Headshot of nursing expert Amy Stewart

Q: I am struggling as the DNS, knowing I am on call 24/7. What are some tips for work-life balance?

A: Always being on call can be stressful. Unaddressed, stress leads to burnout, which often precipitates leaving the role. To preserve your well-being, consider adjusting your leadership style and lifestyle to alleviate stressors. Here’s how: 

Set boundaries. Not every call, question or concern requires DNS attention. Clarify to staff when and why to call after hours. Discuss what merits a call to the DNS versus what can wait. 

Maintain a routine. Start the day with clinical rounds to identify priorities and tackle issues before they become crises. Near the end of the day, confirm  staff have addressed the day’s priorities. This can alleviate after-hours calls. 

Invest in education. Staff who know how to care for residents are necessary for both quality outcomes and DNS well-being. Ensure staff have the skills to care for residents. Professional development increases competence and confidence — both necessary for staff to work independently. 

Communicate clearly. Communicating clear and concise expectations saves time and follow-ups. Staff should know and be able to do what you expect. 

Take a break. Skipping a break only increases stress. Take breaks, eat lunch and use your well-deserved time off. Even when busy, you need a moment away from the stress to regroup. 

Take care of yourself. Make time for your needs — healthy meals, exercise, meditation and sleep. You’ll feel your energy expand and your attitude brighten.

By targeting your efforts, expanding others’ competency and prioritizing your own needs, you can restore some of the work-life balance that is necessary for DNS success.

Amy Stewart, MSN, RN, RAC-MT, RAC-MTA, DNS-MT, QCP-MT, is chief nursing officer for the
American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing (AAPACN). Send her your nursing-related questions at [email protected].