthy habits, which can raise doubts among patients about their ability to provide effective care.

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) often encounter challenges in maintaining a balanced lifestyle, particularly when faced with shifting schedules or prolonged periods in the same shift. The resulting stress can disrupt sleep patterns, disrupt daily routines, and potentially lead to overexertion or subpar performance—both detrimental to overall health.

In this article, we look at valuable tips to help optimize health, whether during a demanding shift or the recovery period after a long day at work. By implementing these strategies, a harmonious equilibrium can be achieved between professional responsibilities and personal well-being. 

Why nurses must care about their emotional and physical needs

The nursing profession is undeniably fulfilling, yet it also presents significant challenges. Achieving a healthy work-life balance can be an ongoing struggle for family nurse practitioners due to various factors, including:

  • Chaotic shifts disrupting regular routines.
  • Extended work hours and frequent overtime leading to fatigue.
  • Exposure to traumatic experiences and the inevitable reality of death.
  • The innate altruistic nature of nurses making it difficult to refuse assistance when someone is in need. 

Nurses’ selfless dedication often results in an outpouring of emotional energy, which can eventually lead to compassion fatigue.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining a work-life balance has gained even greater significance for nurses who aspire to thrive in their profession for the long haul. This is especially important for any nurse considering how to become a family nurse practitioner, as they must balance studies and work. The online course offered by Texas Women’s University is designed to help the transition from RN to FNP and allows studies to be completed alongside work. Recognizing the inherent stress associated with the job and studying and adopting effective self-care techniques are crucial steps toward improving mental and physical well-being.

Numerous studies have highlighted the detrimental impact of high stress levels, which can manifest in various ways, such as increased staff illness, reduced overall health, and high rates of absenteeism, leading to staffing challenges. Turnover rates are also higher as nurses struggle to cope with unmanageable stress.

Moreover, the consequences of unaddressed stress extend beyond personal well-being. The healthcare sector bears a significant financial burden due to the negative outcomes of high stress, with hospitals losing millions of dollars annually, attributable to the turnover of bedside registered nurses.

Recognizing the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance and proactively managing stress benefits nurses personally and promotes the overall sustainability and success of the healthcare system. Let’s explore effective strategies for achieving balance and well-being in the demanding field of nursing.

Restorative activities to preserve energy and sanity

Nurses are renowned for their resilience and unwavering commitment to caring for others. The nursing profession is often synonymous with busyness, as nurses tackle a never-ending to-do list where every task feels like a top priority. Amidst this demanding environment, it is crucial to find ways to alleviate stress and preserve one’s well-being. Consider the following activities to help restore balance and ease the pressures of nursing:

Embrace your hobbies

Do you find solace in music, literature, or the art of drawing? Engaging in leisure activities for as little as 20 minutes per week has been shown to reduce fatigue significantly. Make the most of your break time by pursuing activities that bring you joy and relaxation. However, it is essential to choose hobbies that are convenient to engage in at work, as bringing pets or elaborate equipment may not be feasible.

Find comfort in rituals

Establishing pre- and post-shift routines can be remarkably comforting. Whether it’s savoring a cup of coffee, indulging in a sweet treat, or tidying your workspace, these rituals can mentally prepare you for the tasks ahead or allow your mind and body to unwind. Avoid dwelling on work-related matters during your personal time, as this can exacerbate stress. Instead, focus on activities that suit your preferences, such as deep breathing exercises, self-pampering, or maintaining a polished appearance. Some individuals find solace in the power of prayer as well.

Relieve stress

After a demanding shift, it is essential to engage in activities that promote relaxation. If you have a day off the following day, seize the opportunity to indulge in some post-work fun. While it is commonly believed that nurses have limited social lives due to fatigue, it is equally important to nurture connections and enjoy the pleasures of socializing. Join your friends or colleagues for a night out and allow yourself to unwind and recharge.

Embrace new adventures and hobbies

Nursing should not limit your experiences and personal growth. Break free from monotony and explore new territories. Be open to discovering new places and engaging in exciting hobbies. Whether you embark on solo adventures or invite a friend to join, embrace the joy of expanding your horizons. Some nurses find fulfillment in artistic pursuits, such as joining a choir, exploring the world of arts and painting, or discovering hidden talents. Remember, learning should not end with nursing school; there is always room to explore new passions.

