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Social and Family time- the harsh realities of being a nurse

Updated: Feb 28



Now, I love my job and I couldn't see myself doing anything else, but nobody prepares you for the sacrifices you will have to make during a career in nursing. I started my journey in nursing as a young, single lad. I never worked on the weekends and I never worked past 19:00. Life was great and I didn't have to sacrifice anything. I was free to socialise with my mates and pursue my interests in sports, music and the pub. This continued even after I first got together with my wife. I had so much freedom and I worked when I liked, as I was just an HCA doing agency work. The way I was working back then didn't make the job seem unsociable whatsoever. I was able to go on holidays with my then girlfriend (now wife) and I was free to book up festivals and gigs whenever I felt like it. Things started to change when I went full-time. I was starting a home with my wife and I needed a regular income. To put it in perspective, when we moved into our first home I went straight onto a run of night shifts, leaving my wife at home alone in a new and unfamiliar place. That didn't feel nice. These moments in life should be enjoyed and shared as a couple but due to the nature of the job, it wasn't meant to be. I think it takes a special kind of person to be in a relationship with a nurse, or anyone in the medical profession, because it will seem like your partner is at work most of the time! Thirteen hour days are normal. This means you're often out of the house before anyone else is awake and you're arriving home just as they are about to go to bed (if already not passed out before you get home). We always have to miss out on important occasions and our partners may well have to attend events by themselves. This isn't great. Sometimes you just want your partner by your side at events, not to spend all night answering questions about where they are. I know my wife hates the unsociable hours of my job. I'm lucky that she is a very tough cookie and isn't the type of person that needs their hand held. This doesn't make up for all the lost evenings or weekends though. Nobody prepares you for this. It takes a strong person to do our job. Many patients don't even think about our lives outside of work. We work late to help your loved ones whilst neglecting and missing our own. Now that I have kids, leaving for work has gotten even harder. The looks I get from my kids when I'm leaving for a shift is heart-breaking at times. To be honest, my son is amazing; he knows I go to work to help people and he sometimes gives me toys or teddies to keep me company and 'help' me at work. I take pictures of said toys and teddies 'helping' me around the ward and send them to my wife so that he can see them. It's become a little game that we share with each other. It helps him when he is missing me and, to be honest, it also works the other way around as well. My daughter, on the other hand, doesn't understand it yet. She clings onto me or tries to get ready to leave the house herself, wanting to come with me. My wife often has to pick her up so that I can leave as fast as possible before she grabs the door to stop me from closing it. It's these moments that pull at your heart strings, knowing you are not going to see them for the whole day or night. It's hard to get the balance between work and home life right. This is something that most nurses would agree on. It's no easy task and I've been trying for years to overcome this. When my firstborn arrived, I worked only nights shifts for around five or six years. My wife worked only day shifts, so that one of us was available for him at all times. This was really tough. I never slept very well and when he started going to nursery I was often late picking him up. We ended up booking him in for longer hours because it worked out cheaper than the nursery constantly fining me for being late! This hectic schedule soon changed again when I went back to university. I had to work in the daytimes too, as part of the course, which affected our whole dynamic in the house. We often had to rely on our child-minder to pick him up from school. She was great with my son but this was never what I envisioned when I had children - missing out on the important moments and hearing about his day after the school pick up. Now we have our son and our daughter, things have changed again. Fortunately, I now work a set shift pattern and this has really helped with the work/life balance. I see my children every day, I help with the school-runs and I'm able to go and do more things with them. It's all about making the time. Grabbing hold of the little things and enjoying the small moments with my family. Arranging time with my kids and my wife. Most importantly, getting the balance right for your unit will help overcome these life struggles. Now, I'm not saying that this is easy or that I get it right all the time. It isn't and I don't! I'm lucky because I've got management who are very accommodating and understanding about home life. Family will always come first and the job second. Don't get me wrong, I love my job and I'm always willing to help out when needed but if my family need me then that's where I'll be. In short, I'm sure I'm not the only one in this world of nursing that struggles to always find the right balance. I'm sure I'm not the only one who misses out on social events. But I do all of this for the love of being a nurse and I try my best to get some good family time in as well. Although I'm often very tied after a run of shifts (napping on the sofa or falling asleep even before the kids' bed time), I try not to let this affect our time together. It's not impossible to get this balance right but it does take careful planning. I wouldn't change my life for the world and as I progress in my career, wherever it may take me, I will slowly try to bring that balance back into my favour.

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