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How Single Parents Can Manage a Nursing Career


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It can’t be overstated: Being a single parent is tough. Parenthood is hard even when you have a committed partner at your side to help cook, clean, and earn the money needed to keep your kids’ ever-growing feet in shoes. To accomplish this and so much more when it’s just you flying solo is even more admirable.

Nursing, though a rewarding job, is also a demanding one with long hours that can make it difficult for a single mom or dad to find time for their children outside of their shifts. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though. Here are some tips for juggling single parenthood and the career you love.

Avoid working in emergency care, if possible

Emergency care and emergency rooms are critical parts of our healthcare system, and the nurses who work in them should be applauded. However, the long hours and inherent unpredictability of emergency-room nursing make it less compatible with the needs of single parents than other nursing fields.

If five critically-injured car accident victims come in 10 minutes before your shift ends and all hands are needed on deck, you can’t duck out because your kids need to be picked up from soccer practice. Single parents know that they need flexibility in their schedules, and the emergency room is not a place where flexibility reigns.

Related Resource: These Are the Highest Paying Nursing Specialties

Don’t rule out night shifts

Working the third shift can be taxing, but it’s a schedule that works particularly well for parents with younger children who go to bed early. A single parent working a shift from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. can tuck their kid into bed, wake them up in the morning, and sleep while they’re at school. When you wake, your child will just be returning from school and you’ll be well rested for some all-important family time.

As your child gets older, this schedule might not work as effectively — high schoolers go to bed much later than 7 p.m., after all — but by then, kids are usually independent enough to put themselves to bed.

Related Resource: 5 Great Things About Night Shift Nurses

Choose a job with flexible hours

If you don’t want to work nights, that’s completely understandable. It’s important work and someone has to do it, but it can be difficult. So if you’re going to work in the day, what career paths should you look into?

Some potential options include:

  • School nurse. Kids get sick and hurt at school all the time, and as a school nurse your hours will be very close to those your children spend in education every day.
  • Research nurse. Medical science is ever-evolving, and clinical tests for new drugs and other forms of treatment require a talented nursing staff to administer and track care and recovery patterns.
  • Consulting nurse. Not all nursing involves direct care. Law firms, for instance, can use registered nurses and other caregivers to evaluate medical records and prepare briefs. An insurance company might need a nurse who understands billing. This is just one of the options for a consulting nurse path.
  • Home care nurse. As our population grows increasingly elderly, there is a growing need for nurses who can make house calls and evaluate not just a patient’s health but their living conditions. While the patient’s needs will always come first, many of these positions offer flexible hours and let you build a rapport with long-term patients.

Related Resource: Parents in Nursing School Should Try These Study Tips

Remember that it takes a village to raise a child

Being a nurse can be hard. Being a single parent can make it that much harder. But remember that you’re not alone.

This advice doesn’t only rely on in-person help like family members or trusted friends. There are plenty of online communities full of people just like you who can offer not just support, but ideas and tips for single parents in nursing.

With the right plan, it’s very possible for a single parent to follow the career path they’ve always wanted while maintaining the full family life they need and deserve.

If you have other tips for single mothers or fathers following a nursing career, share them on our Facebook page!