Nurse Mom:  8 Pumping Essentials For Nurses Who Breastfeed

Nurse Mom: 8 Pumping Essentials For Nurses Who Breastfeed

*This post contains affiliate links that I have personally used and have found essential for pumping at work as a nurse working 12 hour shifts at the hospital.  You can find my disclosure policy here.

Having a new baby is both incredible and overwhelming.  Breast feeding can be hard for new moms (it certainly was for me!).   Once I finally got the hang of it my maternity leave was almost over and I had a whole to problem to figure out:  how was I going to continue breastfeeding while working as a nurse?

Nurses who breastfeed may face challenges as they return to work.

There is good news for nurses who WANT to continue breastfeeding their babies for up to a year or longer as a working mom and nurse.  It is possible!  But you need to plan in advance and communicate with your workplace about your intention to pump at work.  And you need to have the right pumping supplies to make it possible.

If you don’t plan ahead, pumping at work can be extremely difficult.  But with the right pumping tools and a lot of determination you will find that you can make pumping fit right into your busy nursing schedule!

Even I can’t believe how long I have been able to pump while working as a nurse.

I am happy to share that I have been successfully pumping as an ER nurse in a very busy level 1 trauma center for the last 13 months.  And I still can’t believe how well it is going!  Sure, there have been a few minor hiccups along the way (like forgetting my breast pump at home, whoops!).   But overall the experience has been way better then I would have thought.

I now know that I will be able to continue pumping breast milk for my baby for as long as I desire.  I want other working moms to know that they can do this too.  (Read more about what I have learned about pumping at work as a nurse).

Nurse in scrubs

Essential Must-Have Items To Pump At Work As A Nurse:

Portable Breast Pump

This device is the highest on the must-have items to pump at work list, for obvious reasons.  Without it, you have no way to access your milk!   I am using the Medela portable pump because it is the one that my insurance covered and it works great.  You want to make sure that you have a double pump so you can pump both breasts at once to save time.  You can also use this bag to store your breast milk while you are away at work as long as you keep in in a refrigerator.

Check with your insurance to see if they cover a portable breast pump before you buy one.  I live in California and my insurance gave me a breast pump free of charge!

(Just a note, the different brands do not work interchangeably with each other.  So you want to make sure you find one brand you like and stick with it!  Otherwise you will end up with a bunch of parts that don’t work with one anther.  You don’t need your back to work pumping supply list to be any longer then it already is!)

Breast Milk Bottles

You will need breast milk collection storage bottles to store your milk until you get home from work.  I use the Medela bottles because I already use the Medela pump but there are several other brands you can used as well.  Just make sure the ones you are using are made without BPA (its a safer plastic that helps retain breast milk’s beneficial properties).

I also like the Medela screw on lids better then some other brands because they are leak proof.  (I tried a different brand and had an issue with leakage all over my packed lunch!).  You can wash them in the sink and they are also dishwasher safe.

Double Pump And Nursing Bra

For the sake of time and efficiency it is very important that you double pump at work.  I really like this double pumping bra because it makes it possible to double pump without having to hold the pumps with with both hands.  Once you start pumping you will find that having to hold the pumps in place is really annoying and makes it difficult to do anything else.  It also helps prevent spilling accidents since you can remove and clean one side at a time.

Reusable Nursing Pads

Engorgement is no joke.  There have been a few times at work when I wasn’t able to pump on schedule and I ended up leaking through my scrubs (you could barely see it, but still!).  As a result of that embarrassing experience I started wearing nursing pads when I was at work.   I already wore them at home from the time my son was about 1 week old.

I use reusable nursing pads made of bamboo because I have read that many disposable pads contain absorbent chemicals which come in direct contact with your skin.  They also run the risk of trapping moisture, especially if your are leaking. This can increase the risk of mastitis, a very painful bacterial infection that will make you sick and can be dangerous if untreated.  Disposable pads can also be expensive over time if you are frequently using them.  I have 12 reusable nursing pads and I run them through the washer and dryer with all my other clothes.

Breast Milk Storage Bags

The beautiful thing about pumping is that you can store your breast milk in the freezer!  So even if you have a surplus of milk you can put it away for later use.   These little breast milk storage baggies are great because you can write the date on the top section so you know how long they have been in the freezer.