By prioritizing activities that rejuvenate your spirit and foster a sense of fulfillment, you can effectively navigate the demands of nursing while safeguarding your emotional and physical well-being. The journey towards achieving a healthier work-life balance begins with nurturing yourself, ensuring you are equipped to provide the best possible care to those who depend on your expertise.

Foster social connections

Nurses often enjoy gathering at bars or cafes to engage in lively conversations and mingle. While this is a common practice, there is a tendency to discuss work-related matters, which can inadvertently contribute to negative feelings about upcoming duties. As a general rule, it is advisable to avoid discussing topics that may cause stress and refrain from excessive rumination on work-related issues.

Instead, consider exploring alternative social activities. How about going to the movies or attending concerts? Remember, work should not consume your entire existence. You work to provide for your family’s needs and to savor the joys of life. Engaging in recreational pursuits allows you to rejuvenate your spirit and find fulfillment beyond the realms of your profession.

Why not hit the gym, engage in home workouts, organize a picnic, or join a club? Physical activities offer a fantastic way to burn calories, enhance muscle tone and strength, and provide much-needed relaxation.

Lifestyle and professional changes

Nurses facing excessive stress often experience difficulty maintaining focus, leading to mismanagement and, eventually, burnout. By incorporating healthy lifestyle activities that make shifts more enjoyable, interesting, and less stressful, you can preserve your focus, maintain your sanity, and ultimately achieve your professional goals.

Prioritize personal hygiene

The question of when to take a bath—before or after your shift—may vary depending on personal preferences. Both options offer unique benefits for nurses. Taking a shower before your shift can invigorate your spirit, providing a refreshing wake-up call to prepare you for work. On the other hand, showering after your shift helps cleanse your body of any potential microorganisms you may have encountered.

It is essential to maintain strict personal hygiene practices throughout your shift to protect yourself and others. As nurses, it is our responsibility to remain vigilant against germs and avoid becoming carriers of infections. Regular hand washing and the use of sanitizers are essential habits to incorporate into your daily routine.

Keep your work area clean

As a nurse, your duty extends beyond patient care to include maintaining cleanliness in the areas you manage. It is not solely the responsibility of janitors or hospital cleaners to uphold cleanliness; nurses should actively contribute to the cleanliness of the ward.

Cleanliness within healthcare settings has been the subject of numerous research studies. Despite its importance, adherence to cleanliness protocols can sometimes be challenging. Is it a matter of time constraints? As nurses, we must never find excuses when it comes to cleanliness. We should embody health principles and be the bearers of well-being, not disease.

Resolve conflicts quickly and completely

Effectively addressing and resolving conflicts is crucial, particularly during challenging and traumatic times like the Covid pandemic when mental stress is elevated. Both personal and professional relationships can become strained, consuming valuable time and emotional energy. To ensure a healthy work-life balance, engaging in necessary conversations and promptly resolving conflicts is essential.

Conflict resolution can sometimes be as straightforward as acknowledging the issue and engaging in peaceful dialogue. Often, conflicts arise from misunderstandings, and open communication can provide much-needed clarity and perspective for all parties involved. Taking the initiative to apologize or gracefully accepting an apology may also be necessary to facilitate resolution.

In more complex situations, seeking assistance from an impartial third party can prove invaluable. Such individuals can offer a fresh perspective, transcending the biases of those directly involved, and foster mutual understanding and compromise.

However, despite your best efforts, there may be times when the other party is unwilling to cooperate in resolving the conflict. In such cases, it may be necessary to make the difficult decision to let go and move on. Holding onto resentment or hostility will only burden you further and hinder your peace of mind. It is important to do everything within your power to resolve the conflict, and once you have fulfilled your part, it is crucial to release any negative emotions and forge ahead in tranquility.

By proactively addressing conflicts, seeking resolution through dialogue and assistance when needed, and ultimately letting go when necessary, you can effectively manage conflicts and maintain a healthier and more balanced approach to work and life. Remember, conflict resolution is an ongoing process that contributes to your overall well-being and interpersonal harmony.

