Here to PICU Up: Nurse-Life Balance in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit 

Written by: Katie M. Kline, BSN RN CCRN PNP-AC Student 

Nurse-life balance is often described as the harmony one holds between their professional life as a nurse and their personal life. It’s easy to imagine these two realms as their own sides of the same scale that one can magically balance. However, more often than not they are never perfectly balanced and rarely ever stay perfectly equal for several reasons. This is where I would like to dive into PIC(y’all) Up with what I’ve learned along the way in my career as a pediatric critical care nurse.

Setting the Scale 

The simple truth is that nurses by nature are givers. On the opposite hand, healthcare systems are takers and they do a fantastic job of playing off a nurse’s giving nature to satisfy their bottom line.

Things that often begin to tip the scales come in the form of rotating shifts, denied PTO, and poor staffing. These conditions can lead to anxiety, exhaustion, and the common phrase we hear today as “nurse burnout”. 

Zeroing your Scale

First and foremost, your scale has to be zeroed on the personal side FIRST with what’s important to you. These are your values, goals, and how you envision your best life. When you adequately define the things you care most about in your life it makes it easier to then set limits in your professional world. 

 1. Treat yourself with the same compassion as you would treat your patients. This means applying the ever popular theory, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, on yourself! At the bottom tier, you’re taking care of your physiological and emotional needs first: 

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Fueling your body with good meals
  • Finding joy in moving your body 
  • Connecting with friends and family 
  • Feeling safe where you are

2. Set boundaries professionally so that you can achieve your basic needs. This might look like: 

  • Saying no to overtime (Are you sleeping enough? Do you need to recover from a draining shift?) 
  • Planning out time to cook meals or go to the grocery store.
  • Scheduling PTO, so that you can connect with family and friends. 
  • Signing up for that gym class you’ve always wanted to try. 

Keep in mind that achieving this balance does not come automatically. It takes time and mileage to find harmony between work and personal life. Notoriously, there will always be that bad day at work that completely throws you for a loop or something devastating from your personal life that makes it difficult to perform well at your job. Just keep in mind that taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically is imperative to not only your own personal health, but to the health of your role as a nurse. 



About Katie Kline: 

Katie Kline, BSN, RN CCRN is currently a travel PICU nurse and is celebrating her 7th year at the bedside. She is the content creator and personality behind the @wellandgoodrn handle – a platform that provides aspiring and current pediatric acute and critical care nurses a place to find inspiration, connection, and growth. She is passionate about elevating pediatric nursing education and continuing to foster the growth of PICU nurses. 

Instagram – @wellandgoodrn 

Website & Links –



This article was edited by Shannon McPeek, BSN, RN

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