9 Tips for Working As A Nurse While Pregnant

9 Tips for Working As A Nurse While Pregnant

How am I supposed to survive pregnancy while working 12 hour shifts as a nurse?

This is a question I asked myself many times during the early parts of both of my pregnancies.   In fact, at times it really stressed me out!

Was I going to be able to be on my feet all day?  What is the best way to prevent dehydration at work?

And most importantly, how am I going to keep my energy up for my entire shift?!

But by taking proper precautions and always putting safety first, working as a nurse while pregnant is possible.

Please keep in mind that these tips are not a replacement for medical care.  You should always speak with your doctor first about their recommendations.  And if you both decide that working 12 hour shifts during your pregnancy is OK, then here are some tips to help get you through!

a pregnant nurse at work

You can thrive during your pregnancy while working as a nurse when you plan ahead and take good care of yourself!

(This post contains affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

Here are 9 helpful tips for pregnant nurses:

1.  Invest in compression stockings or socks

How compression socks help prevent varicose veins

Compression socks and stockings help nurses by preventing varicose veins due to standing for long periods of time.

During pregnancy, a mother’s blood volume increases by almost 50%!  That’s a lot of extra fluid to be circulating through your body when you are on your feet for 12 hour shifts.  This is also why many pregnant women develop varicose veins during pregnancy.  If you are a pregnant nurse and haven’t invested in compression socks yet, its time to get a couple of pairs ASAP.

Compression stockings are often overlooked as a proactive way to prevent some of the chronic issues that come from working in a profession where you are on your feet for such long hours.  Pregnant women especially benefit from wearing compression stockings or socks during a 12 hour shift for a few reasons:
  • Prevention of varicose veins
  • Improved blood flow and decreased risk of blood clots
  • Decreased swelling of ankles and feet

I was able to continue working as an emergency room nurse up until the beginning of my ninth month of pregnancy because I invested in a few quality pairs of toe to waist compression stockings.  I wouldn’t have made it past my 6th month without them!

2.  Wear good shoes

NIKE shoes for nurses

Pregnant nurses must make sure they have great shoes to support their growing belly’s.

Every nurse needs a great pair of shoes to get through a 12 hour shift.  But the benefits to wearing quality nursing shoes during pregnancy it is even more important.  You will be carrying an extra 25-35 pounds and your feet need support to carry that extra weight.  If you thought your feet hurt working as a nurse before pregnancy, wait until you are pregnant! Keep in mind that your feet will swell a little more during pregnancy.

Things to look for in a great pair of nursing shoes.

  • Comfort
  • Support and stability
  • Slip resistance
  • Work function
  • Price and warranty

You can read more about the best shoes for nurses here!


3.  Pack healthy and energizing snacks

Almonds: a healthy nurse snack!

Almonds: a healthy nurse snack!

During my first trimester I struggled quite a bit with nausea and an overwhelming feeling of hungover-ness (without any of the fun the night before).  I was also training to be an ER nurse, so it was more important than ever to be alert and focused.

By packing a lunch with nutritious snacks everyday I was able to keep myself energized as well as fend off nausea enough to get through each shift.  I just couldn’t go more than 2-3 hours without refueling myself with something healthy to eat.

Admittedly, when I forgot to bring food with me I would eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from the stash we gave our patients.  Although they were nothing special, for some reason they tasted amazing.  Never underestimate the hunger of a pregnant nurse!  I felt so much better and able to continue working afterwards.

Here are a few easy, fast, and high energy snacks to help your pregnant body stay energized through your 12 hour shifts:

  • Trail mix
  • Energy bars
  • Almond butter and apples
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Greek yogurt
  • String cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Edamame
  • Veggies and hummus


4.  Go to bed as early as you can.

To be a healthy nurse you must get a good night's sleep.

Pregnant nurses need their sleep!

You simply cannot sleep too much when you are pregnant.  This is a fact.

Here is a sleep secret that got my through 12 hour shifts during my pregnancy.  I would go down to the hospital meditation room during my lunch break, find a comfortable chair and literally pass out for 45 minutes.  I set my phone alarm to make sure I was back to work on time.  When it when it went off I was so deep in REM sleep that sometimes I didn’t even know where I was when I woke up.

