The Bedside Nurse’s Schedule: Is it really Family-Friendly?

Part of my attraction to becoming a nurse was being able to spend more time with my family. Most nurses I knew worked only three days a week, allowing them four free days to do what they wanted each week. I also appreciated that bedside nurses do not take their work home. Most bedside nurses are not on-call or still working when they come home. In my previous engineering career, I worked five days a week and was at work much longer than just eight hours a day. I would sometimes work night shifts and weekends. I was on call frequently or still worked even while home or on vacation. The thought of being free of the tether of work appealed to me as I pursued my career change to become a nurse. Now that I’ve been a bedside nurse for a few years, do I still feel nursing is as family-friendly as I initially thought?

12 hour Shifts

Like most bedside nurses, I am at work 12.5 hours every shift. (Most nurses who work 12-hour shifts are at their place of employment for 12.5 hours due to an unpaid 30-minute meal break). After adding commuting, showering, eating, and sleeping to that schedule, I can do little else on the days (or nights) I work. When I work, I see my daughter for only about an hour each day, regardless if it’s the day or night shift.

When I work days, I must leave the house before my daughter wakes to be at my hospital for a 7a shift. Dayshift ends at 7:30p, and if my commute is nice and short, I get home around 8p. I shower and eat as soon as I come home, but I don’t get to eat dinner with my daughter because it’s too late for her. I have about an hour at home before my daughter’s targeted bedtime at 9p.

When I work nights, I leave the house around 6:15p (since my commute for my new job is shorter now) to start my shift at 7p. My night shift ends at 7:30a, and I get home around 8a. I don’t usually see my daughter when I come home from nightshift because she gets to school before 8a. I shower, eat, and sleep. I target sleeping until 5p. If I get up earlier and my daughter comes home from aftercare before our usual pick-up time, I can spend about an hour with her before I get ready and leave for work.

If I break it down, there isn’t an ideal [12-hour] shift schedule to spend more time with my family on the days/nights I work. Dayshift may be slightly better because I don’t need a sleep/recovery day on my day off as I do after working a night shift. The real advantage of my 12-hour shiftwork is that I don’t have to work as many days each week as in traditional jobs.

Three Shifts Per Week

I can work three 12-hour shifts per week at my current hospital and be considered a full-time employee with benefits. (My prior hospital required a fourth shift one week per month to be considered full-time). Working only three days (or nights) per week means I can have more family time on my four days or nights off that week. The three-shifts-a-week schedule was beneficial for an unplanned trip at the end of March.

Unexpectedly, my husband’s last living grandparent died last month. The funeral service was in Hawaii on a Saturday morning. I hoped to go and support my husband and his family, but I needed to figure out if I could join him since I had just started my new job and had no vacation. My daughter could join him since the trip was during her Spring Break.

Due to my night shift nursing schedule, I joined the family in Hawaii without asking for time off of work. I worked a Thursday night shift – my third shift in a row – and packed as soon as I got home Friday morning. We left that same Friday afternoon and returned home on an overnight flight Wednesday night / Thursday morning. When we returned from Hawaii Thursday morning, I slept and went to work that evening – my first of three in a row. It was a grueling schedule, but I would not have been able to travel with my family for six days without needing time off if I had still worked as an engineer. What other jobs would allow for a personal 6-day trip within 1.5 months of starting?

I was (and still am) on orientation. I did not select my schedule to plan my trip. My supervisors set my schedule to match my preceptor’s. Fortunately, it worked out for me to travel to Hawaii without missing or rescheduling my orientation.

Though it was unplanned and under sad circumstances, my spouse, daughter, and I enjoyed spending time with extended family on our recent trip to Hawaii. I appreciate that my schedule allowed me to travel without taking time off. This pic was taken during on a coastal hike to Makauwahi cave.
The hike to Makauwahi cave splits off to a secluded beach. Though my husband and his family had been to the Kauai many times, they had never been to the cave. It was nice to join them in discovering new sites on the island. More importantly, I appreciated being able to celebrate the life of my husband’s maternal grandmother and support him, and be there for family.

I know many other nurses who plan extensive trips on their days between work or by taking only a handful of vacation days. A nurse working three shifts a week could schedule themselves such that they have eight days off between work shifts with no personal time off used. In my previous career as an engineer, I would only have been able to miss work for eight days in a row if I had used vacation days or other forms of leave. The one major caveat to getting desired days off without using vacation or personal time off is nurses still need to get their schedule requests approved or be able to self-schedule. Every nursing job I’ve had allowed me to self-schedule, but I know other nurses who don’t get to select their schedules. My supervisors granted my schedule requests about 98% of the time in my past jobs, so I mostly worked the days/nights I chose (once I was off orientation).

