Being a nurse: what it’s like

This transition from being an at-home mom for 17 years to working two days a week has been mostly good, I think.  But it is interesting how back and forth my emotions can be about my job, depending on where I am in my work week.   Just for fun, I decided to document my thoughts throughout a normal work week.  (This post ended up SO long that I think I’ll break it up into 2 or 3.  Feel free to skip them all if you’re not interested in life as a nurse.  🙂 )

My ‘week’ varies wildly in length.  Often I work two days in a row and then have 4-5 days off before my next ‘week’ begins.  But since I work every third weekend, sometimes I’ll only have a day or two off between sets of days, and other times I may go 12 days without working.

At the start of a long stretch of days off 

Me:  “I love my job.  Who’d have thought that I could work and make good money and still have so much time at home?  This is awesome.”   Kids and hubby:  “When do you work next?  Not for a week? Awesome!”

3 days before a chunk of work days (which are actually nights)

I start getting obsessive about getting to bed on time.  “Gotta sleep.  I only have three (two…one)  more night(s) to sleep before I work.”  Also:  “Gotta get stocked up on groceries so my people have food while I am working/sleeping.” Also:  “Gotta get things done because after this I’ll be in zombie mode sleeping all day for two days.”

When I’m scheduled to work that night

Me: “I better be chill today, save my energy, just in case it is crazy at work tonight.”  The kids and hubby: “You work tonight? That stinks…”  (Mournful puppy eyes, which of course assails me with ALL the guilt.  Should I really be doing this?)

Getting ready to go to work

Me:  Telling myself positive things

My family: looking glum but resigned.


On the way to work

I start remembering all the things I love about work:  the babies, the mommas who need help, the super awesome coworkers on night shift. I start thinking about where I will be assigned this evening, and can’t decide if I’d rather work on the labor side  (the excitement!  the drama! the one on one care)  or on the postpartum side (the steady scurrying, the teaching, the task-juggling, the fussing over the mommas.)  Ah well, it’s up to the charge nurse anyway.  I’ll happily take whichever assignment I get.

Almost always on my way in, I crank up the music and usually there’s some inspirational song along the lines of being salt and light, making a difference in the world.  And maybe it’s utterly corny but my heart swells, because, wow, I want to make a difference for the moms I serve.  I want to be a blessing. By the time I get to work, I’m ready to go.  I hit the elevator with a smile, and am happy to greet all the truly awesome people who are my coworkers.

Night shift, 7-10PM

When it’s slow:  “Ohmygoodness, it’s only 9 PM?  How can that be?”  But as a nurse you (superstitiously) never wanna wish for it to be busier, because pretty soon then you’re faced with two moms trying to race each other to deliver first, another who’s threatening to need a c-section, and another whose family has the labor room so packed that you can barely walk through without tripping over 3 or 4 people–  the kind of night where you can’t keep up no matter how fast you scurry and you find yourself charting til 8:30 the next morning.  So no.  When it is (sh) quiet, you don’t wish for more.

When it’s comfortably busy, I scurry around contentedly doing my thing.  It is a nice feeling of contented usefulness. I love my job: interacting with the moms, helping with breastfeeding, encouraging them in their learning to be moms, admiring their babies, helping the dads find their place in supporting the moms…I just really enjoy it all.  Whether I’m helping a well-educated mom who already knows a lot about mothering, or encouraging a 17 year old taking her very first steps into motherhood, I try to meet the mom where she’s at, affirm her ability and her good instincts, and just help her a little way down the path.

When it’s crazy, I still try to fit in as much nurturing as I can, but it is harder and I don’t have time to think about whether I like my job or not.  I just work as fast as I can, while trying not to look rushed as I care for each mom.

Night shift, 10PM-2AM

When it’s slow: I’m taking advantage of the pace, fussing over my patients, charting well, looking for ways to do a little extra, maybe even getting some assigned e-learning done on the computer.  Staying busy at this stage of the game feels productive and isn’t too hard yet, because the night is still young.

When it’s busy: Ohmygoodness, hustle, hustle, and grab a yogurt when I have a minute because it’s not looking like lunch is happening tonight.  And please, please don’t let anything really hard happen because, eek, if it’s something I’ve never faced before, I won’t know what to do.

