Returning to school can be a scary thought, especially when you’re a mom. You might be asking yourself: Can I afford it? Will I have to sacrifice time with my kids? But if you are in need of a change, earning a degree is one way to improve your employment prospects and earn more money.
If you’re considering earning a degree, why not choose an area in which you already have some skills: caring for others and bandaging skinned knees and scraped elbows. It may not have occurred to you until now, but as a mom you’ve already mastered some key nursing qualities and skills.
Maybe you don’t know how to draw blood, read a medical chart or analyze a patient’s symptoms. But think about some things you do as a mom – organize your child’s activities, listen carefully for signs of distress or discomfort and provide Band-Aids and medicine when he or she is in pain.
“As a mom, you learn not to be focused on yourself so much, and you think about what others need,” says registered nurse Betty Boynton, a 40-year nursing veteran. Nursing requires the same type of selflessness.
Still unsure if you possess the skills and qualities needed to be a nurse? An analysis of nearly 130,000 RN and licensed practical nurse (LPN) online job postings* identified the top six skills employers are seeking – not surprisingly, most moms are already experts in these areas!
Communication is more than just talking – it’s also listening and recognizing non-verbal cues. You do all of those things daily, so it makes sense that as a mom you’re already quite skillful in this area.
Moms and nurses use their communication skills in different ways. As a mom your communication might include everyday activities like carpooling and Girl Scout cookies. But, as a nurse you’re constantly conveying information about your patients and comparing information with your colleagues, Boynton says.
Mom skills: You already have experience communicating with a variety of people. Think of everyone you communicate with on behalf of your child – teachers, doctors and neighbors are just a few. You naturally adjust your communication style based on the person you’re speaking with. And of course there are your personal communications, too – you speak with colleagues, your spouse or your siblings.
Nursing duties: Your responsibilities include communicating daily with patients and their families, doctors, fellow nurses and other co-workers. In fact, RNs often consult with colleagues on how to best care for a patient. It’s important to get your message across clearly and in a timely manner while still listening carefully to others.
Planning is a skill that develops over time, and likely a skill you honed to perfection after you had a child! It was probably easy to rush out the door on a whim or to meet friends for happy hour when you weren’t a parent, but after you had a child every trip required a little more planning.
Mom skills: You plan for long-term things, such as family vacations and graduations, and short term things like what’ll be in Emma or Ethan’s lunchbox tomorrow. Let’s also not forget about money management: Budgeting is a skill moms learn whether they like it or not while running a household, Boynton says.
Nursing duties: Taking a patient’s blood pressure, sterilizing equipment, recording patient’s vital signs and administering medications are just a few of an LPN’s tasks – and they can’t all be done at once! It’s important for nurses to prioritize, Boynton says. You’ll be tasked with caring for multiple patients at a time, so you’ll need to plan your shift accordingly each day.
If organization is an area you feel you’re lacking, don’t worry – you’ll quickly learn this needed skill as you juggle classes and family life. Imagine preparing dinner, helping with homework, doing the laundry and walking the dog – all in the midst of final exams. Without some semblance of organization, everything would quickly collapse.
Mom skills: Boynton says that organizational skills were essential when she had three children at home and then decided to go back to school to become an RN. Keeping track of your own schedule as well as your child’s is a juggling act that probably already requires plenty of Post-it notes and text messages!
Nursing duties: Given that you’ll often be asked to care for several patients at a time, being organized will be crucial in updating medical charts and distributing medication.
Training and Teaching Subordinates
These skills are listed separately in the job posting analysis, but we’ve combined them because of their similarities. In both instances you’re lending knowledge to someone and supervising them as they familiarize themselves with a new skill or technique. But you’ll obviously communicate with your child in a different way than with patients based on the knowledge you’re trying to impart.
Mom skills: You taught your child essential skills before they could even form complete sentences – crawling, walking, talking to name a few. As they grew older you continued to teach them how to tie their shoelaces and how to write their name. Maybe you even recall the fear and frustration of teaching your child how to ride a bike or drive a car.
Nursing duties: Depending on the type of nurse you become, a big part of your responsibilities could include educating patients and their families about illness and injuries. As a supervisory nurse you might help train less experienced nurses. And later in your career you may even decide to become a nurse educator.
An important part of leadership is teaching others to manage their time and stay organized.
Mom skills: Just by virtue of being a parent, you are already a leader in your child’s life. You’re probably counseling them constantly on making good choices and helping them develop their own skills, such as organization and self-discipline.
Nursing duties: You’ll need to be dependable, honest and hard-working – all of which are traits you can help impart on your colleagues. Once you’ve gained some experience you’ll likely be asked to show other nurses the ropes. Your success as a mom will help you be a great nurse and, in doing so, allow you lead others down the same path.
Now that it’s clear that you have some skills that naturally transfer over into nursing, are you intrigued? Does it make the decision to go back and earn a degree less daunting? Just know that earning your degree and becoming a nurse won’t be easy – but it will be worth it.
For Boynton, being away from her kids was a struggle. “My biggest joy was raising them,” she says.
And if you’re tired of your current circumstances and you’re looking for a career that is personally and professionally rewarding, nursing is a good option for working moms.
A nurse’s hours are often flexible and you’ll be able to work in a variety of settings, Boynton says. When her children were small, for example, Boynton worked at a nursing home because the hours and location were much more convenient for her family.
A last piece of advice from Boynton: If you’re unsure of something, ask questions. “You can’t always know or do everything. That goes for nurses and parents,” she says.
So, are there any mom skills you possess that you think might also translate into nursing skills and qualities? Are there any we missed in our list? Tell us in the comments!
*BurningGlass.com is a comprehensive database providing statistics and insights about the current labor market.