Work-Life Balance and How New CNAs Can Achieve It

Melissa Mills
July 23, 2022
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You wake up and think about how great it is to be a CNA. It’s a new day, and the sun is shining. But, as you think about the day ahead, your brain floods with everything you need to do before your shift starts at 3 pm. You must get the kids up and off to school, walk the dog, do the laundry, and clean the house. Your goal is to finish all this before you leave for work this afternoon.

As you think about all of this, the happy thoughts about it being a new day with lots of sunshine fade into anxiety and a bit of panic. You’ve thought you would have this work-life balance thing a bit more figured out after working as a CNA for two months. But you don’t, and it’s starting to make you wonder if being a CNA is a good fit for you. 

What is Work-Life Balance Anyway?

Work-life balance is the term used to describe stable boundaries between home and work life. These limits allow work stress to stay at work. It’s important to remember that work-life balance doesn’t happen on its own. You have to create the rules that work for you and then enforce them. Once you do this, you’ll feel an alignment between work and home that protects your mental, physical, and emotional health. 

How to Achieve Work-Life Balance as a CNA

Being a CNA means long hours, limited ability to leave while at work, and a lot of responsibility. Stress on-the-job doesn’t come from deadlines or projects but life or death decisions. Additional stressors include being short-staffed, working in high-stress environments, and exposure to infectious diseases.  

Common work-life balance tips don’t align with the work you do. But, don’t stress - we’ve got you covered with tips created just for new CNAs. 

Understand Work-life Balance is Individualized

Don’t compare notes with other CNAs or nurses on the unit. Their life is different than yours. They might also have lots more experience dealing with working in healthcare. Work-life balance only works well if it’s created by you, for you. It must be a plan that fits your life and your needs. Things to consider when creating your plan:

  • Your family - Think about your spouse, children, parents, or others
  • Your other work - Having a second job makes it hard to find time for yourself
  • Your health - Think about what you need to be happy and healthy
  • Your values - Create a list of the things that matter most to you

Find the Best Schedule 

One of the best things about working in healthcare is that if your current schedule doesn’t work for you, there’s probably an opportunity on another shift. You can work days, evenings, nights, or even a mix of all three. You might also be able to work more weekend shifts and be off through the week if that works best for your home life. Another option is to work 12-hour shifts instead of eight to decrease the number of days you have to work per week. 

Talk to Your Supervisor

Many new CNAs hesitate talking to their supervisor about what they need to balance work and home life. You might be nervous or think leadership won’t want to work with someone so new. Or, you might have heard horror stories from coworkers about how requests were handled in the past. 

While it can be scary, you’ll never know the answer to the question if you don’t ask. Being honest with your supervisor is always best. Let them know what areas of your work life are creating an imbalance for you at home and ask if they have any ideas that might help. You might be surprised by how much wisdom they have on the topic.

Survey Your Home Life

Your home life may have never impacted previous jobs. However, healthcare is an industry that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and demands a lot from its staff. While you don’t want to sacrifice things at home for your work, there are a few things you can do to help balance being able to have both:

  • Start a household calendar that shows everyone in the family and all of their activities to minimize overbooking 
  • Meal prep one day a week so mealtimes are shorter, and clean-up is less
  • Create a chores list for every family member so that no one has to do all the work (including you)

Avoid Time Wasters

Identifying and eliminating things that take up your time with little benefit can give you minutes, if not hours, back each week. Here are a few ways to avoid time wasters at home and work:

  • Make a report template to help organize your thoughts and speed up shift reports
  • Redirect coworkers or residents who want to tell you long stories when you have many tasks to complete
  • Schedule time to watch television or peruse social media so you don’t waste time you don’t have

Disconnect from Work

It’s difficult to disconnect these days. You can communicate to leadership and coworkers around the clock through email, apps, and phone calls. You might even spend time with work friends outside of work, but conversations quickly go back to work-related topics and mess with your work-life balance. 

You’ll need to come up with ways to minimize the work distractions at home. Be sure to turn off notifications for all work-related apps as soon as you clock out. If work calls you on your day off, let it go to voicemail so you don’t have the extra stress of telling someone you can’t come in extra. If you hang out with work friends outside of work, make a pact to keep conversations about work off-limits. 

Take Your Breaks

Skipping breaks when you’re busy may be tempting. However, missing out on much-needed downtime can slow down your productivity and cause you to fall even more behind. Be intentional about taking your breaks and never skip your lunch because you need proper nutrition to have the energy to keep up with all your tasks. 

Finding Your Groove

Feeling off balance can be frustrating and discouraging. It will take a little time to get into a good pattern of work and home life that works for you. Keep trying different strategies until you find the plan that works best for you. 

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