Heavy Workload

When determining if a nurse’s schedule is family-friendly, something else to consider is how much downtime one needs between shifts to recover from work. To schedule a block of days off, as I described above, one usually needs to work a block of days before and after, which can be exhausting. As a night-shifter, I need the day off after work to sleep or nap. My first day off after a block of night shifts is not a day I expect to spend much (awake and alert) time with my family. However, I’ve also had days after working some day shifts where I’ve felt like a zombie. I’ve never felt as drained (emotionally, mentally, and physically) after working as I do as a nurse. I’ve discussed this before in past posts and how sometimes I need a day or two to recover from shift work. Being an engineer could sometimes feel draining, but it was not consistently exhausting compared to being a nurse.

Weekdays Off

Despite needing recovery days, I like having weekdays off as a bedside nurse because it allows me to participate easily in some of my daughter’s school activities. My schedule has allowed me to attend 20-minute in-person parent-teacher conferences in the middle of a weekday afternoon without taking time off from work. I attended my daughter’s award ceremony on a random weekday morning I wasn’t scheduled to work. If my time off coincides with my daughter’s breaks or early dismissals from school, I get to spend time with her exploring our city and going to parks or museums instead of placing her in hard-to-find, expensive camps. I can attend weekday medical or dental appointments for myself or my daughter without taking any time off when I schedule them on days/nights I’m not working.

Weekends & Holidays

While it’s nice to have some weekdays off each week, my schedule requires me to work weekends and a handful of major holidays. I miss spending about half the weekends with my family every month due to work. I have to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas early or late if I want to celebrate with family. Some senior nurses at my last job managed to get out of working significant holidays, but no one got out of having work weekends. My current preceptor has worked for over 20 years, but like me, she must work four weekend-shifts each month. Even though I gained some flexibility for weekday activities, I lost spending half my weekends and holidays with family when I switched careers.

Working from Home

Another thing I lost when I became a bedside nurse is the ability to work from home or remotely. I must take time off work if I’m sick, in quarantine, or my daughter is ill (and I stay home with her instead of my husband). I cannot do my job and care for my patients remotely. Remote nursing jobs exist, but not for bedside nurses. On the other hand, being unable to work remotely can be a positive thing for work-life balance because it allows me to separate from work compared to when I was an engineer.

Wait – Let me rethink that. One day in Hawaii, I attended paid mandatory training for my orientation. And if I’m being candid, I spend hours of unpaid time reviewing topics or concepts to prepare for work when I’m not at work. Education and review is my coping mechanism for the stress I face as a novice nurse. Educating myself or doing unpaid training outside of work may persist even as I become more experienced. Nursing requires continuing education. However, I’m genuinely interested in learning about my patient population and ways to provide the best care or be a better nurse. There are always new techniques, equipment, or updated evidence-based practices to learn. I can only sometimes research or learn about new nursing practices during work hours. So there may not be a complete separation from work when I leave the hospital, but it’s an improvement compared to my life as an engineer.

Job & Schedule Variety

I wanted to accurately portray what it’s like to work as a bedside nurse while having a family with this post. However, if a bedside nurse chooses, they do not have to work the traditional three 12-hour shifts per week that I do. Bedside nurses can have one or multiple per diem (one day a week) jobs or work 8 hours a day, five days a week (my last hospital offered 8-hour shifts on the Post-Partum unit). Or, bedside nurses can become travel nurses and work 13-week contracts or whatever they choose to negotiate. There are so many scheduling options out there for nurses. A nurse doesn’t even have to work bedside! A nurse can select a job or schedule that works best for their family and personal life.

The Reality

While nursing can be appealing due to the work schedule, I wanted to review the reality of balancing family and work as a bedside nurse. Despite some drawbacks, my nursing schedule can be family-friendly overall. Is my bedside nursing schedule MORE family-friendly than when I was an engineer? Nope. But I love being a nurse. I love working with my patients and their families and learning, teaching, and helping others. If you are considering nursing as a profession, I hope this blog post gives you a better idea of what a nursing schedule is like and if this profession will allow you to balance work with your family or personal life. Good luck on your journey!

Career-Change Networking Tips: Questions to Ask

As a follow-up to my blog post last week, I thought I’d share some general tips and questions to consider when networking with others if you’re interested in switching careers. Scroll through the slides below for my tips!