The only way you are going to have the energy to make it through your pregnancy while working 12 hour shifts is to make sure you get as much sleep as you possibly can every night.  8 hours would be ideal.

5.  Aim for 30 minutes of exercise everyday

women practicing yoga

Prenatal yoga can help nurses deal with stress during pregnancy.

It seams counter intuitive, but exercising while pregnant will actually give you more energy to get through a 12 hour shift. In addition, exercise during pregnancy prevents gestational diabetes and hypertension.

(It is important to talk to your doctor about starting any exercise routine during pregnancy.  There are rare circumstances when your doctor may not want you to exercise while pregnant.)

Non-impact exercises for pregnant nurses include:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Prenatal yoga
  • Hand weights
  • Low impact aerobics


6.  Reconsider working the night shift

Nurse playing with daughter and examining eyes

Working the night shift can be especially challenging during pregnancy. Consider switching to day shift.

The rigorousness of working 12 hour shifts as a nurse is exhausting as it is.  Add pregnancy into the mix and you might find that you are even more tired than ever.

Some pregnant nurses who have already been working night shift continue with that schedule and do just  fine.  However, those who have rotating day and night schedules might find it especially hard to switch back to the night shift once they become pregnant.

Talk to your doctor about whether it is safe for you to continue working night shifts.  Communicate with your manager about your specific health needs during your pregnancy. You may want to switch to a day shift only schedule for the duration of your pregnancy.

7.  Talk to your manager about modified duty

Pregnant Nurse at work

Many facilities are able to offer modified duty for nurses who can’t be on their feet all day.

As a pregnant nurse it may be necessary to have a modified work assignment.  Especially for nurses who work in rigorous units such as the emergency department.  The physical demands of pregnancy might be too much for pregnant nurses already struggling with fatigue, nausea or having to carry so much extra weight.

Talk to your manager to see if there are alternative assignments you can have such as working at the monitor, organizing paperwork or auditing patient charts.  If these options are not available consider the possibility of working shorter shifts or working two days a week instead of three.

Remember, always ask for help if you need it!

8.  Communicate with management about your intended time to go on maternity leave

It is important to keep open communication with administration about when you intend to go on maternity leave.  As a pregnant nurse, you cannot predict the future.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had every intention of working up until my 38th week.  But when I had my appointment at 31 weeks my doctor thought it was best that I didn’t work on my feet for more 6 hours a day.  While 6 hours seems like a lot in most professions,  it’s not much for a hospital nurse.    Sometimes we are on our feet for 10-12 hours a shift!

Yet, I still didn’t want to go off work because for some reason I felt like I was taking advantage of the system.  I thought I had the grit to work all the way through.  So, I waited for two weeks before I finally presented my doctors note to my manager.  When I finally did, I gave it to him with tears in my eyes because I knew he would have to put me on disability at that time.  My maternity leave started at that moment.

It was a good thing in the long run because I suffered a placental abruption and had an emergency c-section 7 weeks before my due date.  It is wise to listen to your doctor’s advice!

9.  Enjoy your pregnancy

pregnant women's belly

Enjoy your pregnancy, nurse!

Pregnancy can and should be a beautiful experience, even when you are a nurse working 12 hour shifts.  Far too often many pregnant nurses focus on the inconveniences and difficulties they face at work during their pregnancies  But with proper precautions it can – and should – be a time filled with good health, gratitude, abundance and most of all, joy.

Recommended reading for the nurse mom:

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7 Essential Items Your Nanny Needs From You

7 Essential Items Your Nanny Needs From You

(This post contains affiliate links.   For more information please see our disclosure policy.)

Going back to work after maternity leave comes to an end can be a daunting, emotional experience.  Just when you have gotten used to spending day after day bonding with your baby and developing a routine – just like that – you have to go back to work.  Much of the time, many moms aren’t even getting close to a decent nights sleep, and what they do get is usually fragmented and interrupted at best.