Place them in the refrigerator for 12 hours before you need them to thaw them out.  Or place them in a bowl of hot water for quicker use.  These are a necessity for working moms who pump – I have used over 200 of them already!

Milk Storage Organizer

My freezer got a little over loaded with breast milk within the first few months that I was back at work and this milk storage organizer helped me to keep things more organized.  It also helped me keep the milk organized by date so I make sure to use the oldest milk first.

Pumping At Work:  Cleaning Parts And Sanitation

One of the biggest concerns of many nurse moms who are pumping at work is cleanliness.  After all, the hospital is a place where sick people go and it is more full of germs then pretty much anywhere.  The last thing a new mom wants to do is accidentally bring home unwanted bugs to their new baby!  Thus, it is so important to try and keep your breast pump parts as clean as possible while you are pumping during 12 hour shifts.

First, it is very important to try to pump in an area if the hospital that is as clean as possible.  Many hospitals have a lactation room set aside for employees of the hospital.  Talk to your administration about places that you can safely pump that are as germ-free as possible.  Bathroom stalls are not a place for a new mom to pump! You have the right to pump at work as a nurse in a sanitary place!

For more information on successful pumping during 12 hour shifts in the hospital read How To Pump At Work As A Nurse.

Here are a few essentials for keeping pumping parts clean at work:

Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump And Accessory Wipes (72 each)

Medela quick clean breast pump & accessory wipes are perfect for nurses at work with no access to soap or water for cleaning breast pumps and accessories.  Unfortunately, many nurses have no choice but to pump in empty hospital rooms with no running water and therefore have a difficult time cleaning pump parts.  These are still so helpful for me as a nurse who pumps at work.  One wipe cleans both breast shields, valves and membranes.

I also use these for cleaning changing tables, high chairs, cribs and countertops, toys. and other hard surfaces when I am at home.  And the Medela quick clean wipes are unscented, alcohol and bleach-free as well.

Wet/Dry Bag for Breast Pump Parts with Staging Mat

Having extra wide wet & dry bag to carry your clean and used pump parts make pumping more sanitary.

I also love using the staging mat so I can set-up & take down my pump parts on a clean surface. This staging mat snaps on to the backside of the bag so that you always have it handy. When you’re setting up and taking down your parts, you want a clean spot to do it, and now regardless of where you need to pump, you’ll have this with you. Just unsnap it from the bag and set it down on a flat surface – and you can do your set up right there. It’s also large enough for you to fit all your parts.

Take it one day at a time, Mama.

Breastfeeding while working as a nurse can be overwhelming, but you can do this!

There are a lot of products on the market and it can be overwhelming for a mom who is preparing to go back to work from maternity leave.  So, make it easier on yourself and have a plan in place before you go back to work (read more about how I pump at work as a registered nurse who works 12 hour shifts).

After successfully pumping at work with two babies I have whittled down my list to include the things that have helped me the most.  I hope this helps to guide you in the right direction to find what works for you too!

It is your legal right to continue to provide breast milk for your children and pump while you are at work.  Do not let anyone tell you differently or make you feel guilty about it.  Only you know what is right for you and your baby.

Let me know how it goes as a pumping mom in the workplace and please reach out to me if you have any questions.  Breastfeeding while working as a nurse IS possible!  Good luck Mama!

Additional Recommended Reading: 

Pump At Work Supply Checklist From A Nurse Who Works 12 Hour Shifts

Fit Nurse:  Simple Ways To Exercise As A Busy Nurse Mom

Fit Nurse: Simple Ways To Exercise As A Busy Nurse Mom

To the nurse who is also a momIt is possible to find time for exercise, but you are going to need to get creative.  Being a nurse mom is challenging, and it’s all about finding balance.

Long gone are the days when I could leisurely wake up naturally and decide whether I wanted to take the 9 a.m. or the 11 a.m. yoga class or when I would put my running clothes on in the afternoon and lay around until I “felt ready” to head out for my jog, sometimes several hours later.

Before becoming a nurse and mom, I used to put a lot of thought into the location of my runs.  Where would I go today?  The beach? Or to the running trail? I never even thought about how long I would be out. I just ran until I felt tired and then called it a day.

