Hospitals are known to be both rewarding and high-pressure workplaces.
As with most careers, Nurses, Midwives and Assistants in Nursing (AIN) face the challenge of balancing work demands with personal life. When the pressures of work begin to mount, it can be difficult to find that balance, ensuring there is still time to look after your wellbeing. With knowledge, resources, and tangible support from their workplace, Nurses, Midwives and AINs can significantly improve their experience of finding a work-life balance, despite the demands or pressures of work.
Connor Lynch, Registered Nurse and ANMF ACT Workplace Delegate, says that wellbeing is as much a state of mind as a physical state.
“Wellbeing is the personal state of contentment. It’s the absence of worry or injury or illness. But it’s also a state of flux. It’s the balance of managing life’s stressors, and your mental and physical health.”
In the professions of nursing and midwifery, Connor said that wellbeing is fundamental. In both professions, you are consistently confronted with diseases and trauma, sometimes on the daily, which can affect your worldview.
“In this career path, you’re constantly confronted by people who are in traumatic scenarios, or are extremely unwell, which can be very distressing. You have to remind yourself that most people are out there living a relatively healthy and happy life.”
Connor said that in these cases, personal wellbeing is essential – as Nurses and Midwives often have to deal with distressing instances of disease, trauma and death.
“You have to look after yourself and sometimes put yourself first to maintain your own wellbeing. Otherwise, it’s very challenging.”
Connor emphasised the importance of wellbeing in his own career, touching on how it can be up to both the individual and the workplace to ensure wellbeing is factored into your work.
“Wellbeing at work is about my ability to keep myself healthy, but also my workplace ensuring that I’m cared for, and I feel well so that I can do my job. Wellbeing is about ensuring that the workplace is safe, so that I can thrive, I’m happy to be here, and I can do my job. That’s essential. Then productivity increases, work satisfaction increases - it’s far better for everyone.”
While Connor welcomes efforts to create pockets of relaxation or fun for staff at work, he said that attention needed to be paid to the root causes of stress for Nurses and Midwives – namely staff shortages and the challenging nature of the work.
“One of the hardest aspects of the work is where you may have to deal with weeks of immense pressure, because you’re working at a deficit of multiple things. You might be short staffed, or have a skills shortage, which is then complicated by demand for beds and capacity, but you’re deadlocked by the current landscape of the healthcare system. You’re working against the odds.”
As an ANMF ACT member and Workplace Delegate, Connor has also witnessed first-hand the importance of union support in encouraging wellbeing practices and the importance of having a work-life balance.
“Being part of the ANMF ACT has allowed me to be heard. It’s hard to quantify just how essential that’s been in my ability to raise issues and achieve goals, knowing I’ve always got the support of the union. When you understand how systems work, you can better navigate them. The ANMF ACT helps illuminate some of the mystery, and it makes it easier to know what to do or where to go when you need that help.”
Connor said he has found that the only way to relieve some of this pressure on the individual level is to realise the importance of balancing work and personal life, and practice being able to leave the stresses of work behind.
“I think you have to get really good at training yourself to leave the worries of work at work. At the end of the workday, whether you practice mindfulness or meditation or listen to music or podcasts in the car, you must close the book on the day. You need to be able to say: okay, that was work. Now I’m going to go on living my life.”
Connor also advocates for giving yourself proper time to rest and recharge.
To do this successfully, Connor said it was important to identify what brings you joy, and focus on cultivating hobbies that you can spend time on outside of work.