It is hard to trust another person to come into your home and take care of your precious baby.  After all, you know how to care for your child best, where the diapers are,  when they need to eat, what to feed them, where and what time they sleep, and what their favorite snuggle blanket is.  Going back to work is hard, but leaving your baby in the hands of other is so much harder.

The only thing you can do it prepare the best that you can (and remember, its probably way harder for you then it is for them!).

diaper bag with essential items for the nanny

7 Essential Items You Nanny Needs From You

Here is a list of essential items your nanny needs from you so you go back to work without worry:

Nasal Aspirator

Moms know that nasal aspirators are great tool to unplug baby’s tiny nasal passages.  And nanny’s need to have one available so they too can unplug stuffy noses when mom isn’t there.    Because infants nasal passages are so small, having a stuffy nose affects their ability to breathe, eat, and sleep which makes the nasal aspirator an especially important need for the nanny.

First Aid Kit

Having a First Aid Kit available for the nanny is a no-brainier.  Because you just never know if or when an accident might occur.  In addition, let your child’s caregiver know that it is 100% OK for them to call 911 if there is any concern for your child’s safety.    It is always better to be safe then sorry.

Baby Thermometer

Despite what many caregivers think, you cannot measure a baby’s temperature by feeling their forehead or skin.  You need a digital thermometer to accurately measure a bay’s temperature to know whether or not they have a fever.   An easy thermometer like this one make it simple for the nanny or caregiver to assess babies temperature correctly.

Diaper Bag

Initially I didn’t realize that our nanny depended on having a diaper bag as much as I did!  But it makes perfect sense as they need all of the items inside to take care of our child when we were not there:  diapers, diaper cream, wipes, extra clothes, sunscreen, set of extra keys, baby toys, ect…

Our nanny used our diaper bag when we were not there and took it where ever she went with the baby – for a walk or to the park.  This is the exact diaper bag that we have been using for years and it is still is perfect condition, even considering how much wear-and-tear we put on it.

List Of Important Numbers

This is peace of mind at your caregivers fingertips.  Make sure your child’s caregiver has important numbers they might need in an emergency so they can notify your doctor, pediatrician or veterinarian in seconds. 

This card includes areas to write your police, fire, doctor, pediatrician, pharmacy, utility companies, your address & phone numbers, emergency contact names and phone numbers and an area to write other important information.

Bottle Schedule/Sleep Schedule/Poop Schedule

Who knew that establishing a good eat, sleep and poop schedule could be so important?  Since your child’s caregiver probably doesn’t spend as much time with your baby as you do, they need a guideline for what your baby does on a normal basis.

Also, it is a written documentation for you as well so you know what happened with your baby when you get back home.  We used this exact baby journal for the first 10 months of both of our children lives and it was so helpful!

Hidden Key Access

If you have a hidden key outside of your house then it would be wise to show your nanny where it is!  We didn’t show out nanny exactly where we hid our spare outside – and on the one single occasion that she locked the keys inside-  she was unable to find (resulting in my husband having to leave work and let her in).  One thing I have learned is that it is important to have at least one backup plan in place.  And that includes having a spare key that our nanny has access to.

Are there anything other essential items that you would add to this list?  Please leave a comment below!

Additional Recommended Reading:

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Important Emergency Information To Leave With Your Nanny Or Sitter

Important Emergency Information To Leave With Your Nanny Or Sitter

I remember leaving our  10-week-old daughter with a nanny for the first time.  My husband and I were finally going for our first adult evening since becoming parents.   To say I was anxious would be a massive understatement.  I think I texted our nanny at least 3 times before we even got to dinner!
When we arrived home our little Zoe was snuggled up and sleeping soundly.  In fact, I don’t think she even knew we were gone.
A few months later I went back to work as an Emergency Room Nurse, two days a week.  I know that may not seem like much, but my shifts at the hospital are about 13 hours a day.  And that is a long time for a mom to be away from her baby!
So, in the spirit of being overly prepared I made this comprehensive list of important information to leave with the nanny or sitter. It’s displayed right on our refrigerator so you can’t miss it. I want to make sure our nanny has easy access to any important information that she could possibly need in case of an emergency.
Thankfully she has never needed it.  But you never really know when a disaster or other emergency can strike so it is always best to prepare in advance.
nanny with children