Now I’m lucky if I get to squeeze in a 20 minute run after I put the kids down at 8PM.  And by that time I’m usually so tired I can barely muster the energy to get out the front door!

For the record, I am happier now than I think I have ever been.  I wouldn’t change anything about all of the blessings in my life that make me so incredibly busy.  I LOVE being a mom and an ER nurse.  But, as a healthcare professional and a person who enjoys a little self-care here and there, I am all too aware that I need to get regular exercise if I want to keep my sanity intact.

Woman doing a plank

What are the simplest ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom?

Over the last month I have been interviewing fellow nurses to find out how they squeeze in a workout while balancing motherhood and 12 hour shifts.  Some of the feedback I received was very encouraging!  The conversations I had with these nurses convinced me that it is in fact very possible to stay fit when it seems that there is no more time in the day.

For me, finding time for fitness has been a trial and error project.  Over the past three years (since my first baby was born) I have tried several methods to squeeze workouts into an already crammed work/life schedule.  Some of these methods worked, some I tried but didn’t stick to, and some never came to fruition.

My personal journey to stay fit along with the information shared with me by my fellow nurse comrades revealed 4 primary ways that nurse moms can successfully find time to exercise.

Simple ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom

It is possible to find ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom.  Be creative!

Fit nurse tip #1.  Work out before the kids get up.

Before kids I never in a million years would have dreamed that I would be awake in time to make it to a 6AM hot yoga class.  But free time is sparse now.  If I don’t make time somewhere then it won’t happen. It’s as simple as that.

The good news is that when I drag myself out of bed early for a workout then I feel amazing for the rest of the day.  Sure, I’m tired, but I would be even more tired if I didn’t exercise at all.  By starting my day with a yoga-induced rush of endorphins not only do I feel better, but I am so much more productive throughout the day.

My goal is to make it to a 6 a.m. class at least 2 times during the week on the days I don’t work.  In addition, I am usually able to fit one early morning class in on the weekend as well.  Sometimes it ends up being only once a week and sometimes if I’m lucky, all three.  But something is always better than nothing!

Fit nurse tip #2.  Work out on your lunch break.

A nurse friend of mine changes into running clothes and goes for a jog during her lunch hour.  Talk about dedication to your personal health!  She says it works for her because she can do it no matter what time her break is.  Additionally, the midday exercise helps break up the day, helps her deal better with stressful patient assignments, and gives her energy for the rest of the shift. And she is a good role model for patients to boot!

(On another note, my husband replaced his lunch hour with an F45 class 3 times a week.   Although he is not a nurse, he is a busy working parent nonetheless. The benefits for him are so obvious. He is noticeably better able to manage work stress and comes home with significantly more energy at the end of a busy work day. And he says he feels a lot better too!)

Fit nurse tip #3.  Work out after the kids go to bed.

I know a lot of nurse parents who make it to the gym or a yoga class after working a 12 hour shift.  This seems to be the most popular time for many parents because the kids are in bed and it’s a good time to work off the stress from the day.  It is an effective way to put the day behind you and do something for yourself after spending 12 hours putting patients’ needs first.

On occasion, I will try to go out for a run or a walk if I still have a little energy left in me, usually during the summer months when the days are a little longer.   Unfortunately, it is also usually when I am the most tired and I really just want to crawl into bed with a book and fall asleep. But I do love listening to music and disconnecting for a little while after a long shift, and a quick run is a relatively easy way to do that!

A post-work run for me is usually pretty quick, 20-25 minutes max.  Unfortunately, if I run too long then I risk not being able to fall asleep and there’s not much worse than that.  After all, sleep is important to the already sleep deprived parent!

Fit nurse tip#4.  Try squeezing in exercise during the days when you are at home with your kids.

Finding new ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom requires some thinking outside the box.  Why not try squeezing in a workout when you are at home with the kids during the day? Besides, isn’t taking care of a baby or toddler already a kind of workout in itself?

Here are few ways to exercise with kids in tow:

  • Turn on a workout video in the living room (good when the weather is poor!)
  • Take the kids for a walk in the stroller
  • Take a stroller strides class with other moms
  • Run around with the kids on the playground
  • Kick a soccer ball around with the kids
  • Try teaching your kids with a Gaiam yoga video (watching my daughter practice yoga just melts my heart!)
  • Turn up the music and dance with the kids (it just doesn’t get more fun then that!)

