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 help improve your employment prospects and earn more money.
In fact, if you are considering earning a degree, why not choose an area in which you already have some skill: caring for others. It may not have occurred to you until now, but as a mom you’ve likely mastered things like monitoring fevers and bandaging skinned knees. Point being, many mom skills can translate into key nursing qualities.
6 Nursing qualities you didn’t know you already have
We used real-time job analysis software to analyze more than 1.8 million registered nurse (RN) and licensed practical nurse (LPN) jobs posted over the past year.* The data helped us identify the top six nursing qualities and skills employers are seeking—and not surprisingly, most moms are already experts in these areas! Here’s how.
Communication is more than just talking – it’s also listening and recognizing non-verbal cues. You do all of these things daily. And, as a potential nurse, this experience could lead to extra insights on your shift.
“My experiences as a mom impacted me as a nurse,” says Nursing Instructor and Vaccinate California member Joan Edelstein. When Edelstein encountered new parents or nurses working with new parents, she had a few extra pointers to add. “I would talk about things to expect that weren’t usually in the curriculum, like sleep deprivation and frustration and impatience.”
Edelstein’s experiences with her daughter enabled her to empathize deeply with parents. “I was able to validate the feelings parents had when their children were ill because of my own experience.”
Mom skills: As a mom, your communication skills are put to use constantly. 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.
Nursing needs: Responsibilities include communicating daily with patients and their families, doctors, fellow nurses and other co-workers. It is important to be a strong communicator in situations where patients or family members are upset and scared. Additionally, RNs often consult with colleagues on how to best care for a patient.
Planning is a skill many moms master over time. It was easier to rush out the door on a whim or meet friends for happy hour when you weren’t a parent. But after you have a child, even the simplest trips require a little more planning.
Mom skills: You plan for both the long and short-term, from family vacations and graduations to what’ll be in the lunchbox tomorrow. Let’s also not forget about financial planning: Budgeting is a skill moms learn whether they like it or not while running a household.
Nursing needs: Nurses need to plan in order to prioritize. 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. Nurses might also be responsible for making a plan for their patients to follow upon release from the facility, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
3. Teamwork and collaboration
The term ‘teamwork’ might make you picture your 5th grade soccer team, but think a little wider. Your family is a team and as one of its coaches you play a key role in making sure everyone in your household works together to accomplish goals, knows when to speak up, and when to step back.
“It's a classic parenting skill--you learn to choose your battles,” says Trish Ringley, RN and owner of Every Tiny Thing.
Mom skills: “Parenting forces you to take a moment and decide which fights are worth fighting,” Ringley says. “Whether it's a toddler who wants to wear a wild, mismatched outfit or eat the same thing every meal for days in a row.” You’ve learned to work with your youngster to evade disaster and reach an acceptable outcome for both of you.
Nursing needs: Most nurses work in teams (or units) made up of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants and unit secretaries. Knowing how to compromise, communicate and stand your ground when necessary can make you a strong team member. “The struggles at work (staffing issues, difficult patients and multitasking) are easier to manage because I’ve practiced letting go of the little stuff,” Ringley says.
4. Supervisory skills
You have both eyes open and maybe some extra eyes in the back of your head. Moms definitely know more about supervising than the average person, and they utilize that skill on a constant basis to keep their kids out of harm’s way. Who knew there were so many things a curious child could pull out of kitchen cabinets or off of the ground at the park?
Mom skills: When little kiddos start to crawl, mom’s supervisory skills kick into high-gear. What was once a sleeping infant you loved to check on, suddenly becomes a teetering investigator of every steep-staircase and sharp-edged end table around.
Nursing needs: Supervising and monitoring are primary tasks for nurses. They need to keep an eye on patients for side effects to treatment, monitor, record, and report symptoms or changes in patients' conditions and ensure the environment is kept sterilized and clear of hazards.
5. Computer skills
Knowing your way around a computer is now a way of life for modern busy moms. As our society becomes increasingly dependent on electronic systems and convenience, mom’s must navigate the multitude of phones, tablets, and computers they encounter everyday.
Mom skills: Maybe you filled out some online forms for preschool enrollment, emailed a teacher, or signed your child up for a community swimming class. Maybe you use social media to keep family members in the loop about your little one’s first steps or first day of school. Little did you know, you might also be mastering an important nursing quality.
Nursing needs: Nurses record a lot of information every day. Patient medical records, vital signs and monitoring reports, symptoms, side effects to medicine…the list is long, and the days of jotting that sensitive and high-priority information into a spiral notebook are long gone.
6. Critical thinking
Critical thinking means using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative conclusions or approaches to problems. This often means making good decisions in tough spots when it’s hard to keep a level head.
For example, Edelstein knew about the importance of vaccinations when she took her daughter to get immunized, but felt anxious when her daughter had a negative reaction to the first round. Edelstein considered delaying the shots, but remembered working with children who had died in an outbreak of meningococcal meningitis: a vaccine-preventable disease. She went forward with immunization.
“When I speak with vaccine hesitant parents, I use my own example from when my daughter was an infant. I know those parents feel safe enough to continue the conversation with me.”
Mom skills: You have to make tough calls all the time. Choices about healthcare, schooling and nutrition can come with lots of scary what ifs. But you’ve had to power through that to make the wisest decision for your family.
Nursing needs : Nurses have to stay on their A-game mentally to catch warning signs in their patients, and set up plans for patients’ care (or contribute to existing plans), according to the BLS. They also help perform diagnostic tests and analyze the results.
A career in empathy
“Before I had children, I was a caring and thoughtful nurse,” Ringley says. Childen and parents came under her care constantly. “But sharing the common understanding of what it means to love someone as only a mother can, means that I can relate much better, I can anticipate what they need much better, and I can offer care at a level of compassion that simply didn't exist before I was a mother.”
Nurses get the chance to impact the world like few professions can. Stories abound of amazing nurses who changed their patients’ lives. As a mom, you have valuable experience to bring to the table.
Does this make the possibility of earning a degree less daunting? There are many different kinds of nurses out there—some who got to where they are in as little as a year, and some who chose many years of education and specialization. Thankfully, many of the programs that lead to careers in nursing offer the flexibility hard working mom’s need.
See some of the options on the table at: Nursing Credentials 101: From LPN & LVN to BSN & DNP. You might find the career path you didn’t even know you were perfect for.
*Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 1,880,752 registered nurse and licensed practical nurse job postings, Oct. 01, 2015 – Sep. 30, 2016.)
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in March 2013. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2016.