Do you have any additional tips for networking or questions to ask others when considering a career change? Drop a comment below if you have something to share that you found helpful for you!

Considering a Second-Career? Connect with People in that Profession!

A friend recently asked me how I switched careers as a working mom. She was considering switching careers, so she wanted to know about some of my steps before becoming a nurse after years of working as an engineer. Some advice I gave her: 

  1. Talk to others in your profession of interest.
  2. Ask them about their experience, challenges with their work, how they like their jobs, and their favorite part of their work.
  3. Inquire about the education or training they completed to get where they are and how they got their job.

Before entering nursing school, I did these things to get an idea of what nursing was like and what I needed to do to become a nurse. To put it simply, I networked.

Build on your connections: Talk to Others You Know.

I talked to all the nurses and people in healthcare I knew. I had a couple of cousins who were nurses. Aside from periodically picking their brains at family gatherings, I asked if we could meet for lunch to discuss nursing. I asked them what they liked and disliked about nursing. I learned how they chose and got accepted to their nursing school and how long it took them to complete their programs. They shared how expensive their tuition was. I asked their impression of the various programs and the graduates their hospitals tend to hire. 

Photo by Alex Green on

If I had any nurse acquaintances, I tried interviewing them, too. I reached out to nurses I met from my mom’s club and nurses I knew from church. I offered to have coffee with them to discuss nursing. I had an old friend from college who had a friend that went through an ABSN program, and I asked my friend if I could reach out to her. My friend put us in touch, and I was able to ask her questions about her accelerated nursing program. I reached out to EVERYONE I knew who could give me some perspective on the nursing profession or nursing school.

Form Connections: Talk to Others You Don’t Know.

I even reached out to nurses I didn’t know at all. I joined a MeetUp for nurses. I explained my interest in nursing and my desire to meet more working nurses. When I’d go to my personal doctor’s appointments, I’d talk to MA’s, phlebotomists, and nurses and ask them how they like their job, what training they went through, and if they had advice for aspiring nurses. I even reached out to a nurse in my neighborhood’s Facebook Buy Nothing group. She graduated from a nursing program to which I was applying. I eventually became friends with her and was able to request her to review one of my nursing school application essays. (Sidenote: When I experienced my first death after a code blue, my nurse friend from church recommended I view a TED Talk given by a nurse about grief. The TED talk speaker turned out to be my neighbor/friend from my Buy Nothing group!) 

Strengthen Your Connections: Continue to Network. 

All nurses and even non-nurses I approached to discuss healthcare and nursing were supportive of me. All were willing to answer my questions. As I started to meet more nurses or people in healthcare, I felt I was getting a more accurate picture of Nursing. 

I first heard the brutal truth about nurse burnout during my second Nurse MeetUp event. The host of the MeetUp, Cara Lunsford, didn’t want to scare or discourage me, but she also wanted to acknowledge the challenges nurses face and support working nurses. Until that meetup, I didn’t realize the nursing shortage wasn’t just that not enough people were entering nursing school. Cara shared that a lack of nurses also exists because many nurses leave the profession. The MeetUp was a nurses’ week event, and Cara’s company, Holliblu, hosted a free screening of the 2014 documentary, “The American Nurse.” I thought it was excellent exposure to various facets of nursing and the potential challenges I would face as a nurse. Since then, now that the world has experienced the COVID pandemic, I think more people are aware of nurses’ working conditions and burnout. My continuation to network emphasized that it’s good to learn as much as you can about your area of interest – the good, the bad, the ugly – before deciding whether or not it’s for you.

Join Professional Organizations or Online Groups

After meeting with my nurse friend from church, she suggested I join a professional nursing organization’s Facebook group. She was part of a local chapter of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). I asked to be part of the Facebook group before I was even in nursing school. Because I was part of the Facebook group, I learned about and attended a sponsored event with AACN during nursing school, even though I wasn’t an official AACN member. I spoke with critical care nurses who provided unsolicited but valuable advice on where NOT to work after graduating from nursing school. Eventually, I became a paid member of AACN as a nursing student. (Hint: Membership fees are cheaper if you join professional organizations while still a student. Also, professional memberships are good to put on your resume as you apply to new grad jobs.)


