November 15th, 2017
Nurse Practitioner by Day, Mama by Night (or All the Time)
Emily F. Moore, RN, MSN, CPNP-PC, CCRN
As I first ventured into motherhood, I was often asked by my sisters, friends, and colleagues how I did it. Not only how I was able to be a mom while also working full-time as a regional nurse practitioner, in a role that involves frequent travel, but how I made it look so easy. To this, I laughed. I may be able to make it work, but only when a well-organized schedule falls perfectly into place.
Having two small kids with a third on the way and a husband who not only teaches full time but is a high school football coach, I rely heavily on our full-time daycare schedule. When daycare is closed or one of my girls is sick, it’s a stark reminder of how much we need it for our lives to work.
This past week was a perfect example. The Friday prior, we had been notified that a few kids at daycare had gone home with low-grade fevers Thursday night. I silently cursed the people who sent these kids to school, although I knew that the kids had probably been fine before school that morning. But that didn’t stop me from worrying, as my daughter suffers from periodic fever syndrome. A low-grade fever lasting 24 hours in most kids can knock my daughter down for 5 days or more. Her temps often hit above 102 degrees and she is miserable.
Sure enough, the very next day my daughter woke up with a fever that quickly spiked to 102.7. And as per past fevers, it lasted a full 7 days. As if this was not bad enough, my 14-month-old woke up from her nap struggling to breathe. This necessitated a quick trip to the ER where she got steroids. This happened again about 36 hours later — back to the ER, where she got another dose of steroids and the lovely diagnosis of croup.
So, how do I make it work? Well, first, sometimes I don’t. Last week, I spent the entire week at home taking care of sick kids, doing my best to call into meetings and work as much as I could from my satellite home office. Thankfully, I only had one speaking event and a morning of clinic — and my husband was able to take that morning off, getting back to the high school just in time for practice. If, for whatever reason, we had not been able to make this arrangement, I would have had to cancel my clinic or try to find someone to cover it, which is not an easy task.
And if not for external support, we would not be able to make things work. I have a very supportive family living close by. When I know I have to travel, I clear dates with my mom, who steps in to pick up my kids from daycare, feed them, and get them ready for bed before my husband gets home. When my kids are sick and I have an important meeting I cannot miss, I ask for conference lines or arrange childcare with my father-in-law. There are also times when I run into roadblocks, and I have to put work aside and just focus on being a mama for the day. The hardest part is missing out on patient care. I think that any healthcare provider will tell you that putting patients first is natural. Having to adjust that mentality isn’t always easy.
The other answer to how I make it work is that I NEED to work. I have realized over the years that working is the key to my sanity. Don’t get me wrong — the love I have for my kids is indescribable. But I also love being a nurse, something I dreamed of since childhood. I love that I was one of the youngest bedside nurses in my new graduate cohort. I love that my Alaska Native heritage paid for a large portion of my college. I love that I was able to work full-time while attending graduate school. I love, despite the numerous obstacles faced throughout my years of education, that I succeeded. I love the worried well patients I see in clinic. And lastly, I love seeing the sick patients whom I have treated improve.
My career allows me an outlet, a way for my mind to work outside of being a mama. This allows me to be a better mama and truly appreciate both my career and my family. So when asked how I make both my career and motherhood work, I smile (after I finish laughing) and say, “family support and perseverance.”
I’d love to hear from other parents: How do you make it work?
Thank you for sharing your lovely story. I would like to share mine in hopes that the reader connect with my story. I wish I had the luxury of going to medical school while working full time. However, the path to becoming a physician means sacrifice, rigor, dedication and working like you have never worked before. I enjoyed your anecdote about your sick child! Mothers always worry. I am a mother of not one but two special needs children. So I understand your perspective on maintaining balance and the need for family support. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for journals to also feature physicians who are special needs mothers like myself! I am humbled at the fact I am the face of the TRUE working woman! I am the poster child of hard working physicians with grit who pride themselves on medical and residency training being in a class like no other! Female physicians are in a class like no other. I am blessed and humbled to be in that category.