How do you find ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom?   I very much enjoy hearing about ideas of what others are doing.  Feel free to leave a comment!

Additional Recommended Reading:

How To Find Time To Blog As A Busy Nurse & Mom

How To Find Time To Blog As A Busy Nurse & Mom

(This post may contain affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure page here.)

How to find time to blog as a busy nurse and mom:

My biggest challenge as a busy nurse & mom blogger is simply finding the time to work on my blog.  This post discusses ways that I manage to grow my blog despite having a very busy work and home schedule.

#1.  Schedule time to blog

Treat your blog as a side job.  How much time do you have to invest in it at the moment?  Is it only 5 or 10 hours a week like me?  That is better than nothing!  Its going to take you longer to build a blog and following but it can be done.  Building a blog is a marathon, not a sprint.

A lot of people ask me when I have time to work on blogging.  The truth is, not much.  The only time I have to blog is for up to an hour while my kids are napping and after I put them to sleep at 8pm.  On the days I work 12 hour shifts as a nurse I am only able to blog after I get home and shower, and by then it’s usually 9pm.  And I need to try and get some sleep since I’m either up for work or being woken up by one of my children by 5:30 or 6 in the morning!

The most important thing that busy bloggers must do is to be with the little bit of time that they do have.  You can actually get a lot done in 5 -10 hours a week if you use your time wisely.

#2.   Batch write

Instead of writing 1-2 posts a week, try writing 10 over a period of a several days and then schedule them out far in advance.  This process can help you free up a lot of time!   My process goes something like this:

  • Keyword Research and pick titles for 10 blog posts
  • Write outlines for ten blog posts
  • Do all content creation
  • Optimize all SEO
  • Go back and insert affiliate links and internal/external links for each post
  • Make all graphic designs for each post
  • Schedule posts on WordPress scheduler

This process has saved me so much time and just makes blogging more simple.

#3.  Outline your blog posts first

Is your writing method just to start writing and see where it takes you?  Unfortunately, that may not be the most efficient way to get things done.

When you are trying to inform and create a structured piece, more planning is generally better.  After you do your keyword research and pick your title, try writing down each of the points you want to make.  Then you can use those points as headers for the post to break it up into smaller, more digestible pieces to read.

Think of your outline as the foundation that you can build amazing content around.  Outlining will make your posts easily for you to write, and that will save you time.

#4.  Always have a plan for what you are going to do as soon as you have a free moment for blogging.

If you are going to be a blogger you need excellent time management skills.  The second I put my kids down for a nap I know exactly what I am going to spend that hour doing (usually content creation).

I do chores around the house and all of the cooking while my kids are awake.  That way I can free up some time to work on the blog when my kids are asleep.

blogger typing on a laptop

#5.  Quit doing time wasting activities

Stop using social media.   I know  people who spend hours on Instagram every single day, yet they swear they are so busy that they never have time to get anything done!  I bet if you quit using social media for 1 week you would find that you are suddenly so much more productive.  And probably happier and more in the present to boot!

If you are going to be a blogger you have to get really good at using your time wisely.  Be overprotective about your time.  My time is the most important asset I have and it is important to me.  As a result, I rarely use Instagram or Facebook anymore.  Hopefully one day I will be able to source out a lot of my work (except content creation, of course), but until then I’ve got a lot of work to do.  There is no time to waste.

#6.  Use an editorial calendar

I am almost completely paperless, except for my editorial calendar (which I use as a hard copy for pretty much everything that goes into my blog).  You can find editorial calendars online, but I have found that by using my hard copy of EPIC blog and my scheduler on WordPress that I stay super organized.  I always manage to stay on top of deadlines.

At some point I would love to create my own editorial calendar for bloggers.  Until then, my EPIC blog editorial calendar is super helpful!

 

#7.  Listen to blogging podcasts

When you are starting a project and don’t totally have a grasp one what you are doing, there is only one really good thing to do:  find people who are doing it well and learn from them!

