I became a nurse in 1995, two full years before I had children. At the time, I wasn't looking for a flexible career, or one that would allow me to maximize my time with my family -- I just wanted a steady, reliable job, and nursing fit the bill.
Then my first son was born, and I suddenly, instinctively understood the dilemma faced by modern parents everywhere. I wanted to be with my son, but I needed to make money. Would nursing allow me to do both?
The answer is a resounding yes.
Finding a Schedule That Works
After my son was born, my two-hour daily commute seemed excessive, so I began investigating closer nursing jobs while still on maternity leave. I found one just three minutes from my home. The medical-surgical staff nurse position wasn't quite full time; I'd be scheduled for 32 hours per week instead of 40. I worried about the reduced hours and considered holding out for a full-time position, until a more experienced colleague (and parent) pointed out that extra shifts were almost always available. The beauty of a 0.8 position, she told me, was that I'd have the freedom to say yes or no to the extra hours - and that I'd make time-and-a-half when I picked up extra shifts.
I said yes to the job, and quickly discovered that my not-quite-full-time job was a perfect fit for my family. I spent my mornings at home with my baby. On the days I worked, I dropped him off at a sitter's house just before 3 pm. His father almost always picked him up at 5, which meant that our son spent less than 10 hours a week in childcare. We saved a bundle, but more importantly, we got to spend some serious quality time with our son.
Flexible Opportunities for Changing Families
A few years later, we moved closer to our extended family. With one toddler, and another baby on the way, I was hesitant to commit to another full-time (or nearly full-time) job. But we couldn't afford for me to stay home; we wanted to buy a house to shelter our growing family! So I signed on with a local nurse agency. I worked as temp nurse, filling in on the med-surg units of local hospitals whenever they needed an extra hand. I also had the freedom to say yes or no to certain shifts, so if I was asked to work when my son was sick, I could simply decline.
As an agency nurse, I could work as much or as little, as I liked -- so I worked a lot when we were saving up for a down payment on a new home. After our second son was born, I cut back. I cut back even more when our third son was born, working primarily weekend shifts while the boys were home with their Dad.
The beauty of nursing is that it's infinitely flexible and adaptable. I've known nurses who traveled the country with their young children and spouses. I've known others who worked three 12- hour shifts every weekend in order to be available to their families during the week. Some instead opt for 9-5, Monday-Friday jobs so they can be present at their kids' weekend activities.
Unlike many other professionals, nurses aren't locked into a set schedule or routine. As a nurse, you have the ability to tweak your employment to meet your professional needs -- and the needs of your family.