For nurses who also bear the title of “parent,” the skills acquired on the job have tremendous application outside of work and in your home — from a level of expertise and comfort when health concerns arise, to establishing healthy habits and fostering a physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy environment.
Meet five nurses who have discovered not only how nursing has shaped them as a parent, but also how travel nursing adds an important dimension to both their professional and their family lives.
Wisconsin-based travel nurse Amy Eveland specializes in step-down ICU, cardiac, and medical-surgical nursing. Though she has worked in the healthcare field for nearly three decades, she only recently came to a career in nursing. She believes her new-found passion for her work is creating an important, lasting impression on her two teenage children.
“I was searching before. I’ve found something now that I’m truly passionate about,” Amy says. “What makes the difference is that I’ve found my place in life, and my kids can see me thrive and grow in that aspect, which I think is helping them see where life has to take them ultimately.”
While Amy looks forward to eventually traveling and seeing other parts of the county, she currently seeks travel assignments close to her hometown to afford the flexibility to spend her days off at home. Amy feels her travel assignments have helped them place greater emphasis on quality time together as a family.
“Even with travelling, I am actually home more now than I was before,” Amy says. “We make the time I’m home the kind of quality time it needs to be, whereas before, we just took it for granted that I was home. I communicate with my kids more than I’ve ever communicated with my kids. I love it. I think I’m closer to my kids now than I was when they were younger.”
ICU and ER nurse Christina P. is no stranger to the hard work and dedication required to pursue a career in healthcare. She worked two jobs as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) while attending nursing school full time and raising a large family. In earning her degree and finding success in her travel nursing career, she has set a powerful example of the importance of setting and accomplishing goals.
“I think I’m able to teach my kids, and I hope I’m a good role model for them,” Christina says. “I want them to see you can do stuff if you put your mind to it and work hard. You really can do anything you want to do.”
Christina credits her emergency room experience for helping make her more patient, grateful, and aware as a parent.
“Nursing has made me more patient because I see people at their worst. When I go home to my family, I realize I actually have it really good — a supportive spouse, well-behaved children, a home. I’m more appreciative because I’ve seen so much,” Christina says. “On the other hand, it’s also made made me more aware. I can talk to my kids about the side effects of poor choices.”
Veteran OR nurse Debbie Hunt has honed her skills in the operating room for more than four decades. After 28 years in a full-time position, Debbie turned to travel nursing for the ability to travel between home and family, and ultimately, the goal of exploring other parts of the country.
When her transition to travel nursing coincided with a critical need that arose in her family, however, Debbie stepped in to help raise her teenage nephew. The flexibility of travel nursing allowed her to accept assignments and secure an apartment in her nephew’s hometown so he could complete high school, and also afforded the flexibility to take time in between assignments to travel home, visit friends, and check on her house.
“My nephew just graduated last week with honors, and now we’re working on other life skills and helping him transition to a community college to pursue welding as his career path,” Debbie says. “While I’m not in a position to pack up and leave, the ability to work someplace for 13 weeks and then take time off between contracts helps me maintain my home in Pennsylvania while still taking care of the important responsibilities that come with parenting.”
Debbie says her nursing background has equipped her with the skills and knowledge to help set healthy habits at home.
“Nursing gives me a good foundation to help direct my nephew toward healthy choices and how he needs to take care of himself,” Debbie says. “We assessed and changed what we eat, we bought a gym membership, and we swim and workout together. It’s bonding time together and it’s healthy.”
Home health nurse Linda Russell acknowledges the important relationship between her roles as a nurse and a mother, and speaks to the compassion and patience required in both.
“When I approach a patient, I always put my family in their situation and I treat them the way I would want my family to be treated — with the utmost respect, courtesy and compassion,” Linda says. “But that goes both ways — you need to come home and treat your family the same way. You may be working shift work and you may be tired, and it can be hard sometimes to balance that. But don’t give everything you have to your profession. Save some for your family and your children because they need that support, they need that love. If you don’t take the time with your kids and give them the love and support they need, they’re not going to give it to other people.”
When her two daughters were young, Linda brought her nursing knowledge to her home and sought to establish healthy practices.
“Every year, I would go to their schools and lead a hand washing class where the students could learn to wash their hands properly. I had the kids put paint on a pair of gloves and then wash their hands as they normally do, then I could show them all the places they were missing. That was a highlight every year for their classes.”
Now grown, Linda’s daughters are both pursuing careers in the healthcare field.
“I tried to teach them as they went along,” Linda says. “When my younger daughter was taking physician’s assistant classes, she knew all the answers to the questions. Her professors asked, ‘Wow! How do you know this?’ She replied, ‘I was raised by a nurse.’”
Tami Renfro, a psychiatric and ER nurse, was drawn to a career in nursing after losing her young mother to breast cancer.
“The nurses who took care of my mother were absolutely, positively amazing,” says Tami. “Other things were happening in my life where it was guiding me in the direction of medicine. My mother passed away in May of 1999 and I was in nursing school by August.”
Tami had two young children at the time, so upon graduation, she sought the flexibility of travel assignments close to home in her native Connecticut.
“There was such an abundance of assignments in Connecticut that I was able to travel close to home and extend to 12-18 month contracts,” Tami says. “I let all my managers know upfront about my custody arrangement, and every single one of them was able to work with me on my schedule. It worked out wonderfully.”
Through her work in the different areas of medicine she has practiced, Tami felt empowered to raise emotionally and mentally healthy children who are advocates for themselves. She also feels strongly about endowing children with a giving mindset.
“The ability to advocate for one’s self is a huge thing in the medical field — people need to know how to advocate for what they think is right, what they think is wrong, and to stand up for themselves,” says Tami. “I’ve also taught my children that it’s better to be a giver than a taker. I’ve taught them to be humane to other people, to stand up for others less fortunate, not to judge others, and to be grateful for what they have.”
Are you a travel nurse who is also a parent? How has your career shaped you as a parent? We’d love to hear your insights in the comments below.