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New England Nurses Achieve Work-Life Balance

Achieving work-life balance is a common but difficult goal for nurses. Long hours, complicated patients and personal obligations can add tension at home and work. But many nurses have learned how they can be at their best. From getting trained in Reiki to using on-site hospital gyms to letting a concierge service take care of errands, New England nurses have discovered how to maintain balance.

This knowledge also has helped them teach their patients how to improve their health. For more on wellness, visit

Jean Ann Walker, RN, BSN, CCRN, nurse manager of internal medicine/stroke center, Bridgeport (Conn.) Hospital

Jean Ann Walker, RN

The hospital offers many different work-life balance programs. During “Stroke Month” in May, we offer an annual public service day in the lobby during which staff take blood pressures and coach people on stroke awareness. Staff then talk to employees and the public about their personal risks.

During lunch breaks or before or after work, employees can take part in Weight Watchers, sit in on retirement-planning lectures on topics such as what one should be doing at the age of 30 to prepare, or receive financial advice on how to pay for college tuition through the College Prep program. Exercise programs include Get Active, an exercise program that tracks steps with pedometers; yoga; Zumba; and personal training in a gym located on-site.

An unexpected benefit of taking part in work wellness programs, such as Get Active and College Prep, is I now realize I count. When I’m at work, it’s not just a job, I am really taking care of myself. It’s things like the walking program that really enhance where you are in life. I push myself hard, and the wellness programs make me take time to step back and make time for myself.

I encourage my patients to stay active and find a balance between work and life demands because it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I also appreciate the support the programs provide to the 45 employees I supervise. The economy has put some people in turmoil, and wellness programs offer encouragement.

Sheri Levin, RN, ADN, BA in education, preadmission testing nurse, outpatient department supervisor, The Hospital of Central Connecticut, New Britain

Sheri Levin, RN

The on-site hospital gym, The Good Life Fitness Center, opens at 6 a.m., so I go before I start my day, which doesn’t allow me any excuses. The gym features a free personal trainer and offers classes such as Zumba and yoga, and is open to the public.

I also started and teach our Weight Watchers group in the hospital. Our members have lost more than 1,600 pounds total so far and it’s great to see people getting smaller. Teaching the classes keeps me motivated to keep myself in shape and I don’t have to leave the hospital to attend. I can’t teach one thing and live my life another way if I want to motivate other people.

The cafeteria also offers healthy food options and lists nutrition facts for all menu items online so employees can figure out how many calories, fat, etc., they are consuming. The menu even features heart icons next to extra-healthy options.
The concierge service, Helpful Hands, can help with everything from sending packages to buying gift certificates to wrapping presents. To relieve stress, I make sure I get my workout and use the concierge service to get stuff done during the week.

To help my patients, I stress that they need to stay active, get involved with the community and make time for themselves. Staying active and eating correctly is a big one; keeping motivated is another. I take care of a lot of bariatric patients and encourage them to make good food choices.

My life is extremely busy, but I make time for me to make sure I stay healthy.

Laura Ribeiro, RN, MSN, CEN, legal nurse consultant, employee health nurse for Southcoast Hospitals Group, St. Luke’s Hospital, New Bedford, Mass.

Laura Ribeiro, RN

I have participated in online health surveys, dieting and all kinds of nutritional and wellness activities at the hospital, such as cholesterol and blood pressure screenings. The wellness activities, set up by St. Luke’s wellness coordinator, Kris Aimone, help hospital staff focus on their own health status. When you let something go and don’t bother with it, that’s when you get into trouble. Wellness programs keep you on track and have helped me teach patients through my own experiences. By improving my own health, I also serve as a role model to my patients and colleagues.

My primary struggles have been with my weight and cholesterol. After going through a screening at work, I followed up with my primary care physician to track my progress.
To stay healthy, I turn to my spiritual beliefs to reduce stress and bring peace into my life. For exercise I enjoy activities such as walking, bike riding, roller blading and skiing. My best compliment to myself is when I have people guess how old I am and they never guess correctly.

I’m happy with my life, as crazy as it is with caring for my parents, teens, home and more. It’s finding that moment for yourself that brings true happiness.

Tricia Chambers, RN, BSN, cardiology nurse, St. Mary’s Hospital, Waterbury, Conn.

Tricia Chambers, RN

I attend the yoga program, but my favorite is the Ready-Set-Go class, a 12-week program during which a YMCA trainer teaches participants about weights and cardio equipment, and focuses on proper technique, diet and self-wellness.

I can go before or after work since it’s held in the gym in the hospital. There are four people to a trainer per class, and the instructor gives everyone a notebook to keep track of sleep, eating, exercise and self-time habits. All participants also are given printouts of the exercises.

The class made me realize how much time I wasn’t taking for myself, such as exercising and eating right. Now I make more time for myself; I fit in exercise and still use the journal.

As a cardiac rehabilitation nurse, the program also has improved my care. When patients come to the unit after a cardiac procedure or myocardial infarction, I exercise and educate them. The program taught me new exercise techniques, but I also now serve as a role model and am living proof that they can learn to incorporate time for themselves into their schedules, too.

Rebecca Garcia-Flynn, RN, MT, ICU staff nurse, Faulkner Hospital, Jamaica Plains Division of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston

Rebecca Garcia-Flynn, RN

When I became a nurse in the 1970s, I was interested in meditation techniques and stress relief. Then, in the late 1990s, I accidently ran into Reiki, a touch therapy that has improved my capacity as a nurse. Knowing how to meditate, and reach a quiet place where I can shut off everything going on around me and relax my body, helps me achieve work-life balance.

My ICU patients are acutely ill, so I teach them a shift in perspective and attitude with Reiki to help them heal. I help turn their situation into a learning experience, then recommend meditation techniques, exercise if possible, spending time with other people and doing what they love.

We are all conduits for a flow of universal energy. Reiki helps clean imbalances to patients’ energy fields and allows blocks to open up so they can heal themselves. When I’m performing Reiki, it has a wonderful effect — patients relax, pain diminishes and they sleep better.

I have integrated Reiki into my life and work. When you’re doing Reiki the energy comes through your body and you can feel the flow. You can work on someone with the same issue, and your personal issues get healed at the same time. It’s extremely relaxing and it puts your brain in meditation mode.

The practice also can be amazing. Things can happen instantaneously, or you can see shifts occur over time as people begin to clear their blocks. I enjoy seeing how people change, heal and learn to take care of themselves. I frequently also have work done by other people in what we call “healing exchanges.”

Reiki is a wonderful addition to traditional medicine. I do a mix of alternative and traditional medicine, and I’m staying pretty healthy. Learning Reiki or some energy healing method is important for nurses because when patients are ill, nurses are the ones with the capacity to touch.

In 1986, I was working as a full-time nurse manager in Boston while taking BSN classes and caring for a newborn. It was hard to realize I couldn’t do everything; that I was not giving my best effort anywhere. I had to take a really good look at what I was doing and re-evaluate what was necessary and what was not. I looked at my values and decided child and family were most important and moved to a part-time position. That’s when I achieved balance.

By | 2020-04-15T14:07:26-04:00 November 8th, 2010|Categories: National|0 Comments

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