5 Ways Allied Travelers can Maintain a Work-Life Balance
It sounds too good to be true: achieving the ideal balance between your work obligations and your personal interests. But a healthy work-life balance doesn’t have to be the holy grail of healthcare professionals. Keep reading for 5 ways PTs and OTs—even those on the road—can attain a better work-life balance.
Allied Healthcare Professionals and Work-Life Balance
As an Allied traveler, you work long hours restoring and supporting the physical health of your patients. But what happens when a busy schedule and heavy workload impair your own health—physically and mentally?
It can be difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance no matter your job. But healthcare professionals are particularly susceptible to burnout. Although job security is better than ever, the increasing demand for healthcare means work is abundant and patient volumes are skyrocketing.
I’m a PT myself, and I know how easy it is to allow the stress of being overworked and dissatisfied to affect one’s personal life. No matter where you are in your career—whether you’ve just started travel therapy or you’re several seasons in—it’s never too late to value and fight for a better work-life balance.
The Value of Work-Life Balance
What exactly is work-life balance? Essentially, it’s the tug between two domains in life, the work side and the personal side. Although this line blurs for many people, in therapists it generally boils down to what you do for your patients or your clinic versus what you do for yourself, your family, and anything else that matters to you.
You can think of it as an allocation of resources, where your time, attention, and priority are the cream of the crop. Ideally, your job and your personal pursuits will receive equal allocations of your resources. When things are balanced, the demands of work won’t eclipse your desire to spend time with your partner, meet up with friends, or pursue a hobby you enjoy, for example.
Work-life balance is reportedly a primary priority of US employees, second only to compensation. Even a workplace’s health benefits take a backseat to how well the job allows for proper work-life balance, either through flexible scheduling, time-off benefits, maternity/paternity leave, and other such allowances.
It’s no wonder employees value work-life balance—it can reap rewards in both domains. When work isn’t wringing you dry, you’ll experience higher satisfaction, less stress, and less anxiety in your personal life. And, in a positive feedback loop, less stress means better health overall, which will make you more likely to stay with your job.
5 Ways to Establish a Better Work-Life Balance
You don’t have to quit or retire to enjoy the benefits of a better work-life balance. Below are 5 strategies for ensuring your work life and your personal life can coexist without making you crazy.
Just because you work as an Allied traveler doesn’t mean you’ve spent much time as a tourist. In between hospital shifts, patient visits, and documentation writing, you might miss getting to enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes of your new city.
For a traveler, one way you can try to strike a better work-life balance is to fit in more traveling. It’s the low-hanging fruit of lifestyle changes; why, you’ve already uprooted yourself from your home base—why not take a day trip or a mini-vacation while you’re at it?
Importantly, voluntary traveling doesn’t need to be a big, stressful occasion that warrants multiple vacation days. Even a day trip to the other side of town, an overnight in the historical district, or an afternoon at the beach can give you some needed time away from work.
If you haven’t already, make a bucket list of places you want to visit or activities you want to do while you’re in your new city. It’ll be easier to hold yourself to this list and prioritize time for yourself if you’ve already done the hard work of choosing where you want to go.
- Pick up a hobby
Research supports the notion that picking up a hobby can help you balance work pressure more easily. In fact, participating in leisure activities or “hobbies” is correlated with higher work satisfaction and improved physical and psychological well-being.
What kind of leisure activities are we talking about? Many kinds—the more varied, the better, in fact. Studies show you can help reduce the effects of workplace stress by engaging in multiple types of leisure activities, from social outings and exercise to personal quiet time and hobbying.
It’s not always easy to add another activity—let alone multiple—to an already-full plate. But you can reap the benefits of hobbies by making time for them each week. Maybe you set aside a couple of hours each weekend for crafting or woodworking. Other activities can be peppered throughout your day—such as spending 15 minutes reading on your lunch break or meeting a friend for dinner instead of Netflix.
- Find ways to make your work more efficient
One of the reasons work stress can get so out of balance is from working harder than necessary to accomplish everyday tasks. I know when I started working as a PT, I was spending copious amounts of time, stress, and mental energy to complete my documentation every day. It was a work task that I often had to bring home with me—further upsetting my work-life balance.