Honestly, that fear of the unknown is always in the back of my mind.  In my previous life as a nurse, I worked in a birthing center where most of the patients were very healthy.  That’s not always the case here.  After working 10 months, I’ve gotten to the point where probably 4 out of 5 shifts I feel capable and prepared to take care of my patients well.  But that 5th shift, when my patient’s blood pressure is too high or her baby is looking distressed, or somebody needs a blood transfusion, I am incredibly glad to have super-knowledgeable coworkers to walk alongside me, allowing me to continue to provide good safe care using the wise ones around me as backup.

The night shift nurses at my hospital are THE best at being that extra set of hands and sharing their expertise and wisdom in supportive and encouraging ways.  And that true, gracious, kind teamwork turns even a hugely stressful shift into something where there’s lots to be thankful for.

Being a nurse


My coworkers are true friends to each other– trading shifts to help each other out, sharing hand-me-downs and making handmade gifts for each others’ babies, even hanging out together after work hours.  I so much enjoy the group of talented, wise and kind women who are my coworkers.


  1. Oh Goodness! I no longer work 12 hour night shifts, but man!…..I could have written every single word of that. You are not alone!

  2. Thanks for sharing! Very interesting. I’ve been on the patient side seven times, so I’m always curious to know what it’s like on the nurse-side. 🙂

  3. I absolutely loved reading this. I am a mama of 5, ranging from 9th grade to almost 3. I have a degree in elementary ed, but ever since my 4th child was born I have wanted to be a labor/delivery/postpartum nurse. It’s just so hard to decide if I want to go back to school when I am in the midst of high school sports and it seems like life is only going to get busier! And do I really want to be spending the money when college is only three years away…and what would I do with my little guy…so hard. But all that to say, I love hearing all the details!

  4. I’m glad I got to stay home with my kids and really very thankful that I also got to use my other gifts in my part-time job.
    I’m thankful for the working moms who have used their gifts to bless me and my family whether they were doctors , teachers or a variety of other professions. I trust God covered their families while they were serving in the world. I trust their children saw God be faithful to them while their mom was using her other gifts.
    Here’s to no guilt!!! (I don’t think guilt is from God , so no need to entertain it. I understand it takes a while to get used to a new role. Imo, you’re allowing your family to see you as a good steward of your gifts. )

  5. That was great to read. Nursing fascinates me. Don’t feel bad when you go to work. Feel happy that they miss you. I went back to work three years ago as a teacher. My kids are in elementary school, and it can be very demanding/ overwhelming. However, it is good for kids to see what parents can do. Like one of the other responses I am interested in nursing school, but I don’t see how I could manage that at this point in my life. Your job sounds really interesting, and the people you work with sound great. Our nurses during labor and delivery were great.

  6. I really enjoyed reading this! I love all things about pregnancy, labor and delivery! ~~Pam

  7. Thanks– I am a wife/mom/12 hr. night shift nurse as well. It’s such a fantastic way to be a mom and support a family, but the guilt can be a killer too.

  8. Loved this! I was a cardiology/medical nurse until 2 years ago (staying at home with my littles now) and I could hear myself in your thoughts! (except my patients were usually elderly with medical problems, or middle aged with chest pain/heart attack)
    I’d like to go back someday, but we’re planning to homeschool, and my oldest is almost 4…so, it will be a while. Fun to hear how you were able to go back into nursing after extended time away

  9. I loved this peek into your world and am looking forward to hearing more about this season of your life!

  10. i enjoyed this, too! The picture of the nurse and baby… oh, so precious. I love how you love to care for the mommas and help them as they transition to holding their baby on the outside. We’ve been blessed w/7 children, and I can vouch that a good nurse makes a huge difference!!! Thank you for this post.

  11. This is my life! I’ve been a postpartum, 12hr shift, adoptive, homeschooling mom to 4 kids ages 9-16 for 20 years! I’ve always worked. Sometimes happily, sometimes begrudgingly. I go through the same emotions before, during and after my shifts. I love my job and my mamas and babies. I love my family back home. I juggle the world. That’s what mothers (& nurses) do!

  12. I really loved some of the insights you shared here, Mary. Gives me new empathy for my nursing friends! But I also would love to gently suggest that you consider whether there’s a more sensitive word than “schizophrenic” to use in your opening paragraph.

    • Thanks. It is naive of me, but I hadn’t thought how the word use might feel to someone who struggles with true schizophrenia.


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