One of the biggest benefits of pursuing a career as a nurse is that the work isn’t a simple 9-5 job. There is a lot of flexibility available for those looking to prioritize other parts of their life, for example, spending time with the family.
But even with the flexibility of shift work, it can still be difficult to not turn into a workaholic and focus on managing the work-life balance.
Many people believe that family leads to professional sacrifices; you can’t have your cake and eat it, as they say. However, with the right qualifications and planning, you can succeed in both family life and having a successful career.
Here’s how to do it.
There are some aspects of family life that need to be prioritized over others. For example, if you have young children that cannot be left to look after themselves, finding a way to ensure at least one parent is at home for them needs to be a priority. You can work with your partner to see whether part-time work makes more sense for one of you while the other works full time. Alternatively, there will be shift patterns available that mean you can work during the time they are at school and head home for the afternoon rush.
As the kids get older, you’ll be able to leave them alone for longer, giving you the opportunity to take on more work or pursue a full-time role.
If you’re just starting out on your career and are in the studying or training phase, it’s a good idea to get everyone on board. Discuss with your partner which responsibilities they might be able to temporarily take on so that you have a chance to catch up on lectures in your downtime. You should also keep the kids in the loop: if they know you’re at nursing school and that their schedules might change slightly, they’ll have an easier time adapting.
During the transition phase, it’s important that everyone stays calm and patient with one another while you smooth out any hiccups.
While at first it might seem that nurses only work in a hospital setting, when you start researching the profession, you’ll find there are a huge number of nursing types and work settings available.
If you want to work in a hospital, a lot of managers offer ‘parent shift’ patterns that allow you to work during the hours the kids are at school or on evenings when they’re in bed.
Nurses that work in home care, on the other hand, typically have autonomy over their own working schedules, as long as they take care of all their patients.
Another type of nursing that’s perfect for families is a school nurse. These nurses work alongside the school calendar, meaning you’ll be able to care for your own children throughout the holidays without having to pay for additional childcare.
Another exciting position worth considering is travel nursing. Even though it might sound like a more challenging position for working parents, if your family can handle change, and moving, and love exploring new places they might even encourage you to take on travel nursing jobs more often as one of its perks is having your accommodation fees fully taken care of while on nursing duties. Most local travel nurse contracts have the advantage of choosing between what work hours suit you well, allowing you to manage your time and giving you the opportunity of flexible scheduling. Although you won’t have paid time off, you will still have the ability to control when you work and easily balance your professional and home life.
If you’re currently at the beginning of your career or want to choose nursing as a second career, studying online is a great choice. You’ll be able to stay at home while studying, and modules can be studied at your own pace and scheduled around family time and other priorities. BSN accelerated programs can be studied almost entirely online, so you can qualify and head into the nursing workforce quicker. ABSN programs are ideal if you’ve already got a degree (even if the degree isn’t in healthcare!).
If you really think you’ll benefit from an in-person course, there’s always the option to study part-time. The course will take you longer to complete but does give you the freedom to take on a few shifts, earn an income, and prioritize the family until you graduate.
Instead of having a work calendar and a personal calendar, it’s time to blend the two. This will be a huge help when other family members are trying to understand what you’re doing and when you’re free.
Consolidate everything onto a single calendar in a central place, and encourage your partner to add their items onto it too, so that you can figure out a way to manage childcare around other priorities.
If you’re at school, it’s also worth booking specific times to study and to plot down when your peak studying times need to be. This will ensure you’re prepared to really focus on your work and will give the family the chance to work around your exam schedule.
Those that need to be more hands-on with the childcare will need to figure out the best times of day to study for them. Everyone is different; some people might thrive on the school run in the morning, head home, and cram. Others might prefer to leave the books until after the kids have gone to bed, then take advantage of their night-owl persona to study.
Whether it’s work colleagues, family, or other students, creating a support network that works together to help out could be a total lifesaver. To avoid burnout or to simply have enough time to take a relaxing bath, call on a friend or relative to take a babysitting shift – they’ll be more than happy to help and support you when they can.
You could even create a buddy system with other work colleagues so that parents can take it in turns to look after one another’s kids while the other is at work.
While you’re studying or working out your new shift pattern, it can be easy to get home, slob out on the sofa, and forget everything else. But after a few months, you and your partner may feel a little disconnected and the kids a little bored.
It’s important to schedule in time to enjoy together. Block out at least one date night for you and your partner each month and a couple of pre-planned activities to do with the kids. You might be rushed off your feet during the week, but the time you do have together really should be treasured.
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