Before I became a nurse, I tried immersing myself in the working environment of a nurse. I reached out to a former co-worker and fellow engineer who volunteered at a hospital before she joined a full-time MBA/MPH program. Her volunteer program, COPE Health Scholars, seemed rigorous and offered excellent training. It was more than simply pushing patients in their wheelchairs or bringing them water. Volunteers took vitals, assisted CNAs with patient activities of daily living, and participated in codes, as allowed by their certifications. I learned about the program through her, and I applied. I passed the rigorous application process and training and got accepted into the COPE Health Scholars program while working as an engineer. I volunteered throughout my pre-requisites, nursing school applications, and until my ABSN program started. I met many more nurses and worked with patients in various units. The program further cemented my desire to become a nurse, gave me valuable clinical experience, and helped with my nursing school applications. Perhaps even more beneficial for a handful of other volunteers, the program helped them recognize that healthcare was not for them.

Return the Favor: Give Back

Seize networking opportunities, but don’t be an opportunist. When networking, it’s not just about what you can take from others. If you want to build relationships and good faith, offer something in return. Share your wealth with others. Your wealth is not just monetary wealth – you have skills, time, knowledge, experience, connections, and resources. Some examples of how I tried to reciprocate with others I networked with:

  • I offered to buy lunch or coffee for nurses who agreed to meet with me. 
  • When my entrepreneurial MeetUp host inquired about corporate sponsorship or contacts, I gave as much insight as possible about the company that employed me as an engineer. Even though my work experience was in the consumer products sector, my former employer led a campaign to support nurses and the nursing profession. 
  • I signed up to volunteer at AACN community service events and got some of my nursing school classmates to join me. (AACN eventually canceled these Spring 2020 community service opportunities due to the pandemic). 
  • When another mom’s club member approached me to explore nursing as a career change, I readily met with her during a study break. 
  • I put my friend, who is exploring a career change, in touch with the one person I knew who worked in her field of interest.

I have to admit I always found the term “networking” intimidating, but it’s something I had done before changing careers without realizing it. I hope what I’ve written provides examples of how you can network – or connect with others – to explore a second career. I’d love to hear about ways you network, what’s worked/didn’t work, and what you thought was helpful! Good luck on your journey!

Lying in Wait

For Christmas last year, I bought tickets for my husband and me to watch the musical “Hamilton” in Los Angeles during my semester break scheduled in May. I figured it would be a nice treat for us before my last nursing school semester. That was until the pandemic hit and canceled the show. While I was disappointed, I agreed with the CDC recommendations and state orders not to have large indoor gatherings. I figured I had already waited years to watch the show; I could wait a little while longer to enjoy it safely at a later time.

Once summer arrived, I was excited to learn that I could watch “Hamilton” from home on Disney+. However, I didn’t allow myself to subscribe to the streaming service until I graduated because I didn’t want to become distracted from studying. As a mini graduation gift to myself, I subscribed to Disney+ to watch “Hamilton” in August.

I know I’m years behind, but I finally watched and loved the musical, “Hamilton”! My preschooler has grown to love it too and will ask to play songs from the musical. She loves and will continuously replay the “The Schuyler Sisters,” “Satisfied,” and “Helpless.” Personally, “Wait for It” appeals to me. While “Wait for It” is the song of the musical’s anti-hero, Aaron Burr, I can identify with the feeling of waiting.

My favorite part of the song, “Wait for It” from “Hamilton”

Waiting to take the NCLEX

Life after nursing school requires a lot of patience. It’s almost anti-climactic to spend all this energy in an accelerated nursing program and graduate only to wait in what feels like forever to get permission from the nursing board to take the NCLEX. While other classmates’ accounts showed they conferred their degree soon after the semester ended, I had to wait for my transcripts to show I graduated weeks afterward. About a month after graduating, some of my classmates sat for their NCLEX; I still hadn’t received my authorization to test (ATT) from the testing company. I grew anxious and started to feel like I was on hold, waiting for my life to begin while everyone else was moving forward. I had to remind myself that my life was already in motion, and I had accomplished many of my life’s goals. I could choose to be content with my life as it was or wait for some external factor (like an ATT) before allowing myself to feel content.

I received my ATT about a month and a half post-graduation. I gave myself a little over a week after receiving my ATT to study and take my NCLEX. Passing the NCLEX took a lot of weight off my shoulders and made me eligible to apply to many more jobs. However, after passing the NCLEX and becoming a registered nurse, I continue to wait for: new graduate positions to open, status updates to job applications, and recommendations or replies to recommendation requests.

