Making the decision to quit your job to become a stay-at-home parent is not easy. Parenting is a full commitment, and while many thrive in this role, it isn’t for everyone. More than that, there is a huge vacuum once your kids move out of the home. You never stop being a parent, but you do tend to stop parenting.
Getting back out there after being a stay-at-home mom can feel very daunting. You will have a large gap in your resume and have passed a generation of workers. Working may be entirely different from when you were last in an office, and more to the point, your priorities will be vastly different.
The good news is that being a parent does give you many important skills, especially if you work within the care sector. Being able to explain complex ideas in simple terms, caring for others, and being ready to do the tough job because the person in your care needs you to are all very important traits and qualities within nurses.
Nursing can be very fulfilling, especially if you go into it as a second career. There are many ways to fast-track into nursing and to customize your career so that you really focus on the area of medicine that interests you the most.
Progressing and pursuing your nursing education will also allow you to earn six-figure salaries.
You never have to worry about starting nursing too late in your career. There are nurses of all ages, with many coming into nursing later on in their careers.
Nursing is unlike other careers as well, for one simple fact. You don’t need to push yourself and bend over backward to be the best of the best before you are promoted. Instead, you simply need to complete the degree or certification and then take the state exam. This is hard work, yes, but it is also straightforward. The only barrier to progressing your career is how soon you can graduate from your latest nursing program.
This means you can really give it your all after your kids have flown the nest and go from RN to APRN in around 5 years (with the fast-tracked option).
If you weren’t a nurse before you became a stay-at-home-mom, don’t worry, either. There are so many great ways to get into nursing, and this guide will help you explore all of them.
Your Career Options in Nursing
There are so many options when it comes to working as a nurse. You can work as an RN in almost any department. Some roles may need you to learn on the job or alternatively to earn a certificate, but these are much smaller commitments than a full degree.
However, the interesting options come in once you earn an MSN. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses are filling in the gaps between care and are being given greater privileges across the country.
In some states, APRNs can write prescriptions, open up their own clinics, manage their own patients, and more.
Overall there are four types of APRNs, but the specializations within each vary drastically. You can become a Nurse Practitioner and work directly with patients while offering specialized care. You can become a Clinical Nurse Specialist and work more theoretically by improving care strategies with research. You can work in one of the oldest professions in the world and become a midwife, or you can work alongside surgeons and dentists as an anesthetist.
Each type requires a unique approach to your career and education. NPs and CNLs require you to earn an MSN after earning your BSN. You often need a few years of experience as well between degrees.
To become a midwife, you need to have worked on a mother-baby team or under an APRN midwife directly. The same applies to anesthetists. These advanced programs are highly in demand and require a very different education track than other nurses.
Regardless of which option you go for, know that you can customize your career. Work within healthcare, and you can work in a hospital, clinic, satellite clinic, as a travel nurse, within research, or privately. Outside of healthcare, you can work on the health and safety team of any company or organization that has the budget.
There are even ways you can progress up and out of healthcare. If you want a slower pace but still love the medicine and science side of nursing, you may find that educating the next generation of nurses is the right approach for you. Alternatively, you may want to move out of patient work and instead into leadership.
When you work as a nurse, you work with people. Human health connects every single one of us, and therefore your nursing background can be used in an infinite number of ways. The only thing holding you back are any legal requirements and also budgets.
Your Education Options
There are so many excellent education options in nursing, and those options have only grown since the pandemic. In the past, how you learned was complicated by where you learned. Today most of your education will take place online. Even the clinical placement is local to you.
Just look at the sheer volume of Wilkes University online nursing programs that are currently available. For non-nurses with a degree, you can skip the full BSN and opt instead for an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
If you had an ADN and worked as a nurse before you became a full-time parent, then you can kickstart your career again with an ADN to MSN (depending on how long ago you worked).
Even later on in your career, you have options. You can go from a BSN to a DNP. You can opt for an MSN. You can redirect your career with a post-graduate certificate. You can even move out of healthcare and into education or leadership with a PhD or DNP degree.
