We really believe a nursing career can make you a better person. Most nurses will tell you that nursing school and every nursing job trained them to listen, to be empathic, and to develop their caregiving instincts. These are all wonderful traits for anyone, but especially for parents.
A career in nursing can be uniquely rewarding for anyone raising kids, but it does come with unique challenges. If you’re a parent in nursing school or starting your nursing career, consider these seven pieces of practical advice.
When you’re a nurse raising kids, you usually have a lot of lives depending on you—at home and at work. Neither your patients nor your children can be prioritized over the other. You have to show up for every nursing shift fully present, and you have to raise your kids, attending to their physical and emotional needs. It can be difficult because nurses are notoriously busy, but it’s easier for everyone when you set clear parameters and priorities from the start.
Be open when you talk with your family and supervisors. You may not be able to attend every soccer game or piano recital, but you can commit to some, and you can show your kids your efforts to secure the best shifts for them. Coworkers, too, will occasionally ask you to swap shifts or to talk with them after work, and sometimes you should, but not at the expense of a family priority.
As you’re establishing priorities, you may find yourself unable to drive or arrange carpools for every activity your kids—or you—want to do. Life can become very complicated very quickly, and juggling your work schedule plus a dozen other responsibilities is almost impossible for anyone, but it’s harder for nurses who lack the set schedule of a 9-5 day job. Create plans to simplify meal planning, housework, and your kids’ schedules. Just like a cluttered workspace inhibits productivity, a cluttered and complicated schedule will impede your work-life balance.
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Kids get sick, and nurses raising kids have a unique ability to spot symptoms right away. It’s a great asset for you and your family to be able to bandage wounds and assess your children’s health, but don’t forget they need regular medical care just like any other kid. Being a parent who’s a nurse can save you doctor visits if you don’t like the sound of that cough, but don’t always rely on your nursing experience. Providers who aren’t family members can provide a more empirical assessment.
Whether it’s your spouse, parents, siblings, or neighbors, there are people who love you and your children, and it’s okay to depend on that support network sometimes. Nurses can do a lot, but they can’t do everything—like be in two places at the same time. When you have a 12-hour shift, especially, it’s okay to look to loved ones to be with your kids after school and make sure they’re fed.
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A work-life balance doesn’t mean pretending your work life doesn’t exist when you’re home, or vice versa. As a nurse raising kids, you’re going to experience moments of humor, wonder, and tragedy that parents with a desk job never do. Your children can benefit from the stories and lessons you bring home with you, so don’t totally close them off from that other world.
That said, remember that your patients aren’t your children. Angry, disagreeable patients can frustrate you, and your kids will sometimes do the same, but this is when a work-life balance is essential. Learn to separate your emotions so it doesn’t negatively affect how you treat your patients or influence your patience level with your children.
Making this distinction can also help you deal with loss, especially when you work in pediatrics, or had a patient whose laugh reminded you of your daughter. Those comparisons and associations can make the grief especially devastating, but never forget your patients are still your patients, not your children. Facing the reality of mortality can be terrifying, for parents more than anyone, but it’s also a reminder that life is precious.
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That may sound impossible to any parent, much less a nurse raising kids, but it’s a critical part of avoiding burnout. Your work and your home life both require a lot of physical, mental, and emotional energy, and if you only give and give and give, eventually you’ll be drained. Carving out a little time for yourself, whether it’s 15 minutes with your coffee before your kids get up or a matinee once a month, can refresh you. Even consciously making your commute time your time can prove beneficial. Try to push away all of the thoughts about what you’ll have to do as soon as you get home or begin rounds and devote that time to yourself.
Related Resource: Nursing Burnout Is Real, and Here’s How to Fight It
At Joyce, we understand the challenges of being parents and nurses. We’ve juggled those roles ourselves, and we want to help our nursing students who are parents succeed in school and their careers. Learn more about our nursing faculty and programs in Draper, Utah.