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'Should I put my nurse training before my family?'

  • Comments (27)

Quite a few times over the past two years my role as a mother has conflicted with my role as a student nurse. Usually one role has been sacrificed for the other and sometimes I have regretted my choices as I realise I made the wrong decision. I’m starting to get better at resolving my conflicts, or perhaps I’m just getting better at juggling my dual roles. Currently, I am in a quandary concerning a decision that affects my family and my nurse training. 

I am currently choosing my electives. This means that I can ‘elect’ to spend 12 weeks on placements that are of particular interest to me. My electives start in September and I have chosen to divide my elective into three blocks of four weeks each. My little girl also starts school in September. Now here is where my dilemma’s start.  My elective’s start the same day that my little girl starts school.  

I’m hoping my first elective placement will let me work my first shift around her first day at school.

I’ve had one elective placement confirmed, but I’m struggling to decide where to spend the other 8 weeks. My partner and I will also have to juggle my shifts and his job around our daughter’s school hours.

I would miss putting my children to bed; I would miss my daughter as she develops and grows and discovers what life at primary school is like.

Emergency care is where I hope to work when I qualify, so 4 weeks in Accident and Emergency would be ideal, 4 weeks at a walk in centre would also provide invaluable experience. The one placement that I am agonising over is the possibility of 4 weeks at a major trauma centre 240 miles away from my home. Commuting would not be an option so I would have to find accommodation in the area.

This would be a fantastic opportunity and I have already made enquiries concerning the possibility of a 4 week placement. My other half has said he is happy to take full responsibility for our daughter’s school drop off’s and pick ups during those four weeks should I choose to go ahead with the placement. But the one thing that holds me back and stops me committing 100% to pursuing this possibility is being away from my family. The longest I have been away from them is 3 nights when I went to Congress last year. The second night I cried as I was missing them so much. I know I could juggle my hours so I could get to spend 2 days a week at home, but I would still be away from them for 5 nights. I would miss putting my children to bed; I would miss my daughter as she develops and grows and discovers what life at primary school is like.

On the one hand, it would be a superb learning opportunity, on the other hand, the thought of being away from my children for four weeks, especially when my daughter is just starting school I find upsetting. 

I have to decide by the beginning of April. My head is telling me it would be a fantastic experience; my heart is telling me to put my family first. I’m not sure which one will win.

  • Comments (27)

Readers' comments (27)

  • Latterlife Midwife

    Katrina, you're doing a good job weighing out the pros/cons but in my opinion, it's coming through loud and clear in your writing: what I'm hearing is now is not the time for you to spend a big block of time away from your children.

    It's happened to all of us with families - in nursing, you have the ability to schedule your work hours/options around your family needs and responsibilities. That's what makes it great for us and them. Part-time hours, shifts, etc. worked so well when my kids were little.

    I'd suggest you let the 'big' placement go for the moment. It sounds like you'd be miserable, and to be honest, your kids might be, too. A month is a long time in their little lives, even if you'd be home for 2 days each week.

    Just my thoughts, which you asked for by posting above 'have your say.' Good luck with coming to a decision that's best for you!

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  • Hello Katrina
    I think your dilemma is a common one faced by many students and practitioners. First of all, you need to be really open with your tutor and explain all of the feelings you have. The trouble is you are going to come up against conflicts not only while you are training, but also when you are qualified and working as a practitioner. My advice is to reflect on the impact of being away from your children as well as the impact of giving up on a key placement/learning experience. Is there a placement that you could access nearer to home, and then undertake the placement that you are currently considering at a later date? Consider the long term benefits in terms of the experiences you will gain, how it will enhance your learning and training programme, and how the placement will help you when it comes to applying for jobs. Then weigh up the impact of living away for a while on your husband and children. Who will suffer the most for this? You, your husband or children? Before making any decisions, I would contact the placement and discuss the problems you are facing and see what help they can offer (do this in consultation with your tutor). Ask about changing your start date so you can take your daughter to school. Do you have to work five days on the trot, or can this be split, so, for example, you can work three shifts then have a day off? Four weeks will whizz by and it would be a great shame to miss out on a great opportunity. What I gather from your blog, is that the issue of leaving your family lies more with you and than your partner who appears to be very supportive. Maternal emotions are very strong! If you decide that you can't do the placement that you want to, then you have to consider this and the other conflicts/feelings you have and decide how you can continue or even having time out (last resort). Did you discuss the impact of having young children on your training when you had your selection interview? What advice were you given then? Personally, my advice is to keep on going, make the best of the situation, so you can complete your training and get the job you want. However, at the end of the day, only you truly understand the emotions you are feeling and can make this decision. Best of luck.

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  • It is not only those of you with children who hold the monopoly on sacrifice you know. We all sacrifice a lot, too much, during our Nurse training.

    But you know what I have discovered? It just isn't worth it.

    Wether that sacrifice is your children, your family, your health, your sanity, whatever, it just isn't worth it. By all means take a placement in A&E (you are lucky to get a choice, my uni chose our 'electives' for us!) or whatever if it will allow you to focus your training in the area you want, but remember you have a lifetime to hone your skills in your career. You need to have a life outside of it too, as much as the training will allow anyway.

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  • Your family should always take preference, they will almost always love and want you....

    Which is a world away from the thoughts ans feelings of Human Resources, CEO's and patients and their families once safely discharged home.

    Love your job but love your family more.

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  • Anonymous

    Katrina, I have just qualified, I dont have a family but i also have struggled with decisions regarding friends and family. I think you should be with your children, sorry but 4 weeks is a long time for them as well as you. Whilst a 'major trauma placement is attractive, you should consider the need to build up experience in all areas. I also want to work in ED but appriecate that I need experience first therefore dont be in too much of a rush. Your elctives will not make a difference to the job you are offered initially.

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  • Anonymous

    NO indeed you shouldnt!

    I agree with Mr Hodgsons comments entirely.
    I do however understand your predicament. It sounds like you have a great support network and short term it sounds great, and i think to do this whilst working as a student is an excellant opportunity. As a newly qualified R/N it can be a lonley time, role change etc, so family support and knowing you will see them at the end of a rough shift is great!
    My personal opinion would be go for it but truely only you know the right answer!

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  • Anonymous

    Family first - Always!

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  • i gave up my role as a ward manager because i believed then and i do still my children deserve the best of me their needs take precedence over mine my little girl started school in September she loves it but all her frustrations and tiredness she saves for me because i am her mum their will be people who will shot me down but there will be other learning opportunities there will never be this time again for your family

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  • Anonymous

    listen, don't be a mug
    I can hear it in your letter...you need to be with your daughter and enjoy that, trust me after nursing for 15yrs in critical care you will get much more from that.
    You sound stretched as it is and don't sound you could take much more emotional drain ?
    Don't feel your letting anyone down or yourself, be strong and chose a life where you know you can really make a difference, your family. Its nor worth the juggle

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  • Anonymous

    It could be possible to have the best of both worlds with a little negotiation, but only you can decide that. For example, have you thought of working longer shifts so that you only need to be away from home three days per week. If it would really hurt you to be away from your family then don't do it, there will be plenty of opportunity later on when the children are older and you are happier to leave them.

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