The Health Effects of Life/Work Imbalance in the Nursing Profession

TheHealth Effects of Life/Work Imbalance in the Nursing Profession

TheHealth Effects of Work/Life Imbalance in the Nursing Profession

Itis the desire of every employee to achieve a balance between thepersonal and work-related tasks in order to lead a healthy life.Unfortunately, the conditions in the modern society force people towork for long hours and spend less time taking care of their personalissues, which has made life/work imbalance a commonplace issue(Currie, Anns &amp Wang, 2014). However, these imbalances are morecommon in some professions than others. This trend is determined bymultiple factors, including the nature of work and recruitmentpolicies. Nursing is one the professions that are characterized bylife/work imbalances. Nurses work for long hours, under pressure, andhandle heavy workloads (Currie, Anns &amp Wang, 2014). Thisimbalance is considered as a constant struggle in the nursingprofession because they have to work hard to meet the demands of workas well as their homes. This paper will address the health effectsthat are associated with the life/work imbalance in the nursingprofession. The life/work imbalance subjects nurses to the risk ofsuffering from psychological problems (such as depression andstress), occupational mental conditions, major depressive disorders,inability to make healthy choices, and a poor quality of life.

Thelack of autonomy to determine the work schedules is among the mostsignificant risk factors contributing to the occurrence of thework/life imbalance in the profession of nursing. The field ofnursing is characterized by a wide range of factors that subjectnurses to the risk of suffering from stress. Some of these factorsinclude repetitive tasks, variable shifts, a close interaction withdying patients, the need to meet the demands made by physicians, andchallenges associated with changes in policy (Currie, Anns &ampWang, 2014). The field is dominated by female nurses, who are mostlyexpected to carry out family responsibilities. Unfortunately, nursesare rarely involved in the processes of making administrativedecisions, which imply that they do not take part in the developmentof the work schedules. The lack of autonomy and control over theirpractice results in job strain that increases the risk of sufferingfrom stress and depression. These health effects were confirmed by astudy indicating that the lack of autonomy and control over thepractice results in a prevalence rate of 9 % of major depressionamong the female nurses (Currie, Anns &amp Wang, 2014).

Nursingis one of the professions that are characterized by the high risk ofpoor occupational mental health that limits the capacity ofindividuals to achieve their career goals. The nature of work in thehealth care setting denies nurses the opportunity to balance betweenpersonal and professional lives. A failure to give nurses theopportunity to take care of tasks that enhance their personal livesresults in anxiety and mood disorders. A study conducted by Wang(2006) indicated that over 17.9 % and 21.2 % of the nurses who feelthat they are unable to balance between their personal and work livessuffer from mood and anxiety disorders, respectively. These mentalillnesses reduce the level of productivity, thus limiting the abilityof nurses to achieve their career goals. Nurses who feel that theyare unable to achieve career goals become dissatisfied with theprofession, which worsens their mental health.

Prolongedlife/work imbalance results in permanent psychological effects and aperception that poor mental health is part and parcel of the nursingprofession. This challenge has been confirmed by statistics showingthat about 82 % of nurses go to work, in spite of feeling too sick todo so (Sprinks, 2013). About 55 % of the nurses reported that theirillness resulted from the work-related stress while 46 % of themattributed their sickness to workload (Sprinks, 2013). The facts thatthe lack of proper staffing levels, absence of proper sicknesspolicies, and heavy workload are historical issues in the field ofnursing have resulted in a perception that nurses have to go to work,even when they are ill. This distorted thinking patters subjectnurses who suffer from stress due to work/life imbalance to the riskof suffering from the major depressive disorder (MDD) (Sprinks,2013). Therefore, the long-term effects of imbalance on nurses can beattributed to a failure on the part of the administrators to developstrategies that can help nurses work while enjoying life at the sametime.

Work/lifeimbalance limits the capacity of nurses to make healthy choices,which increase the risk of suffering from obesity as well as otherlifestyle-related problems. According to Han, Trinkoff, Storr,Geiger-Brown, Johnson, &amp Park (2012) the nature of the workschedules affect the life of the members of staff directly andindirectly. The work schedules affect their diet, sleep, social,family, and physical activities. For example, nurses’ decision toengage in physical activities that can enhance their overall healthis dependent on the amount of time that is left after completing thework-related tasks. Nurses who are forced to work for long hoursbarely have time to engage in physical as well as social activities.The nature of work, coupled with unfavorable work schedules forcenurses to make unhealthy choices that increase the chances ofdeveloping lifestyle medical conditions, such as obesity. This hasbeen confirmed by a study showing that nurses with long-workinghours, less movement, and exertion are at a higher risk of sufferingfrom lifestyle-related medical issues compared to the generalpopulation (Han etal.,2012).

Animbalance between work and personal lives has a negative effect onthe overall quality of life of nurses. Apart from finding pleasure bypursuing a respectable career, nurses work in order to earn a livingand improve the quality of their lives as well as those who depend onthem. However, unfavorable schedules that force nurses to be at workmost of their time deny them the opportunity to find value in theirjobs (Sachiko, Makabe, Takaga, Asanuma, Ohtomo &amp Kimura, 2014).Some of the key measures of a decline in the quality of life amongthe nurses include the lack of satisfaction with the job, lowproductivity, and stress levels. Nurses who feel that their job takesmore time that their personal life are likely to offer poor qualitycare than those who believe that they have achieved work/lifebalance. This challenge is attributed to the fact that a perceptionthat the job has reduced the overall quality of life results in adecline in the level of satisfaction (Makabe etal.,2014). The lack of satisfaction with the present job is associatedwith a low desire to achieve the best treatment outcome. Therefore,unfavorable work shifts result in negative effects (such as poortreatment, damage to the image of the health care facilities, and thenursing profession) that impact all the stakeholders.


Nurseshave higher chances of suffering from psychological problems,occupational mental conditions, major depressive disorders, inabilityto make healthy choices, and a poor quality of life. The nature ofjob, poor recruitment practices, and the lack of nurses’ engagementin the process of developing the schedules are some of the keyfactors that increase the probability of life/work imbalance in thefield of nursing. Most importantly, there is sufficient scientificevidence to support the idea that the lack of the opportunity toestablish the balance between personal and work lives results in asignificant decline in the mental, physical, and the psychologicalwell-being of nurses. These negative health effects, coupled with adecline in the job satisfaction and commitment reduce theproductivity of nurses. To this end, it is clear that the issue ofimbalance between the work and life-related tasks can be addressed inorder by achieving the right patient-nurse ratio and involving healthcare professionals in the process of developing the schedules.


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Han,K., Trinkoff, A M., Storr, C L., Geiger-Brown, J, Johnson, K L.,Park, S. (2012). Comparison of Job Stress and Obesity in Nurses withFavorable and Unfavorable Work Schedules.Journal of Occupational &amp Environmental Medicine,54(8),928-932.

SachikoMakabe, S., Takaga, J., Asanuma, Y., Ohtomo A., &amp Kimura, Y.(2014) Impactof work-lifeimbalanceon job satisfaction and quality of life among hospitalnursesin Japan.IndHealth,2015, 53 (2), 152–159.

Sprinks,J. (2013). Work-life imbalance and the pressures that are makingnurses sick. NursingStandard, 28 (6),14-15. doi:10.7748/ns2013.

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