Dietary considerations for busy nurses

By being mindful of your nutritional choices and adopting strategies to sustain your energy levels, you can enhance your well-being and maintain optimal performance throughout your nursing shift. Explore the world of cooking shows and online recipes tailored specifically for nurses. Embrace the opportunity to try new culinary techniques and recipes designed with your profession in mind so you can gain a fresh perspective on your career and discover the joy of preparing nourishing meals. 

Who knows, your culinary endeavors may even lead you to create your own cookbook, offering guidance and inspiration to fellow nurses on their culinary journeys. So, why not seize this chance to explore the culinary arts and unlock a new dimension of fulfillment within your nursing profession?

Do not ignore the power of a nutritious breakfast

Breakfast continues to be the quintessential source of energy to kickstart your day. But what should you have, dear nurses? Well, let’s put our expertise to good use!

A substantial breakfast is recommended, comprising foods rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Consider options like yogurt, certain types of cheese, whole wheat bread, shakes, and fruits.

Prepare snacks for those well-deserved breaks throughout the day (in addition to lunch). Opt for healthy choices such as sandwiches, fruits, or muffins, depending on the demands of your assigned ward and activities. Snacks provide sustenance and help maintain your energy levels, ensuring you can perform at your best.

By nourishing yourself with a tasty and nutritious breakfast at the start of your day and making it a part of your routine, you can prioritize your well-being and strike a harmonious balance between your professional and personal life. Remember, nurturing yourself is essential for your own sake and for the optimal care you provide to your patients.

Nourishing options for the afternoon shift

While some nurses find lunch sufficient before their shift, others require additional sustenance throughout the day. That’s why it’s important to choose snacks that provide you with lasting energy.

Consider soups as a viable option. They not only offer a complete meal but also provide a comforting experience. Soups are easy to prepare—simply heat them up and enjoy a delicious and nourishing treat within minutes.

Finger foods are another suggestion for their convenience. However, be cautious not to overindulge and derail your diet. Choose healthy snack choices like granola bars, cheese, and sliced fruits.

For those in need of a boost, caffeine can be a tempting ally, especially in hospitals or wards where it’s readily available. Many nurses consider it a lifesaver, particularly for those battling sleepiness. While coffee has known benefits, it’s crucial to exercise moderation to prevent excessive consumption (although the incoming shift might have a different opinion based on your appearance!).

Energy-sustaining snacks for night shift nurses

Transitioning to the night shift can be challenging, as it requires adjusting to a different schedule. While the rest of the world sleeps, you must stay awake and active. This change can disrupt your hormones, disturb your sleep patterns, and create a yearning to rest on a comfortable bed. Here are some recommendations to help you navigate through the night:

  • Water becomes your closest companion. Stay hydrated to prevent bloating and maintain the rhythm of your digestive system.
  • Opt for light snacks unless you work in high-intensity wards like the emergency room. Light snacks include granola, pretzels, string cheese, sliced fruits, and yogurt.
  • Exercise caution when it comes to caffeine. While it aids in alertness, relying too heavily on caffeinated drinks can have negative consequences for your health.
  • Regardless of the shift, prioritize healthy meals. Take the time to prepare nourishing dishes that awaken your senses. For instance, incorporating chili into your favorite sandwich, pasta, or salad adds a healthy and invigorating touch.
  • Avoid indulging in binge eating or stress eating. Refrain from calorie-loading, assuming it will suffice for the remainder of your shift. Skipping meals can cause a drop in blood glucose levels, leading to impulsive eating driven by stress—an unhealthy habit you should steer clear of.


In conclusion, it is crucial for nurses to prioritize their well-being. Whether during or after their shifts, most restorative activities and breaks should be a time to step away from work and the accompanying stress. Breaking the repetitive cycle and introducing new elements into their lifestyle, diet, and work routine can have profound long-term effects. 

These changes will not only benefit the nurses themselves but will also have a significant impact on those around them. In order to provide effective healthcare, they must demonstrate that they also lead a healthy lifestyle. By embracing self-care and setting an example, nurses can show their patients the importance of maintaining a healthy and balanced life.