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Starting out: keeping the scales balanced

Rising from a 32-hour week to a 34-hour week seems insignificant, but for a newly qualified nurse those two hours can really tip the scales in finding a work-life balance, as Emma Cowen finds out. 

I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted. I was completely unprepared for how tiring I would find working as a nurse full time and how demanding it would be. While at university I managed to have a good work-life balance, always finding time to relax and enjoy myself.


Being tired from shifts has a huge effect on your social life, writes Emma Cowen. Picture: iStock

However, now I’m working full time as a newly qualified nurse I feel like I am struggling to get the balance right. I think this is due to several factors: the exhaustion that comes with a new job and a new role due to constantly learning and being taught new things, combined with the new feeling of responsibility that accompanies every decision I make.

Tipping point

It is also likely to do with the fact that, as a student my full-time hours were 32 a week, now working full time means I am working 34 hours. While it sounds insignificant, in practice this means that one week in a month I will have four shifts, instead of three. That one extra shift can sometimes tip the scales and give you a week where you barely have time to do the food shop, let alone catch up with family and friends.

It’s a fine line between not letting being tired get in the way of your life, and absolutely wearing yourself out. I’ve recently found myself turning down invitations only to find myself wide awake in bed regretting the missed opportunity, instead of making the most of a luxury night of doing nothing.

Muddling through

I don’t have any advice for any of you newly-qualified nurses, in the same exhausted boat as me. I’m just about muddling through myself. Except, perhaps, try not to feel guilty about whatever you chose to do with your precious spare time – whether that be sleeping or socialising.


About the author

Emma Cowen is a staff nurse in the children’s emergency department at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Brighton

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