Take back your life

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Take back your life

Steps for professional and personal reclamation

by Shelley Cohen, RN, BS, CEN

How many times have you heard yourself or another manager make a comment about how “you have no life”? Maybe you joke that your second home is work—and it’s surely not a vacation home. You have probably learned to not look at what your pay would be if you broke it down to an hourly wage. Not a pretty picture, is it?

  • You can stay in this mode of dwelling on how bad it is, how tired you are, and so on. Or you can take a look at what you can do and what you can control. Start this process by examining:
  • How much of your work time is wasted due to constant interruptions?
  • Are the majority of these interruptions issues staff members should be handling themselves?
  • Do you have scheduled and posted dates/times for open office hours?
  • Are you unwilling to delegate more?
  • Do you feel that unless you are on the unit, processes and policy won’t be followed?
  • Are you having difficulty saying no, resulting in an increased workload?
  • Are you short-staffed and finding yourself filling in more as a staff nurse?

If you responded yes to at least one of these questions, you are not alone. And once you recognize that you are not the only nurse manager challenged with these problems, you can begin a process to turn your life around. The situation did not occur overnight and it will not change overnight. However, with an action plan and your willingness to confront and change some of your leadership practices, you can get your life back. The following steps can help you get started:

1. Develop a process to mentor staff members on how to resolve issues on their own. That way, they learn how to solve the problems that do not require your involvement and don’t need to take up your time, even when you are in the building. Offer examples and scenarios to develop their problem-solving skills, and make sure to offer support and encouragement. They must know that if they make a decision you disagree with, you will still be supportive. Their primary fear is making a mistake and dealing with the repercussions that will ensue. Share some of the mistakes you have made along the way, and don’t forget to offer recognition for the good decisions they make.

2. Post a weekly schedule where staff members can see it that displays prominent meetings, dates of evaluation time, payroll input, and other items that require your time and attention so they begin to understand all the time commitments of your role. Be sure to:

Post open office hours on this calendar

Make yourself visible for all shifts several times per week, which will cut down on interruptions

3. If you have charge staff members or team leaders, offer them development and support training to encourage them to take on the responsibility their role requires.

4. Recognize that when you are at home and not in the building, things could occur that might make your head spin. You usually hear about those later in the week in one of those casual “by the way” conversations. Whether you are there or not, the possibility of compliance issues is constant. Don’t let this be your excuse to spend more time at work.

5. Schedule a meeting with your manager to discuss the following (and make sure it is clear this is not a whining session):

  • Your current job description
  • Your manager’s expectations
  • The plan (the techniques described above) you are going to put into place and why
  • Your goals to:
  • Be more productive when you are at work
  • Mentor staff members to levels of accountability
  • Improve overall department processes
  • Take more appropriate time off and still meet the requirements of your job

6. The last step in this process may be the most important: Meet with staff members and let them know about your plan and your goals. Help them understand the responsibilities of your job (post a copy of your job description) and, at the same time, encourage them to look for more ways to spend time alone and with their families, just as you are attempting to do. You might want to display a poster (like the sample at right) in your break room or meeting room where staff members can write in their own ideas.

In your role as a leader, you are not just mentoring work ethic; you are mentoring personal and professional ethics too. Having adequate rest and refreshing changes of environment and pace are necessary for top performance. One of the most sought-after items by all of us is time, of which there is never enough.

Carve out that precious time for yourself and those closest to you, not just because you deserve it, but because it is in the interest of best patient care practices.

Editor’s note: Cohen is an educator and consultant at Health Resources Unlimited in Hohenwald, TN, a company she founded in 1997. She brings 30 years of experience into the classroom and is a nationally known author, speaker, and coach.