Going Back to Work as a Nurse Practitioner After Baby

In my last post, I mentioned that my friends have babies on the brain these days. From leak-proof diapers and potty training to the best super soft onesies, recent girls' nights out have revolved around talking tots. While I don't yet have kids of my own, planning for them one day makes me wonder what changes I will need to make when it comes to my career.

Thankfully, my friend Corrie, an accomplished NP, recently added 'mom' to her resume. Corrie is successfully managing a nurse practitioner career and being an amazing mother to her six month old daughter. Today, she has graciously agreed to answer some of my pressing questions about what life looks like as a nurse practitioner after baby.

Are there any benefits to being a working mom?

I am so glad I'm staying in the game as a nurse practitioner and keeping my skills up. Returning to work during the baby phase is definitely hard but I know that when my kids are older and more self sufficient I will want to have something for myself. So, working now keeps me current in my practice. Like Sheryl Sandberg talks about in Lean In, if you leave the workforce completely, reentry is difficult. If I quit being a nurse practitioner completely, it would be harder than being a new grad to find a job when I did want to go back to work.

Take advantage of the flexibility of the nurse practitioner career. As NPs we have the unique opportunity to be employed part-time or PRN which can be a great way to keep your options open for the future. Even if you don't want a lot of focus on your career right after having a baby, you may in 5 to 10 years, so make choices to keep your options open.

Also, having a supportive spouse has been really important for me as a working mom. The fact that I work has given my husband the opportunity to become a better father. He knows how to make baby food and pick out an outfit. It certainly isn't perfect, our daughter's clothes might not match on occasion or she may eat sweet potatoes three meals in a row, but we both know how to do hands-on parenting.

What is the most challenging part of being a mom while managing a nurse practitioner career?

Finding a balance between working and being a mom is hard. Right now, I am in the clinic 40 hours a week for benefits reasons which is really more than I ideally would like to work. There are days when I miss my daughter so much, and then there's also the mommy guilt of leaving during the day while someone else watches my child.

At the end of the day, you have to do what's right for you and your family. For some people, they see their new baby and never want to work again. I totally get that. For me, I am a better mom when I work. If I was at home every day all day I might go bonkers! Having work makes the time I do have with my little girl special.

Any advice on managing breastfeeding a new baby and work?

Let's be honest. Breastfeeding at work is super awkward. Legally, your employer has to provide you a place with a locked door that is not a bathroom to breastfeed or pump. They are also required to provide time for breastfeeding but do not have to pay you for this time. For example, I take three, 15 minute unpaid breaks throughout the day to pump.

The best advice I can give is to get your plan for pumping in place before going back to work. Decide where you are going to pump. Is there are fridge at work where you can store breast milk? Or, do you need to bring a cooler? Is there a sink at work where you can wash your pump? If not, there are some good products for cleaning your pump on the go. Don't wait until the day you go back to work to try your pump for the first time. You need to get comfortable using it at home first. Also, let your baby practice feeding from a bottle before you go back to work. Make sure he/she will take a bottle from whoever will be watching him/her while you are away.

As far as purchasing a pump to use while you are working, I recommend a double electric breast pump. With healthcare reform, insurance companies are now required to pay for breast pumps. They may only pay for certain brands and you might have to jump through a couple hoops, but this saves you a few hundred dollars. For example, I originally wanted a Medela pump but my insurance company would only pay for a Lactina. I decided to try it since it would be covered and it has worked out just fine. Keep in mind you may need a document from the hospital showing that your baby was actually born for insurance to cover the cost. You may also need to purchase some extra pump parts or additional bottles for pumping at work.

Let's talk childcare. How and when do you recommend getting a childcare plan in place?

I began looking for childcare options a few months before the baby was due. I started the process by asking other moms at my workplace, and other moms in general, what they were doing with their kids while at work. Asking coworkers about childcare options is most helpful because they tend to have similar work schedules to yours and know what works best given your specific job.

I did a lot of research about local childcare options and narrowed them down to three daycare centers. Daycare seemed like the simplest choice because you pay a deposit and your child starts attending on a certain day. It was straightforward. Also, the daycare center is always open so you don't have to worry as much about scheduling. At first, this seemed like the best option for us. Then, once the baby was born I wasn't comfortable with the daycare situation I had chosen so we decided to have a nanny come to the house to care for the baby. I like having the peace of mind that my child is cared for in our own home. If you choose to go with a nanny, make sure you find someone who is reliable and a good personality fit for your family.

Fortunately, once your baby is born, you still have a few weeks to nail down childcare. When you do have your baby, get serious about making your final choice. Whichever option you choose, make sure to do a few test days before returning to work. For example, I had our nanny come over for a few hours once, then a whole day before I actually went back to work. This way, we were both able to establish a routine before the real thing.

Thanks to Corrie for her advice on life as a nurse practitioner and new mom! Do any other moms out there have advice on returning to work after baby?

 

In case you missed it, check out Planning to Have a Baby as a Nurse Practitioner for answers to your pregnancy-related questions and concerns.

 

Comments

Who takes care of the babies all day while mom is being a nurse practitioner? One requirement of an amazing mom is the ability to be present for the majority of the day with her kids. Don't kid yourself, in order to be amazing at something you actually have to put the blood sweat hours and tears into it. Don't create this illusion like you can "have it all". Something will get sacrificed. Just remember your kids aren't loved all day in a daycare. Nothing can replace a mom's love.

JK

Hi Sam,

What about looking for a job in a retail clinic? These jobs tend to be pretty flexible and since they only treat a limited number of medical problems can be less overwhelming than working in a traditional family practice setting. You could even consider working PRN, although I'm not sure if PRN opportunities would be available to new grads. 

Erin Tolbert

I graduated from my FNP program in May . We had our first son in March (whew, that was tricky) To top it off, my husband just started his residency training as an OB/Gyn. I'm having a hard time motivating myself to even study for my certification boards much less looking for a job with a 5-month old baby at home. Do you have any advice for a new mommy/new grad? I'd like to work 2 days a week...we have benefits through my husband's residency program. TIA!!!

Sam

Thank you so much for sharing. I am in my last year of my ANP program and will probably starting thinking about getting pregnant a year or so after I've started practicing as an NP. Nice to hear others' stories and advice!

Meredith