If you work in an outpatient clinic, one solution for inefficient documentation is to use pre-written phrases and a template layout for all your regular notes. These presets can shortcut your time spent typing, remove the burden of writer’s block, and make the whole process fly by.
By becoming more efficient in your note-writing, you’ll reduce work stress and free up some valuable downtime. I’ve found that pre-written documentation phrases help me improve the quality of my notes, too, further deepening my work satisfaction—a key ingredient to proper work-life balance.
There are other ways to shore up your workflow so it’s as efficient and stress-free as possible. Home health therapists face a lot of stressors, not to mention the unknown variables of traveling from one patient home to another. Besides improving your methods for home health documentation—which in itself can be daunting—you can make your life more efficient by reforming how you schedule your patients.
Always group your patients by location so you’re not wasting time, gas, and the stress of sitting in traffic. It’s easier to do this than you might think. For example, instead of offering your patients any time of the day for them to schedule their appointment, present just a couple of options, 8 am or 10 am, for example. That way, you can still give them a choice in the matter while sticking to your agenda of, say, keeping appointments on the far end of town all in the morning.
When a patient inevitably cancels, use that borrowed time to order dinner, go for a walk, get ahead on documentation, or call a friend. Just don’t sit in traffic or “doom scroll” on your phone—that won’t help your stress!
- Challenge yourself professionally
Maintaining a work-life balance isn’t always about efficient time management, however. Maybe it’s not that you feel overworked; you just feel bored, and the lack of interest in your job makes every hour spent on the clock feel like an eon.
Work-life balance can become skewed when interest in your work doesn’t match the demands it makes on your time. If this happens, you can either 1) switch careers to something totally different, or, more realistically, 2) challenge yourself in new ways within your career.
Think back to why you chose to become a therapist. Is there a patient demographic or specialty you’ve always been interested in but never had the opportunity to focus on? Use those innate inklings to redirect your interest in your field. You can add a specialization or complete advanced certification, such as in neurology or pediatrics.
Use the excuse of periodic license renewal to take CEU courses in topics that are new or challenging for you. Or, for a comprehensive challenge, ask your recruiter to find work opportunities that’ll put you in a different kind of environment, one where you’ll learn new skills, meet other types of patients, and see different outcomes.
Career challenges aren’t easy—and that’s kind of the point. Any of these ideas might actually increase your stress at first. But, if you have good time management and stress mitigation skills, a career redirection can pay off huge dividends to your work satisfaction and help you love your job again.
- Lean on your support
Balancing work obligations and personal responsibilities is so much larger than any tip I could offer in a single article. Your situation is unique to you, so the people who can best help you navigate imbalance are the people you already know, love, and trust.
Even as you travel for work, staying in touch with close family and friends is critical for maintaining a good work-life balance. Sometimes, it’s those closest to us who know better than ourselves when we’ve taken on too much, have lost our sense of self, or are finding work especially tedious and tiresome.
When your stressors are particularly work-related, your recruiter may be able to hear you out and help you mitigate the stress—whether through conflict resolution, contract negotiation, or a swift transfer to a new job.
But when the stress is too personal or too complex to unravel with just anyone, a psychotherapist might be able to help you make sense of it and achieve balance.
And if that makes you balk, consider: wouldn’t you want to help an unsteady patient find their footing and improve their physical balance? The same is true for a mental health professional, whose expertise can help you build boundaries and develop habits that support a better work-life balance.
Final Thoughts on Work-Life Balance for Allied Travelers
One of the key truths about establishing balance is to make small, incremental changes. You can’t establish a better balance overnight, but small changes can have big effects. Just give it time, give it your attention, and don’t give up!
Looking to start your Allied healthcare travel journey? Click the link below to learn more about traveling with Club Staffing!
Tim Fraticelli is a Physical Therapist, Certified Financial Planner™ and founder of PTProgress.com. He loves to teach PTs and OTs ways to save time and money in and out of the clinic, especially when it comes to therapy documentation or continuing education. Follow him on MedBridge Education for course reviews and ways to improve your financial health.