You ask “How do you make itwork?” . It begins by having an honest conversation with yourself about what one can and cannot do and what one defines themselves as. We live in a world where we all feel replaceable…even as physicians. Yet we know deep down that our training, expertise and ability far far exceeds those who wish to steal our identity. In the same way, determining ones own truths about themselves are at the core of happiness and balance. Thank you for sharing your story. It has reminded me that I am truly blessed to be in a unique profession like no other. Be well!
Thank you so much to your service to your patients! And the fact that you are a mom of two special needs children makes me bow down – that’s hard work! Your patients are lucky to have you and your kids are blessed to have a mom who cares about the health of the entire community. Just wanted to give you a virtual high five!
Thank you for sharing. Blessings for your dedication. I teach med students and know of none who work while going to school. It literally takes every waking moment to attend class and study to digest the amount of material presented. .
Thank you for sharing your story! When my daughter (whom I guess in some ways is special needs- she has cystic fibrosis) got bitten by a dog while at a family friend’s house- I was unable to leave my post as the consulting neurologist at a hospital. I “made it work” by having my daughter brought TO the emergency department at the hospital where I was working. I “made it work” by listening to my cell phone (I use this as my pager) go crazy while holding my wailing daughter down as the ED physician put in stitches.
Every morning my family “makes it work” by plopping my (now nearly 3 year old) daughter down in front of cartoons, wearing her chest PT vest, as we all rush around getting ready.
I would love to hear other stories!
Congratulations and best wishes
Emily – thank you for writing this lovey piece! I am a great proponent of sharing stories and I consider myself an expert in this “Working Mom” world as the founder of Physician Moms Group (the largest physician community on Facebook made up of thousands of hard working mothers). You are completely right that the balance and demand of being a working mother is difficult. As a physician mother I not only take the primary care taker role for my children, trying to balance household affairs and activities, see my patients in the ER while teaching medical students and residents as well as overseeing and being responsible for my Physician Assistants and the NPs. The pressure in the Physician world is insane as we work in a world of litigation in which we are held accountable for mistakes (or perceived mistakes) not even made by us personally! Then the pressures of other health care professionals not being supportive of physicians makes for such a horrible relationship in which patients take advantage of. All of this plus the $250k in average student loan debt makes many of us HAVE to work. So i think asking the “why” is important but I wish my situation was as straight forward as yours.
Our stories are similar but the stark difference is that being with my children when they are sick or have vacation days from school is the easiest part! My kids are ages 4, 3 and 3 (yes, twins)….but I’ll take that pressure and tantrums any day over the unrealistic expectations of administrations and the bashing by fellow health care professionals and patients. I find that the fact that we work in similar spaces and have completely different outlooks is interesting. I love medicine and I love patient care so much – but the rest of the baggage that goes along with it is honestly horrifying. Especially in a world that now anyone can earn the title of “doctor“ but not have the same training or responsibility.
Thank you for sharing your story – I hope it will continue others to do so! All of our stories are intersected in some way or another and only by understanding each other can the community of medicine improve itself.
** This is a comment on my personal outlook and life and does not generalize the feelings and sentiments of every physician mother**
Well said and ditto.
Congrats to all working moms, specially to the IMGs, studying medicine, working long hours and home balance it’s an amazing effort only we can understand, I feel very proud of all my PMG sisters.
Brains, heart and muscle…
Female physicians have a voice – a story – to share. Listen and learn and let it guide the way for future generations of female physicians and may they be blessed to have a family, and the support of their physician family, as well.
Alissa Hersh MD
Mother of children age 14, 11, 7 and 6
Thank you for sharing your story. You asked how others have made it work. Well honestly, as a physician, to be frank I made it work by delaying starting a family until after my 7 years of medical education! Many women physicians have children while working the 80+ hour weeks required during medical residency but honestly I just can’t imagine it. Hats off to them!
Thank you to all the mothers that have shared their stories. I admire each and every one of you as well as those who have not shared their experiences. You are all amazing in how you have “made it work.”
While all our stories are different, I think every working mother can relate in some way.