Nursing is now a fully realized career with many means to advance and specialize. These roles are relatively new in the grand scheme of things, but it means so many big possibilities rest on the horizon.
This is particularly true today, thanks to the pandemic. Due to mass quarantine rules, telehealth has been adopted and adapted far faster than estimated. There is also a greater call for healthcare to become decentralized. What this means is that there will be more options to work anywhere, and not just in expensive cities. You can enjoy a better quality of life in your second career by finding a smaller clinic or hospital in a small town, for example.
How to Approach Your Second Career in Nursing
Knowing your options and how to explore these options firsthand will help you make better decisions for your future. Using these tips, however, will help you approach your second career in nursing while putting yourself first.
1. Always Use Your Existing Credentials to Fast-Track Where You Can
There is no reason to go a long way around your education. If you have a degree and credits that can be used towards an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing, then use them. If you can retake the exam or quickly refresh yourself and use your existing ADN or BSN, then do it.
Taking these options are no shortcuts. You have done the work. Doing the work all over again is just extra time and money.
2. Use Dead Time, Chores, and Commutes to Break Up Study Sessions
When it comes to your actual study routine, remember to break it up. Learning a little over and over again over smaller chunks of time is how you really integrate what you are learning. You never want to cram. We often tend to forget information that we cram into our heads.
The best way to break up that time without overloading ourselves is to combine it with other dead times of the day. Do you have a commute? Use that commute to review information. Doing chores? Listen to that lecture or voice notes.
Dead times are the perfect time to engage your brain. They happen whenever your body is doing something mindless, and your brain has time to wander. By using these times instead of when you are free, you can keep your brain more engaged.
The best part is that you free up time in your day for breaks and socializing.
3. Make Studying Social
We are social creatures. In fact, one of the biggest issues with the original remote degree was the fact that it was entirely isolated. Students would be given coursework and would then send it back to the university through the mail. Online degrees are far more social because they can connect you with your peers and educators in real-time, but don’t only rely on the mandated coursework to socialize with your peers.
Make study groups. Study with your peers, chat with them and learn from each other.
4. When You Work, Remember You’re Still Learning
One of the most important tips to remember once you start a job as an RN after not working for so long is that you are not done learning. You will never be done learning. Every job has a learning curve, but with nursing, you need to go one step further.
You need to shadow other departments. You need to ask APRNs about their role. You need to explore your options in nursing; otherwise, you won’t be able to progress your career in a direction that you love.
There are simply too many different roles in nursing for you to know them all. New roles are being created every day. You can always go back and specialize in a new role later on, but this takes time and does cost money. Knowing your option in advance will make your efforts more directed and effective.
It is particularly important for roles like midwifery. Most midwifery courses require you to work on a mother-baby team or under a midwife APRN. Exploring your career options and changing up where you work will help you learn more about nursing as a whole and what kind of nurse you ultimately want to be.
You can go from BSN to MSN very shortly, but by waiting and exploring your options, you can really find the role that suits you best. Don’t go by what you assume, either. You may have loved being a parent but working with kids in a medical setting is an entirely different situation. Even working as a Family Nurse Practitioner may not be what you expect, simply because kids don’t typically like clinics or hospitals. They may even be in pain.
Giving yourself the time to learn more about what you want out of your nursing career will make a huge difference later on. Find the right working environment, the right pacing, and the right balance, and you can really enjoy your post-parenthood career.
Remember: Always Do Right by You, First
Nursing does require you to give a lot of yourself, your time, and your energy to others. In order to do this without burning out, however, you do need to prioritize your health and your needs first. If one workplace is taking too much out of you, then you need to find a new workplace that helps you enjoy a better work/life balance.
For most, this will mean progressing through your career or looking for a workplace that suits your needs and what you want out of life. Those looking for something quieter will find a home in clinics or even in more rural healthcare settings. Those looking for something more challenging will find the answer in progressing their education.
Whatever you choose, remember to focus on what you need and what you find interesting. There are patients in need everywhere. Never base your career on what other people want or need because this isn’t how you find a work/life balance that helps you thrive. Wherever you go, there will be people who need you. Being a better you is how you can best care for your patients no matter what.