Important emergency information to leave with your nanny or sitter:

General information:

  • Names of all family members (include pets in the house)
  • Names of neighbors, and their children
  • Your address
  • A list of your child’s allergies

Specific contact information:

  • Your cell phone number
  • Information about where you will be while you are out
  • The name and phone number of someone else to contact in case of emergency (if you can’t be reached)
  • Local phone numbers for police, fire, poison control, and emergency services
    • Note – make sure your caregiver knows that it is OK for them to call 911 if they are concerned in any way for your child’s safety.  Always better safe than sorry!

Medical information:

  • A photocopy of your child’s health insurance card
  • The name, address, and phone numbers for your child’s pediatrician
  • The name, address, and phone number of a nearby hospital
  • Information about any medication your child takes (including dosage)

Other Information:

  • A list of the house rules (what kids can or can’t eat, bed times, anything that is not allowed, etc.)
  • Homework information, if necessary, in order to help school-age children
  • Show them where to find the first aid kid, flashlights, fire extinguisher and any other emergency preparedness items

Do you have your child’s important information ready for your nanny or sitter? Now would be a great time to gather this information and put in in a handy spot in case of an emergency.

Additional Recommended Reading:

HEY NURSES!  Remember to sign up for your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” E-book in the sign up box below! (scroll down)

Why I Quit My Corporate Sales Career To Become A Nurse

Why I Quit My Corporate Sales Career To Become A Nurse

I am a second-career RN who took an unconventional path into the nursing profession.

I began my first post-college career as a medical device sales representative selling medical equipment to hospital operating rooms.  Then after nearly 10 years in the business I decided to go back to college and earn a Bachelors of Science in nursing.

I hear about nurses becoming second-career medical device or pharma reps all the time.   But I have never known anyone who worked in medical device sales and then went back to college for a nursing degree.  Not once.

Here is my journey from budding journalist, to corporate sales manager, to nurse…  and the lessons that I have learned along the way.  

Nurse with stethascope discussing career change

As a young college grad, my priority was making money.

After graduating with a BA in Journalism in 1999, I was ready to start making money.  After all, I was broke and tired of being poor.  I was also passionate about living a healthy lifestyle, so a sales job in the healthcare field seemed like a natural fit.

Over the course of my decade career in sales I worked for a fortune 500 company and a few startups.  I covered huge territories and at one point even spent almost an entire year living out of a hotel.  It was a lot of hard work, but the money was there.

But I got better every year, despite a gnawing feeling that my calling was somewhere else.  My twenties flew by before my eyes.

One day after a lot of soul searching I finally decided to go back to school and earn a BSN.  My sales counterparts couldn’t believe I would leave the medical device industry after what most would consider a very financially successful career.  I tried to explain the best I could – that I wanted to be a part of something bigger then myself.  And medical sales just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.

Why I Left Medical Device Sales To Be A Nurse

At 22, my first priority was making money.  I knew if I worked hard in medical device sales I could earn more then most college grads my age.

I wanted to jump into procedures as a part of the medical team.

Even though I wasn’t an actual healthcare professional at the time, I got to work in hospital operating rooms and observe almost every kind of surgery.  It was through those experiences that I learned I wanted to be more truly clinical – instead of just repeat a sales pitch with each new physician who gave me the time of day.

More specifically, I wanted to jump in to the procedures that I was selling products and actually be a part of the medical team. Not sit and wait on the side lines for hours until they used the product I was selling (if they used it at all).

More importantly though, I was continually drawn to help people and learn clinical life-saving skills.  I was tired of going home every day feeling as if I wasn’t doing enough with my life to make the world better.

Sounds a little cliche, I know.  But this little voice in my head kept telling me that one day all I was going to say about my life was that I was a “sales person.”  And I wanted more than that.

So one day, l quit my career and went back to school to earn my RN.

Nursing school is the hardest thing I have ever done in my professional life.