Anytime I take my children for a walk in the stroller or I am on my commute to and from work I listen to blogging podcasts.  Podcasts keep me motivated during the times I am physically unable to blog.  Plus I am able to learn from other bloggers who have had some of the same blogging struggles I do.

#8.  Make time for rest and rejuvenation

You can only burn that candle from both ends for so long.  If you work too hard with no rest then you end up burned out, sick and wondering why you even wanted to be a blogger in the first place.  Giving yourself time to rest can also be great for creativity as well.

Additional Recommended Reading:

Pregnant Nurse Precautions To Consider At Work

Pregnant Nurse Precautions To Consider At Work

As an ER nurse who delivered my second baby in early 2018,  I have done a lot of research about pregnant nurse precautions to be aware of when you work in a hospital.  My goal was to make sure that it was safe for me to continue working in such a physically demanding environment with so many potential occupational hazards.

Fortunately, I was able to work safely right up until a few weeks before giving birth. As a per diem nurse, I did not have any maternity or disability benefits so I wanted to save up as much money as possible before I went out on leave.  Thankfully, I was able to do just that.  But safety was still my number one concern.  I hope this information can help other nurses stay safe during their pregnancies as well.  

Talk to your OBGYN

First off, it is always important that you talk to your doctor to discuss any occupational concerns you have during your pregnancy. Continue the dialog at your prenatal appointments as you move along your pregnancy.  If you have questions in between your appointments then contact your doctor.  

My goal in writing this is not to make pregnant nurses afraid to work in the hospital.  I am so glad that I was able to safely work as a pregnant nurse for as long as I did.  Still, there are no shortage of occupational hazards for the pregnant nurse within the hospital setting. Working safely is the number one goal.  

It is crucial that you communicate with management and your charge nurse about your pregnancy.  They cannot help you avoid potential pregnancy hazards if they don’t know that you are expecting. 

Pregnant nurse precautions to consider at work

Pregnant nurse precautions and hazards to consider:

Radiation from diagnostic imaging

In the ER and on most floor units within the hospital, patients often receive portable X-rays at the bedside.  So naturally I was concerned about radiation exposure and how it could impact the health of my unborn child.  I felt it was wise to air on the side of safety by not exposing myself to unnecessary radiation during pregnancy.  

If you are in an area where x-rays are being taken, you must wear a lead radiation apron to protect yourself, especially if you are within six feet of the machine.  If possible, it is also a good idea to step outside the room while the image is taken.

In my nursing experience, x-ray technicians usually notify anyone within the vicinity of where imaging is being taken.  I was able to leave the area for a few minutes, whether I was wearing a lead apron or not.  

Key takeaways:  

  • Notify management of pregnancy 
  • Wear lead radiation apron
  • Step outside of room when portable x-rays are taking place

Dangers from working with chemo or other teratogenic medications

There is evidence that handling some medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, can cause adverse reproductive outcomes including fetal loss, miscarriage, infertility and preterm births.  In addition, it may cause learning disabilities in babies exposed to some drugs if nurses are exposed during pregnancy. 

Wearing protective equipment, such as gowns, masks and gloves can minimize occupational risk to a pregnant nurse.  However, it does not completely eradicate it

Nurses working in oncology or other areas where antineoplastics are prescribed may want to speak with management about the safest way to continue working.  In addition, you can insist on getting help from co-workers or management to give teratogenic medications to patients.  Moving to another work area may be a consideration if safety for the fetus is still a concern. 

Key takeaways:

  • Wear protective equipment when giving medications
  • Ask for help from co-workers when working with teratogenic medications
  • Consider temporarily working in another area of the hospital during pregnancy as your management allows

Risk for infection

As a pregnant ER nurse I was very concerned with the risk of infection from patients such as c-diff, tuberculosis, cytomegalovirus, and influenza during my pregnancy.  Since the ER is often the first stop in the hospital for sick patients I often didn’t know that a patient had a contagious infection until after they had been admitted. By then it was too late to protect myself if I hadn’t already. 

Pregnant women need to be especially proactive with protective equipment and hand hygiene. It is ideal for all hospital employees to have their measles, mumps, and varicella zoster vaccinations before pregnancy (most facilities require these vaccinations to work anyway). Hep B and influenza vaccination can also safely be administered during pregnancy.

