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Back-to-school season for parents often means a return to pick-up lines, nightly activities and meal prep. So, how do you keep work and home life on track when the kids go back?

Working parents juggle an array of personal and professional responsibilities. Achieving work-life balance, or work-life integration, is a daunting task within any profession. Maintaining a home life while working in healthcare can be particularly difficult unless you have support.

Suzanne smiling

Healthcare professionals are often heralded for their sacrifices, but an imbalanced work-life creates stress and could lead to emotional exhaustion or burnout. Leaders within healthcare organizations like Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) prioritize colleagues establishing work-life balance through the development of a supportive workplace culture.

Studies show that a successful work-life balance positively impacts your physical and mental health. And in healthcare, patient safety increases when healthcare organizations successfully integrate work and home life.

Work-life balance is never a complete circle, it is a cycle. Effective work-life integration requires a continuous, collective effort from healthcare management. Team-based healthcare – leaders and members working as a team – also improves patient care.

At TMH, we strive to be known as the most engaged and supportive organization in the country. This promise extends to our patients and community members, and especially, to our colleagues. We encourage colleagues to nurture their personal lives so they can be their happiest and healthiest at home and at work.

Suzanne Walker-Assad, Director of Critical Care at TMH, recognized TMH’s commitment to family when she completed her clinicals as a nursing student at Keiser University.

“I knew immediately that TMH was for me because of the work environment,” she says. “It was and still is so supportive and family oriented.”

Framed photographs of her sons, 8-year-old Cruz and 3-year-old Kane Preston, fill the shelves in Suzanne’s office.

“They were both born at TMH,” she beams.

During her most recent pregnancy, Suzanne took leave and returned when she felt ready.

“I am so grateful for that time,” she says. The photographs show Cruz and Kane Preston visiting the beach and ski slopes, indicators of family time well-spent.

Raising a family while working at TMH, Suzanne shares aspects of the supportive work culture that she has experienced and now helps develop:

1. Flexible Scheduling & Clear Communication

When Suzanne began her career as a nurse, she worked 12-hour shifts three days a week. Those shifts allowed her to have a strong presence at home, but not every schedule permits as much downtime.

In her current schedule and as an assistant nurse manager, Suzanne acknowledges, “We schedule around our kids.” Between dance recitals, birthdays, ball games and holidays, she emphasizes, “We don’t want anyone to miss anything.” Suzanne’s team communicates their needs for days and time with family. Colleagues uphold those days for their peers as a result of timelines communicated in advance.

2. Respect & Support

Of course, situations arise that are unscheduled. The team’s deep respect and understanding for each other shines through in those moments, Suzanne says. “If a child is sick, we are quick to jump in and cover that parent. If a colleague is sick, we are supportive and cover them.”

Suzanne’s team supports each other through difficult moments, recalling colleagues picking up missed shifts of a team member undergoing cancer treatments, but they also celebrate life’s happiest moments. “We throw baby showers, milestone celebrations and engagements.” Suzanne acknowledged how much support she received as both a leader and a mother recently, “Mother’s Day was overwhelming with the amount of love and support I received from my team, my phone was continuously ringing with people wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day.”

3. Health & Wellness

Ironically, poor physical health can be common among healthcare professionals. Nurses are one of the populations most afflicted by musculoskeletal disorders. Poor physical and mental health are indicators of an unequal work-life balance. As a healthcare professional, Suzanne prioritizes health and wellness, “We make sure colleagues can go to all the appointments they need to go to.”

To help combat this, TMH provides discounted access for colleagues to Premier Health & Fitness Center’s gym and classes. For mental health and wellness, TMH offers colleagues an Employee Assistance Program, which provides in-person counseling and problem solving sessions, wellness and work-life seminars and 24-hour telephone crisis availability. In addition, colleagues can sign up to receive a monthly e-newsletter with articles from our Healthy Living blog.

TMH also provides Schwartz Rounds, a monthly lunch and program, open to all colleagues, during which they can openly and honestly discuss the emotional and social challenges they face in caring for patients and families.

4. Fulfillment at Work

TMH invests in talent like Suzanne, providing her with a scholarship to attend nursing school. After graduation, she participated in TMH’s Nurse Residency Program (NRP), a year-long series of monthly seminars and learning opportunities that takes place in conjunction with a newly graduated nurses’ first year of employment. NRP helps new nurses turn their preparation into practice.

Suzanne believes NRP broadened her awareness of nurses in different departments and different specialties. Most importantly, her experiences helped her understand she was not alone in her stress. NRP facilitates a discussion called “Tales from the Bedside,” in which new nurses can share their accomplishments, concerns, fears and frustrations.

As a new nurse, Suzanne was surprised by the amount of support she received from TMH. She transitioned into management as a result of yearly check-ins with management about her career goals. Suzanne worked as a charge nurse, educator, assistant nurse manager in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, assistant nurse manager for Vogter Neuro Trauma Intensive Care Unit (VNTICU) and, most recently, director of critical care.

Suzanne credits her career growth to mentorships and TMH’s professional development programs, “They taught me how to reach my goals. They grew me into leadership.”

5. Purpose & Meaning

The unit Suzanne most recently assisted in managing, VNTICU, sees severe cases daily. Patients experiencing stroke or traumatic brain injuries come to VNTICU at their most vulnerable, unable to move or speak. Suzanne says, “Our colleagues become connected with the patients’ families. We become like family. We cry together and laugh together.”

These critical patients often recover and return to the VNTICU to visit the people who cared for them. “They come in as patients, not able to move, and then they walk through the doors and give us hugs. We’re all crying at that point.” These moments with patients, families and colleagues offer fulfillment at work.

Everyone on Suzanne’s team talks about their families, sharing pictures and stories with each other. Maintaining friendships, including friends at work, lessens job-related stress.

Suzanne proudly describes herself as family-driven and career-oriented and has not had to sacrifice one or the other. She feels like her work and life are deeply integrated.

When Suzanne talks about her family, she includes her TMH colleagues.

“TMH is my second home,” she says. “It sounds corny, but on my drive to TMH, I am excited to come into work every day. I love what I do, and I love who I work with. I’d choose TMH over anywhere any day.”

To learn more about career opportunities at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, visit TMH.ORG/Careers.

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Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare is a private, not-for-profit community healthcare system committed to transforming care, advancing health, and improving lives with an ultimate vision of leading the community to be the healthiest in the nation.