I paid my own way through my nursing prerequisites and another college degree.  And let me tell you – college is so much more expensive now then it was in 2000.  I was lucky that I had such a large savings from my prior career to help get me through.

In addition, I also worked as a bartender at night – sometimes until midnight – and then had to be at a clinical rotation by 0700 the next morning.  I studied nonstop for 3 years.  Nursing school was so much harder then medical sales, or my first college degree for that matter.  In fact, I didn’t even know school could be that hard.

Still, I pressed on, feeling like I was going to get kicked out at any moment for failing a test (and 1/4 of my cohort actually did get kicked out, its a miracle I wasn’t in that group).  To this day, nursing school is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my professional life.

From Medical Device Salesperson To Registered Nurse

From medical device sales person to nursing school student (this is the only photo I have of myself in my nursing school scrubs).

I worked as a Certified Nurses Assistant in nursing school.

I worked as a CNA during my last year of nursing school and I both loved and hated it.  It was such as honor to give care to my patients in some of the worst times of their lives.   It was primary, basic care  – and it was important!  I tried to give my patients humility.   I helped people feel human when they felt invisible.

But being a CNA was also so challenging- both physically and physiologically.   This is because for the first time in my life I was not at the top of the food chain.  I sometimes felt like just a staff person boss around.  No longer did I have my salary plus commissions, my company car and expense account, my catered lunches, my bonuses and my stock awards at the end of the year.  And I really missed that.

I finally attained my RN, BSN title.

After three years of nursing school and a lot of sweat and tears, I finally graduated with my BSN.   I began my career specializing on a neuroscience and stroke unit and earned certifications as a Stroke Certified Registered Nurse and Public Health Nurse. In 2017, I began a new phase in my nursing career as an emergency room RN.

As I nurse there is always an opportunity to learn.

While being a nurse is exhausting and I have moments of extreme burnout, I do feel that nursing is my calling. I am a closet science geek and the love cerebral stimulation that I get as a nurse. I have had the opportunity to see more disease states, complex injuries and unusual diagnoses then I ever could have imagined even existed. It would not be an exaggeration to say I learn ten new things everyday at work.

To top it off, I am surrounded by some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. Many of my co-workers have the same drive for helping people I do. They motivate me to keep learning.

I am thankful for the professional experience I received in the corporate world as a medical device salesperson.

In fact, I am so grateful for my time in medical sales.  My experiences have given me a much different perspective than many of my nurse peers.  And I see my experiences as a huge advantage for my professional development.

Working in the medical sales industry gave me valuable business and communication skills.  I met a lot of great friends with whom I still have close relationships with.  My organizational and time management skills are much more fine-tuned and I learned how to be a professional in the workplace.

I just like to think of myself as being a little more well-rounded now. After all, the business women in me still exists.  But now I have the clinical prowess and expertise to match.

HEY NURSES!  Remember to sign up for your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” E-book in the sign up box below! (scroll down)

Additional Recommended Reading:

I would love to hear stories from other second-career nurses.  What did you do in your first career and how did you know you wanted to be a nurse?  Leave a comment below!

Working Mom Health Tips For 12 Hour Shifts

Working Mom Health Tips For 12 Hour Shifts

This post is about working mom health tips for nurses working long 12 hour+ shifts.

Preparing for 12 hour shifts as a registered nurse requires some prearranged ground work and organization at home to ensure my day starts off on the right foot. As a working mom, I know I will be gone for a large chunk of time so I do my best to make sure things are properly set up at home the day before.

Additionally, as a ER nurse I know how important it is that I take good care of myself so I can continue to give the best possible care to my family and patients.  After all, I can’t expect others to listen to my health education if I don’t take my own advice and stay healthy too.  No excuses!

Working Mom sitting on kitchen floor with son

(This post contains affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

My top 4 priorities for keeping myself and my family healthy as a nurse:

#1. Grocery shop and prepare all meals in advance

I grocery shop every three days so I am able to prepare meals for my toddlers and for each of my 12 hour shifts at the hospital in advance.  To avoid scrambling at the last minute I always make sure everything is ready and packaged to go the night before.