As an added precaution, I made sure to change my clothes and shoes before leaving the hospital to minimize the risk of work-to-home contamination.  The first thing I did upon getting home was take a shower to rid myself of any other possible bugs I could have inadvertently carried home with me.

Key takeaways:

  • Stay up to date in all vaccines including the yearly flu vaccine
  • Adhere to strict universal precautions and hand hygiene
  • Request job modification to minimize exposure to certain patient populations
  • Minimize work-to-home contamination by changing work clothes and shoes before going home
  • Shower as soon as you get home from work

Physicality of nursing while pregnant

Being a nurse while pregnant is especially hard work.  Not only are we on our feet for up to 12 hours a day, but pregnant nurses are also carrying an extra 25-plus pounds towards the latter part of pregnancy.  Additionally, the extra girth makes it significantly more difficult to fit into tight spaces.  

Movement becomes even more awkward for pregnant nurses due to having an altered center of gravity.  In addition, high serum levels of progesterone and relaxin loosen muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues.  For nurses who do a lot of heavy, repetitive work requiring lifting, pulling or pushing their risk of musculoskeletal injury is increased.   

It is wise for pregnant nurses to use patient transfer equipment and to ask co-workers for help with moving patients.  However, if your work situation is still too physical for you to manage safely during pregnancy, you may want to consider a modified duty in a lower risk setting with a less physical patient load.  

On another note, pregnant nurses also have a higher risk of developing varicose veins due to an increase in total blood volume caused by pregnancy.  The added blood volume combined with being on one’s feet all day leads to poor circulation, puffy legs and swollen ankles.  Compression socks or stockings can help reduce the risk of blood clots and varicose veins as well as prevent swelling.

Key takeaways:

  • Pregnant nurses may want to inquire about modified duty
  • Understand how the altered center of gravity and hormonal changes in pregnancy predispose a nurse to injury (despite using best lifting practices)
  • Use patient transfer equipment when available
  • Ask for additional staff help with transfers
  • Wear compression socks or stockings

Violent patients

I worked in our ER psychiatric hold area several times throughout my pregnancy.  There were a few incidences where I had patients verbally threaten me and/or begin to escalate towards violence.  I always had a security guard with me and I stayed a good distance away from patients when I felt that my safety could be at risk.  It is likely that I was overly cautious at times, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Violence against nurses is not uncommon, especially in the ER setting.  Stay vigilant and keep away from any potentially threatening situations.  If a patient is escalating towards violence then leave and call for help immediately.

Working during flu season

The CDC recommends that pregnant women get a flu shot.   Not only do hormone changes during pregnancy often make pregnant women more susceptible to getting the flu, but a common flu symptom is fever, which may be associated with neural tube defects and other adverse outcomes for a developing baby.  Getting vaccinated can also help protect a baby after birth from flu through passive immunity.

My experience:  The flu season in December 2017 was unusually bad.   Many patients came to our ER for flu symptoms.  Unfortunately, almost every nurse was infected with the flu or a cold at least once during the season.  Myself, included.  

At the time I was over 8 months pregnant and I was really struggling with a how horrible I felt.  I always get a flu shot to reduce my chances of getting sick during flu season.  However, if I ever got pregnant again, I might consider starting my maternity leave towards the beginning of flu season.  Especially, if I was that close to my due date.

An unexpected benefit of working as a nurse during pregnancy

One of the best gifts that pregnancy gave me was that it forced me to not be sedentary on days that I felt really tired. (Although while you are carrying an extra 25-35 pounds of extra weight, you may not consider it a benefit).

Many studies show that not moving enough during pregnancy is bad for both mom and baby.  If fact, exercise during pregnancy can actually boost your baby’s brain development and make them smarter.  Who knew that working a 12 hour shift might actually promote health for both you and your unborn baby?

Good luck to you during your pregnancy and take care of yourself mama!

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter exclusively for nurse moms!

Additional Recommended Reading: 

Is Nursing a Good Career For Moms?

Is Nursing a Good Career For Moms?

Is nursing a good career for moms?

As a mom and nurse I have a lot of information to share about this topic – all from personal experience!

