Per Diem Nursing Gave Me A Work-Life Balance

by | Mar 2, 2021 | Uncategorized

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The nursing profession has some incredible flexibility perks that make it a whole lot easier for me to be a working mom.

To start, I usually work three days a week, which is full-time for a nurse. I can fit my 38-40 hours into 3 days instead of in 5 like most of the working world. Occasionally, depending on what is going on at home, I only work 2 days, and on rare occasions, I’ll only work one.

My workdays, however, are extraordinary long for what most people would consider a “normal” workday. I leave my house at 5:45 in the morning. Most evenings, I don’t walk in the door until after 8:30 pm.

About 13 hours are spent at the hospital, and I’m working my tail off every minute of it. My brain is completely shut off from all aspects of my home life during those long, arduous shifts.

Unfortunately, I don’t get to see my daughter at all on the days I work. I leave before she wakes up, and I’m home after she goes to bed. I may as well be out-of-town on those days.

A 5 day work week becomes 3

Unlike most professions, I can only work three days a week (or less if I choose to). And that means that I get to be home at least four days a week to spend solid, interrupted, quality time with my daughter and husband. I love my days off and use them wisely!

On top of that, I became a per diem nurse in May of 2016.

Per diem means: for each day. As a nurse, I am literally employed “by the day.” Hospitals need per diem nurses to cover staffing needs in the hospital, which can vary by day or season.

Per diem nursing is a game-changer for me as a working mom. It is so flexible that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go back to being a career RN again.

Benefits to per diem nursing

  • Significantly higher pay than 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 my own schedule (if the hospital doesn’t need me, they call me off)
  • Cancel at the last minute (as long as it is by 3 am)
  • Add on a shift at the last minute.
  • Incredible growth opportunities. I never stop learning or being challenged.
  • Work in many different specialties: Emergency Room, Cardiac, Liver Transplant, Medicine, Neuroscience and Stroke, or Oncology, to name a few
  • Opportunities to “master in” to a unit that is chronically short on staffing needs for a period of time. This guarantees a certain number of hours for that time period.

Drawbacks to per diem nursing

  • No benefits.  No retirement, no disability, no sick days, no vacation days, no paid maternity leave
    If I don’t work, I don’t get paid.
  • The hospital can cancel me at the last minute. And they have MANY times.  This is frustrating as I already must already have childcare scheduled for the day.
  • Many per diem nurses complain that they often get stuck with more difficult assignments than other nurses on the same floor.
  • You must be a jack of all trades. Working with so many different specializes can be hard because each floor has a different patient population with unique needs and hospital protocols.

Finding a work-life balance in per diem nursing

Rocks balancing to represent work-life balance

Being a working mom is more doable and less stressful now that I have a little more work-life balance.

I try to work every Monday and Wednesday and alternate working 1 weekend day every other week. That way I switch between working 2 days one week and 3 the next.

My husband has to be home by 5 pm on the days I work so he can relieve our nanny. It puts a bit of a strain on him to leave work early those days, but he makes up for it by staying late later on other days.

We share our amazing nanny, Ana, with another family she works with on the days she is not with us. We guarantee her 2 to 3 days a week whether I work or not.

Quality vs. quantity

I feel very fortunate because I believe I have a balance between working mostly full-time and being kind of like a stay-at-home mom on my days off.

In fact, I think it’s possible that being a working mom with my schedule allows me to spend more quality time with my daughter than if I didn’t work at all.

When I’m at work, I am completely engaged and focused. I look forward to thinking critically, applying my skills, and helping to save lives. I’m constantly learning and applying myself in difficult situations.

Then when I’m home, I can completely shut that part of my brain off and be fully present.

Our fun activities on one of my off-days typically include going to the park or for walks, meeting friends out for play dates, cooking, errand running, or just hanging out at the house. There is a lot of reading, playing, giggling, and even a daily nap (for Mommy, too!).

Gratitude always helps

Since I work so hard at the hospital, I am so grateful to be home and be Mom. Even running errands with my daughter is enjoyable (Zoe loves going out with Mom, especially when she gets to help me pick out groceries).

In all honesty, I’m often beyond tired on my days off, but at least I can compartmentalize the two parts of my life. Many careers don’t have that option.

Being a working Mom means making sacrifices and finding creative ways to make a work-life balance possible.

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