I prepare several options for the kids breakfasts, lunch and dinner including:

  • Avocado or almond toast
  • Bananas, apples, kiwis, various berries
  • Black bean or chick pea pasta
  • Cheese squares
  • Veggies straws with hummus
  • Veggie/fruit smoothies
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Sautéed veggies

In addition, one day per week I make a big batch of quinoa or brown rice and keep it handy in the fridge for quick meal preparation. When I need it, I add veggies, nuts, seeds, dried cranberries, olive oil, tempeh or whatever else I have in the fridge at that moment. This is so convenient because I can whip something up  quickly for my work lunches and I also have it on days I’m home with the kids.

The Nutribullet is by far my favorite meal prep tool.

To say I use it at least twice a day would be an understatement!  I can make everything from veggie smoothies, to salad dressings, to soups and blended coffee drinks.  It makes my life so much easier, especially now that we have kids and time is limited!

The Nutribullet is one of the best inventions of the 21st century I tell you!

I have a vegetable and berry smoothie with 1 tablespoon of Maca powder, flax seed and/or hemp seeds for protein, and acai powder. I alternate my veggies between broccoli, spinach or kale. For the berry part: strawberries, blueberries and raspberries although sometimes I’ll add half a banana or mango.


I also make several mason jars (16oz) of overnight oats on Sundays with a variation of flavors:

  • blueberry/strawberry/raspberry
  • peanut butter and maple
  • banana and walnut
  • almond and raisin

Then I’ll either add ground flax seeds or chia seeds for extra protein and antioxidant benefit. And I’ll top with a dash of cinnamon. These make such an easy breakfast to go!

Mason jars make breakfast healthy and easy.

#2. Sleep as much as possible before a 12 hour shift

Let’s be honest, 12 hour shifts usually end up being closer to 14+ at the end of the day.  And, many studies show that working 12 hour shifts is damaging to nurse health due to the length of time that nurses end up working.  In fact, an increased risk of depression, anxiety, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even some cancers have all been researched and publicized.

Since the shifts are not getting shorter anytime soon, the best thing that nurses can do to take care of themselves is rest as much as possible before shifts.  Therefore, I make it a huge priority to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep before shifts.  (This was so much easier before we had kids!)

A few things I use to help me sleep better at night:

    • Eye mask and ear plugs. After having kids I realized that I am am incredibly light sleeper.  In fact, even the slightest noises wake me up in the middle of the night.  Sometimes I have difficulty failing back asleep again, which is so frustrating when I work a 12 hour shift in the morning.
    • Restorative yoga poses. I keep a yoga pillow and a yoga mat right next to my bed that I use for restorative yoga poses about 20 minutes before I try to go to sleep.  It helps me decompress my from my day, check in with myself and put me into a snugly and sleepy mood.

A yoga pillow is great for restorative yoga poses!

I keep a yoga mat next to my bed for early morning and night yoga stretches.

HEY NURSES!  Remember to sign up for your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” E-book in the sign up box below! 

#3 Get regular exercise on the off days

I always feel so much better when I get my heart rate up on my days off. The benefits of exercise have been well documented; it is essential for nurse self care.  It is no secret that regular exercise helps control weight, boosts overall energy, improves your mood and decreases stress levels.  Not only does exercise benefit the nurse personally, but it also helps nurses have the stamina to give better care to patients as well.

Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A yoga session or brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.  Which, in turn, will help manage caregiver burden and help you feel your best.

For me personally, yoga has been a total game changer for my stress levels.  But it’s also great to change up the routine a bit, and I enjoy escaping with my headphones for a run and listening to music.  Whatever you do is great, as long as you actually do it!

A blue tooth headset is great to use for a run or brisk walk.

#4.  Wear compression socks

Those who know me know I’m fanatical about compression socks.  Wearing compression stockings helped me work all the way through two pregnancies and I continue to wear them to this day.  They help keep your legs energized, prevent varicose veins, and keep your ankles and feet from getting so swollen after being on your feet all day.  Plus, they come in the cutest styles now.

Compression socks will save your legs and feet!

Being a nurse and mom is already hard enough.