In fact, one of the main reasons I decided to become a nurse is because I wanted a better work-life balance for when I started my own family.

In my first post-college career I worked in the corporate world working 50+ hours a week.  At the time, my career also required that I travel frequently for business meetings – often for up to a week at a time.  That is a long time to be away when you have small children!

At the time I also had a few nurse friends who told me that they really appreciated the flexibility nursing allowed them when they decided to start families of their own.  Nursing was already a career that I was very interested in because I had a desire to work in a field where I could help others and make a difference in the world.  And since starting my own family was something that my husband and I eventually wanted, becoming a nurse started to make a lot more sense.

So 9 years ago, I went back to college to earn a BSN.  I have since found that being a nurse mom has its challenges, however I love both jobs so it is worth it for me.

Here are the pros and cons to being a mother and nurse:

Nurse Mom Career: A Nurse and Mother with a small child

Being a mother and nurse has many perks, but it is not for the faint of heart.

Pros to a nursing career as a mom

Nursing is a flexible profession

One of the greatest perks of being a nurse is the flexibility.  It is possible to make working motherhood work with nearly any schedule.

For example, hospitals are open seven days a week, 365 days a year, and they need a lot of nurses to help with patient care.  There are day shifts, night shifts, mid shifts and even 4 hour break relief shifts available to many nurses.  The flexibility also allows for many moms to go back to school and earn an advanced nursing degree which can help create even more career opportunities.

There are also many times that that nurses can work in a day-  including 8, 10, and 12 hour shifts.  In the hospital setting most shifts are usually 12 hours.  However, you can also work as a nurse in a doctors office, where shifts may only be 8 hours a day.  And in some hospital specialties, such as the PACU or Cath Lab, nurses often work 10 hour shifts.

A five day work week can become 3

Unlike most professions, many full time nurses work 3 days a week instead of 5 (a benefit of the 12 hour work day).   That means nurse moms get to be home at least four days a week to spend solid, uninterrupted, quality time with their families.

And as an added bonus, you will be able to run errands during the non-busy hours.  For example, I can take my kids with me to go grocery shopping on Tuesday and Friday mornings – and we are usually one of only a few shoppers there!  Running errands is so much easier when the roads and stores are less crowded.  If fact, since I became a nurse I can hardly stand shopping on the weekends.

There is no travel required (unless you are a travel nurse)

Travel is a lot of fun in the years before you start a family. But once children come along that overnight business trip doesn’t seem so exciting anymore. In nursing you have the option to go to the same workplace each time you go to work. Unless you are attending a nursing conference there really is no reason that you would need to travel for your nursing career.

Nurses can work per diem

Did I mention that nursing is flexible?  The greatest benefit I have found being nurse mom is that I have the option of working per diem. Per diem literally means “by the day.” As a nurse you have an option to work the days that you want to work and stay home with your children on the days that you don’t.

Here are a few benefits to per diem nursing:

  • Higher pay then a career nurse
  • Work as little as one day a week or as many as five days a week (as long as there is a need for an RN)
  • Make your own schedule
  • Cancel shift the day before if you are needed at home
  • Add on a shift at the last minute

You can leave your work at work.

Nursing does not require that you maintain a home office.  In general, nurses do not have to bring work home with them.  It is a great feeling to be able to leave your work at work.  Best of all, you are not constantly worrying about quotas, reports that you need to turn in, or managing other employees – all of which many moms who work in business or other industries often have to do.

Cons to having a nursing career as a mom

Nursing is hard work

I would not get into nursing if you think that it is an easy job. I assure you, it is not. In fact nursing is the hardest work that I’ve ever done in my entire life.  You will need some recovery time on your days off because nursing can be a very physically and mentally challenging job.

Because the work is so stressful and can often lead to burnout, I always emphasize how important it is that nurses take good care of themselves.  Good nutrition, exercise, yoga and meditation are a few great ways that nurses can make their own health a priority.

Being a mother and nurse at the same time is challenging because both jobs are arguably two of the hardest jobs in the world.  Albeit, they also are extremely rewarding as well.  So if you are up to facing the challenges that come with being a nurse mom, you can find a lot of joy in being both.

