I am lucky to remain connected to a number of my nurse practitioner program classmates. As we have matured in our careers it is exciting to see the paths we have all chosen. Some of my NP program friends are now highly specialized. Others are working in clinics treating underserved patients, truly becoming pillars of the community. While our clinical expertise is varied, there is one trend that stands out among my nurse practitioner friends – most are starting families.
While I don’t yet have kids myself, I enjoy observing how my nurse practitioner friends and colleagues find balance between work and family life. Some manage the work-family balance with ease. For others, it’s more of a trial and error process. But, all seem to come up with a strategy or solution to best accommodate family life. One of the great things about working as a nurse practitioner is that flexible career options are common. So, if you’re stressed about family life and your career, the following strategies can help.
Choose your job wisely
Ideally, you will be assess the family friendliness of your prospective nurse practitioner employment during the job search and interview process. Taking your time to look for a position that is sustainable for you and your family is essential to career happiness. Accepting a position that won’t mesh well with family life will only lead to frustration – unless you choose to adapt your family instead. Assess call duties, schedule reliability, holiday and weekend scheduling as well as vacation days to help think through how the job in question will look paired with your non-career related responsibilities.
Some specialties simply aren’t prone to family friendliness, or at least not in the manner typically considered to be a ‘family friendly’ schedule. Surgical nurse practitioners may find themselves stuck in a long case, suddenly unable to pick up kids from school. Hospitalist NPs working block schedules may decide that working 7, 12-hour days in a row isn’t feasible given kids’ daily needs. Family nurse practitioners may have difficulty landing a job that doesn’t require weekend clinic coverage. So, change your specialty. For most NPs, a specialty switch can be accomplished simply by looking for a new position. Others may find that a post-master’s degree is in order.
Embrace Alternative Scheduling
Unconventional work hours can actually be an asset for nurse practitioners looking to have more time for family life. Evening shifts leave daytime hours free for running the endless errands that come with having kids. Working weekends might mean a significant other can watch the kids eliminating childcare expenses. Consider the upside of working odd hours in relation to work-life balance. Your schedule may not be as bad as you think.
Create Your Own Job
If you’re a nurse practitioner with significant experience or have worked for the same employer for a long period of time, your boss may be willing to let you adjust your employment as the demands of your family change. For example, nurse practitioners looking to work fewer days may ask to transition to fewer, longer shifts. Additional unpaid vacation time may be negotiated making your job more flexible. Accommodating more time with family in your current NP position may be as easy as a simple ask.
You can’t do it all. You just can’t. Whether you are a father of three, a brand new mom or a single gal trying to ‘parent’ a puppy, there isn’t enough time in the day to get your work and family lives perfect. Conflict is inevitable. Prioritizing is a must. Compromise (done appropriately) is OK. When family and your nurse practitioner career don’t mesh, call in reinforcements. Intentionally write out which responsibilities you and your sig-o will each take on. Think outside of traditional gender roles.
Working Full-Time, Worth It?
Committing to a full-time nurse practitioner job is a lot of work. It can mean long hours and an unpredictable schedule not to mention be physically and emotionally draining. If you’re growing to resent the time you spend at work or are feeling the squeeze of family-related commitments, consider going part-time. Part-time employment may not have as big of a financial impact as you might think. Consider the amount of money you spend on childcare, take-out when you lack time to cook and other services you pay for to accommodate your busy life. This strategy won’t work for all nurse practitioners, but it is certainly worth looking at.
What strategies to you use to help your nurse practitioner career and family life fit into your schedule?
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