But with a little preparation and focus on your personal well-being and time management you can be both a healthy nurse and mom and give great care to your patients.  It’s time to focus on nurse self care!

HEY NURSES!  Remember to sign up for your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” E-book in the sign up box below! (scroll down)

Additional Recommended Reading

Working Mom health tips for 12 hour shifts

Maternity Leave For Nurses:  How To Financially Prepare

Maternity Leave For Nurses: How To Financially Prepare

(This post about saving money for maternity leave as a nurse may contain affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

As a new mother, it is your legal right to take a maternity leave.

Maternity leave is so important for a new mother for many reasons:

Unfortunately, many women in the US only get 6 weeks of maternity leave (8 weeks if you have a c-section).  And if you are a per diem employee like me, none of that time off is paid.  For that reason I worked right up until my 9th month of pregnancy while working as an emergency room nurse at a level 1 trauma center (thank God for pregnancy compression stockings!).

Nurses work extremely hard to care for patients like they would care for a family member, yet when they have a baby of their own they often have very little time to bond with their flesh and blood.  Add the financial strain into the mix and it can become very stressful and overwhelming.  So what is a nurse who is also a brand new mom to do?

Well, I have half-glass full mentality.  So for the sake of finding solutions to this conundrum that so many women find themselves in, I compiled a list of ways for mothers to plan financially far in advance of baby’s arrival.  You must take care of yourself first!

Pregnant nurse at work

The average paid maternity leave in the USA is only 6 weeks for a vaginal birth and 8 weeks for a c-section.  And if you are a per diem RN then chances are that you will not be paid at all while you are on maternity leave.

Saving for maternity leave is crucial for moms so they can spend more time baby bonding and less time worrying about money!

Unpaid maternity leave for nurses: you need to save up in advance!

After my daughter was born in 2015 I went back to work as a per diem nurse (higher hourly rate and more flexibility, but no benefits – including disability or paid maternity leave).   Therefore, eighteen months later when I went on maternity leave with my second baby I had a completely unpaid maternity leave.  It made the whole situation much more stressful for me.  Thankfully I planned well in advance to minimize the financial burden.

Here is how I managed to save up an additional 20K for my second maternity leave:

#1.  Open a new savings account dedicated to maternity leave.

One of the easiest ways to save money is to pay yourself first. When you set up direct deposit for each paycheck you make saving much easier. That way you don’t even see the money hitting your checking account. Liquid money is good so you can use it when you need it.

Suzie Orman (one of my all-time favorite financial gurus) says that you want to have as much money saved up for as many months as you plan to take off, as well as an 8 month emergency plan. You never know when an emergency can strike, for example, a medical emergency, a job loss or worse. The faster you can start saving into an account dedicated to maternity leave, the more prepared you will be when it comes.

#2.  Make a budget and stick to it.

I prefer more of a no budget, budget strategy. Basically, I decide how much I want to save each paycheck and immediately transfer it into an online savings account as soon as payday comes.

I am aware of everything I purchase and review it each month by using a program called Mint to track my expenses. If you aren’t using this, you should be. Since I have started using Mint I have watched my savings rate take off farther than ever. It is amazing how much you can save when you know exactly where your money is going!

I’m always surprised how many people I talk to who have no idea what they really spend in a month. Needless to say, this is a poor strategy for preparing for an unpaid maternity leave. You’ve got to have a plan.

#3.  Make more money now or take on extra work.

If you are currently pregnant or even just thinking about it, now is a good time to take on extra hours at work. Especially if you are able to get overtime pay.

As a nurse, anything over 40 hours of work a week is considered overtime at my hospital.  I don’t work overtime anymore now that I have small children, but I did it during my pregnancies just to add a little more to my savings.

In addition, some holidays pay time-and-a-half rates. Therefore, I have been known to pick up shifts on Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving or even Christmas. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but my family handles it by celebrating these holidays on the day before or the day after the actual holiday. When children are young, they don’t know what day it is anyway, so this strategy has worked particularly well. It adds up quite a bit when you are saving to be out for a few months.