The shifts are long

Since most hospital shifts are 12-13 hours long you likely wont see your children at all on the days that you work.  Therefore, from the time you get up until the time you go to bed you will be focused on things entirely outside of your family.

For that reason I do not work back-to-back shifts, because I just don’t want to be away for my children for more than one day at a time (another reason per diem nursing works for me!).

12 hour shifts make for a very long workday.  An unfortunate side effect is that you are going to be extra tired on your days off when you are with your kids.  But lets be honest, being at home with your children can be exhausting too!

You may have to work night shifts

Some nurses like to work the night shift.  Unfortunately, many nurses, especially nurse moms, do not like to work night shift.   Working graveyards is hard on the body because you are constantly fighting your bodies natural circadian rhythm.  Over time this can cause or exacerbate nurse burnout.

In addition, depending on where you work in the hospital they may have mandatory rotating shifts, meaning that all nurses alternate between night and day shifts.  Talk about a confusing schedule!

Motherhood is the hardest job there is.  And when you flip your sleep schedule around, it  may make it even harder to manage motherhood because you will constantly be fighting with exhaustion.

You will likely have to work some holidays and weekends

Hospitals never sleep, and that includes holidays and weekends.  While many people are enjoying a “family day” on a Saturday or Sunday, nurses are often working to take care of patients.  Unfortunately,  sometimes that can mean missing time with the kids, birthday parties, sporting events and other special family outings.

There are many trade-offs to being a nurse as a mother.  Sometimes you will miss important events but as an exchange you can be home during the week on days that everyone else is working.

In Conclusion

As you can see there are a lot of factors to consider about the discussion regarding “is nursing a good career for moms?”  And many things depend on your current career and child care situation.

I hope this information is helpful for you if you are a mom who is interested in becoming a nurse (or want to be a nurse mom eventually!)  If you have any questions about the information in this post, please reach out to me in the comment section.

 

Are you considering nursing as a profession?  Leave a comment below!   

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Additional recommended reading:

My “About Me” Page and Our Huffington Post Interview

My “About Me” Page and Our Huffington Post Interview

My “About Me” page

If you have taken a peek over at my About Me page you may have read that nursing was NOT my first career.  If fact, I did’t even discover that I had a calling for nursing until after I had been working in the medical sales field for about 9 years.

Ill press rewind for just a minute…   Once upon a time, I worked in the competitive field of surgical equipment sales for a fortune 100 company and a few medical device startups.

I knew I didn’t love the career, but I made a pretty good living.  It also allowed me to travel for work and I was able to afford to take a lot of incredible overseas trips.  After a few years in the sales grind, I knew I wanted to do other things.  The problem was that my resume said I was a medical device salesperson.  So what was I supposed to do?

That voice in the back of my head continued gnawing at me, little by little.  Every day a small piece of my soul was being eaten up by working in a career that I had no real passion for.

Until finally one day, after a near mental break down I made the difficult decision to leave the field.  I went on a quest in pursuit of greater clinical medical knowledge and a desire to help humankind.  After years of scratching my head I had finally discovered my new path.

I was going to become a Nurse!

It has been 9 years since my near mental breakdown that forced me to make an incredible life change.  Nursing school was one of the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  But I am so thankful everyday that I did it.  Ultimately, it was the best decision for myself and and for my family.

nurse power

Here I am showing off my badge bloom…

Our Huffington Post Interview

My whole point in writing this post was to talk about a really cool experience that I had recently…

A journalist at the Huntington Post recently contacted me through my blog.  She asked if my husband and I would be interested in being interviewed for a piece that she was doing about what it was like being married to an ER nurse.   Of course I said yes!

(I was a journalism major in college and still have an itch to write, which is one of the reasons I blog).

Nursing is challenging.

I want to be an advocate for nurses because I think we tolerate things that would never be tolerated in any other field (but we do it anyway because we’re awesome).   I also really, really want to find a way to help nurses take better care of themselves.  Plus, I am extremely passionate about being a nurse and have a passion for helping others.  So, I was excited to share some of my thoughts (and I was also intrigued to see what my husband had to say about being married to an ER nurse).

If you are still reading this and want to take a look at our Huffington Post article you can read it here.

Thank you for reading my blog and free free to leave a comment.  I appreciate that your took the time to read this!

Sarah