If you are thinking of pursuing a career in healthcare, you’re probably aware that it can be a rewarding but stressful career choice that can sometimes involve long and irregular hours, including shift work and some anti-social hours, especially if you work in a hospital setting. Nevertheless, most healthcare professionals do manage to live full and active lives outside of work regardless of their schedule.
If you work in healthcare, you may find that you want to prioritize using your spare time for rest, recovery and de-stressing, but you may also have family responsibilities, ongoing education and other commitments to juggle. Successfully balancing healthcare work with all your other responsibilities requires organizing your time, delegating what you can, and protecting what little “spare” time you have so you can truly recover from stressors at work.
The American Medical Association has conducted research into what physicians do with their spare time and has found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that many choose physically challenging activities such as running, cycling, camping or hiking. This trend is likely seen among other healthcare professionals as well because being physically fit and active is known to have a positive impact on health and fitness.
Working in healthcare can be stressful, so many healthcare professionals try to find activities to do in their spare time that help them unwind, destress and feel renewed and recovered when they return to their busy work lives. You will find that many people who work in healthcare are concerned with managing stress in a healthy way, perhaps through yoga, meditation, or regularly spending time in nature. It is likely no coincidence that many healthcare workers prioritize physical activity as this can have the added benefit of helping them mentally de-stress as well.
The job outlook for nurses is good, with qualified Registered Nurses very much in demand, meaning there is no shortage of opportunities for those graduating from courses, such as those offered by Baylor University. Even though the university itself is in Texas, anyone can sign up to its ABSN program, as just one example, online and study it wherever they may be.
Those entering the world of work after may end up working long hours. Moreover, those working in hospital settings may be asked to regularly work through their scheduled break times or take on extra overtime. Again, nursing is demanding, so it is important to prioritize activities that will help you unwind when you get the chance.
There are a few challenges to face as a healthcare professional when it comes to effectively using your spare time.
Long and unsociable hours
As already mentioned, many healthcare professionals put in a lot of hours, and if they work in hospital settings, some of those hours may be during evenings, nights and weekends. It doesn’t matter what time of the day or night it is; babies are being born, people are showing up in the Emergency Room, and patients spending the night in hospital need to be monitored and cared for.
It is usually possible to schedule time off for important events, but having a regular social life is difficult as a worker in a hospital, hospice, nursing home, or other 24-hour healthcare facility. If all your friends have nine-to-five jobs and tend to socialize after work, meet up on a weekend, or party on a Saturday night, you’re possibly going to miss out on at least some of that.
Ever-changing shifts are the norm for some healthcare workers, which means even simple things such as attending a regular exercise class or other scheduled weekly activities can be a real challenge. If you work different hours each week, it can help to get organized. As soon as you know what your hours will be, it’s a good idea to schedule social events and other activities you enjoy doing. Most people thrive on a routine, but shift workers have to learn to be flexible and constantly adapt their basic routines to fit their constantly changing working hours.
The need to de-stress
As we’ve already touched on, high-stress healthcare careers can take their toll, so it’s important for those working in the sector to find fun, easy, healthy ways to de-stress. Burnout is common among healthcare workers and can be at least partially attributed to not efficiently using your spare time to de-compress and completely take your mind off the job.
It can be useful to ask your colleagues what works for them in terms of de-stressing to get ideas. However, the types of activities that help you de-stress may be very personal to you, so really take the time to think this through and don’t assume it has to be something that is commonly used by others. Yes, meditation, massages, and nature walks might work for you, but so might crochet, doing puzzles, or watching classic old movies from your childhood.
Just be wary of too many digital or online activities in your downtime. Playing video games or scrolling through social media might feel relaxing, but too much screen time can also negatively impact sleep patterns and do more harm than good when it comes to true recovery and energy regeneration.
With the rising cost of childcare, many couples try to work opposite shifts, and those working in healthcare positions who have the opportunity to take on a regular late, overnight, or weekend shift may find this is a good solution. However, it might also mean that most of your time away from work is spent taking care of children and is not ‘spare’ time at all.
If this is your situation, try to find things you can do with your children that help you de-stress. It might be as simple as getting out in nature with them or coloring alongside them; there’s a reason adult coloring books are marketed as de-stressing activities. With older kids, you might want to try yoga, meditation, or a fun sport as a parent-and-child activity.
Ultimately, as a busy healthcare worker, you will find that your quality of life is better if your time off work incorporates ways to unwind and de-stress whenever possible.