Maternity leave savings plan for nurses

#4.  Cut all recurring expenses that you aren’t really using or don’t need.

Look at your monthly expenses and see if there is anywhere that you can reasonably make a cut. Are you really using the 100$ a month gym membership? Or does it make more sense to take daily walks and do online yoga classes at home?

My husband and I talk about money often and try to be responsible about our spending. Saving money is all about establishing priorities and having set goals. This has kept us in good financial health and kept us on the same page with our spending habits.

#5.  Look at the easy ways to cut back.

Families dropping from a dual income to a single income usually need to trim expenses somewhere. Make a list of everything you are spending money on, and be honest with yourself about what is an actual need. Here are a few ideas to throw on the table:

  • Nix the coffee cart habit = save $4 a day
  • Pack your lunches = save $12 a day
  • Cancel the cable you are barely using anyway = save $80 a month
  • Cook your meals at home instead of ordering take out = potentially $100’s in savings per month (if you eat out a lot)
  • Go on a 3-6 month spending freeze on things that are not an actual “need” =  $$$

Do you see my point here? There is A LOT of money to be saved if you just pay more attention to what you are spending money on.

I do consider myself somewhat of an expert on “trimming the fat” on my own spending habits since paying off a large amount of student loan debt in a short amount of time.  Saving money for maternity leave as a nurse was a very similar experience.

#6.  Don’t fall for the baby registry trap.

There are so many items that I was told I had to have for baby #1. Many of them are “nice to have items” that I barely even used (I’m looking at you grocery cart baby cover I only used 3 times!). Many of these supposed “must have items” from my baby registry are currently being stored away in my garage and will, at best, find a new home in our local Goodwill.

I remember looking through Pinterest at lists of “must haves” for the new mom. They are long and mostly unnecessary. Stay away from those lists!

For example, I was told that I “needed” the newborn insert for our stroller. But for the first few months I was using her car seat in her stroller. By the time I actually went to use the insert she has already grown out of it.   Same went for the ergo baby newborn insert- I didn’t even need it until she was too big to fit in it anyway.

If you actually need something, then go ahead and get it. These are just my thoughts as a second time mom with a lot of baby registry regret. With the exception of a double stroller and a crib, I can’t think of any other BIG items I will actually need for our new baby.

#7.  Consider the extra expenses that come with a new baby.

There will be some extra expenses after the baby is born. Some of the big ones for us are diapers, wipes, food, and additional childcare.  None of these things are cheap, so it’s good to be prepared for the expenses in advance.

You could always decide to go the cloth diaper route. I know people who have done this and it does save quite a bit of money. That, however, was not in our savings plan. There are some things of convenience that really are worth the money, and that was one for us.

Other big expenses include childcare enrichment classes (MyGym, recreation classes, music classes, etc.) if that is something you are interested in.

Childcare is our single biggest expense besides housing.  In fact, if I didn’t have the higher hourly rate that I get from being a per diem nurse, it might not even make financial sense for me to work as an RN.   We have a nanny that comes every Monday and Wednesday so those are the days that I work at the hospital (plus one day on the weekend when my husband is home to watch the kids).  If you have family that can help on days you work that would be a huge financial savings.

I have read that the average baby costs their parents $300,000 from the time they are born until the time they turn 18. And that doesn’t even include a college education! I don’t know about you, but that really makes me think about how we budget our money. (We have college funds set up for both of our kids which started the day they were born, but we are still going to encourage them to achieve scholarships!)

#8.  Think about the big picture.

Having a baby is one of the most amazing human experiences I have ever had. I absolutely love being a Mom. However, it can also be stressful at times, even with the most thoughtful preparation.

At the end of the day you can only do the best you can. Saving for unpaid maternity leave is just one of the things I did to try and ease the financial loss that comes with having a baby.  It is wise to try and eliminate as much stress as you can so you can joyfully relish in the awesomeness that comes with having a new baby.

Now, if only I could invent a healthy way to live on increments of 2 hours of sleep or less, I would be golden!  Best wishes to you and your growing family.

Are there any other tips on saving money for maternity leave as a nurse you would add to this list?  Leave a comment!

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