Waiting for a job offer

As an unemployed nursing graduate, I miss being in a clinical setting and am eager to return. I often feel like I’m not a real nurse since I’m not working. I want to work but don’t qualify for many RN jobs since I’m a recent graduate who hasn’t worked in an acute setting. I want a new grad position so I can get proper training as a novice nurse. However, I don’t want a new grad position doing any type of nursing in any setting. I am a second-career nurse. I evaluated my skills and desires to change careers, and I know I want to work in a specialty. I want to either start in that specialty or start in a role with a clear path leading me to it. I’m older, and I don’t want to waste time. I’m willing to wait a little while for a good opportunity for myself instead of broadly applying to jobs I don’t want.

While I wait for my first RN job, I am preparing myself for my career. I studied and took certification courses for PALS (pediatric advanced life support) and NRP (neonatal resuscitation program). I reached out to early-career and mid-career nurses to ask them about new grad programs and what it’s like to work in various hospitals. I revised and had people review my resume. I targeted specific people for recommendations for different job applications.

Even though I’m unemployed, I know I’ve done and continue to do what I can to prepare for my nursing career. Knowing how to delay gratification and wait for things allows me to enjoy my free time. I’m satisfied with the work I put in during school and after graduation. I don’t feel guilty when I take breaks from studying for certifications or job hunting; I genuinely enjoy myself. I get to explore Los Angeles and venture into areas I hadn’t seen before or finally watch shows I put off watching. The pandemic has put travel plans and trips to visit family and friends on hold, but I’m willing to wait for it. I can have fun doing other things while I wait to get a job (#funemployment).

Waiting as a skill

Learning how to wait while preparing and working toward your goals is a life skill. Like any skill, it may take some practice before you are good at it. For example, I decided to watch “Black Panther” the day before an Anatomy & Physiology midterm because it was opening weekend, and I figured I could study afterward. I loved the movie, but the pre-test movie resulted in a low midterm grade. It such a drop from my usual scores that my professor asked me what happened. I couldn’t admit to him that I watched a movie instead of studying the day before. I felt terrible that I jeopardized my prerequisite GPA to watch a film I could have easily watched another time. Luckily, I recovered; my prerequisite GPA was good enough to get accepted into competitive nursing programs. I did something similar again in nursing school. Eventually, I learned my lesson, which is why I refused to subscribe to Disney+ until after graduation. When I feel burnt out from studying, it’s too easy for me to feel like I need to escape, de-prioritize school, and take an overly long break. I realized my long-term goal of becoming a nurse was more critical than watching a long-awaited musical (and maybe I needed more frequent breaks and rewards for myself so that I wouldn’t feel burnt out)!

We need the recognition that some things, whether it be goals or skills, take time to cultivate. Learning how to prioritize and determine what needs immediate attention versus what can wait is as much a life skill as it is a nursing skill. It takes years to become a nurse. Sometimes, especially during prerequisites, it felt like I was getting nothing done since I was spending all my time in school and studying but had no degree or job to show for it. I could only hope all my efforts would lead me to my ultimate goal: a working RN. I’m still working towards my goal but appreciate that while waiting to become a nurse, I developed new skills, made new friends, and pushed my limits of what I thought was capable. Waiting has given me time to prepare and develop into the person I need to become a nurse. I’m still waiting to become a working nurse, but I know I haven’t wasted my time.

Waiting as a parent

Similarly, as a parent, life requires a lot of waiting and unknown. My husband and I can only hope that the love and attention we give our daughter leads her to be a smart and decent person with a happy, healthy life. I love what my doctor shared with me about parenting, “We can cultivate and fertilize the soil, but who knows what will take root and grow?” Even if I weren’t pursuing a second career, having a child demands patience and waiting. Have you ever had to deal with a toddler insisting on putting on their shoes or clothes? Or waiting for them to pee on a potty? Trust me – Parents understand waiting! I now have more patience and grace for myself because I continuously practice patience and grace with my child.

Wait for It

The “waiting” we do in life is often the journey to our destination. We can feel stuck in “waiting” or allow for growth and development to occur. In some ways, the waiting is fun – it’s an unfolding of a story, a discovery of who we have yet to become; it implies potential. If you ever think you’re stagnant and waiting for life to happen, know you’re not alone. I feel this way from time to time. Sometimes, we need a little reminder of the power we have over the choices we make. You are the only thing you can control, so set your priorities and do what you can to move towards your goals. Other times, we need a little encouragement. When I’m doing what I can but feel I am not getting the results as quickly as I want and start to doubt myself, I remind myself of the lyrics from “Wait for It”: “I’m not falling behind or running late. I’m not standing still – I’m lying in wait”.