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Superheroes in Scrubs: Nurses & Single Parents

When it comes to real world superheroes, a nurse is about as close as you can get. While they fight illness instead of evil and opt for scrubs over capes, they are still always there to swoop in and save the day. But unlike the heroes we watch on TV, nurses don’t actually have superpowers to make things easier. Nurses are humans, albeit extraordinary ones, and they are battling exhaustion and burnout to take care of the people we love. Meanwhile, they have families of their own to take care of too. 

Parenting is Also a Full-Time Job: 

Nursing is an impossible job, something they also say about being a parent. So, what happens when you put the two together? Nurse Ashley of Trenton, Ontario admits that it can be a struggle. “I’ll be honest,” Ashley says, “It is definitely not an easy task to take care of two young kids, work full time, and keep my house in one piece.” This sentiment is shared by single-mom and nurse Ella of Hamilton who says: “12-hour shifts can be difficult knowing that you are away from your children, but the need to provide for your family is a great motivator.” 

The difficulties associated with being a single-parent and a nurse have only gotten harder since the COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially true due to the severe nursing shortages in Canada. Earlier this year, CTV reported that a Toronto nurse and single-mother was stressing out regarding whether school would continue online. She worried because, as an essential worker, there wasn’t an option to miss work. This left her anxious about how she would manage childcare. You can view the full article here.

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Work-Life Balance for the Single-Parent Nurse: 

Being a nurse and a single parent isn’t easy. Between the long hours and extreme pressure that come with the job, going home to parent by yourself at the end of the day can be overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to ensure a better work-life balance.

Joy, a pediatric nurse in Ottawa emphasizes the importance of finding a nursing job that fits with your lifestyle. “There are other nursing jobs out there besides hospital shift work. Everyone needs to find something that works for them.” For example, some parents may prefer night shifts to allow more time to spend with their kids, while another nurse may want day shifts to better align with their co-parent’s schedule.

Joy (Ottawa) and Ashley (Trenton) also both talk about setting boundaries. Ashley says, “It is not your responsibility to pick up every shift or work overtime after every shift. Know your limits, know your boundaries.” Joy similarly speaks out about how you shouldn’t let employers play to your compassion and be “guilted into accepting overtime shifts or shifts beyond your set schedule if that is something you do not want to do.”

You can find more tips on how single parents can manage a nursing career here.

Nursing and Self-Care:

As a single-parent and a nurse, you spend the whole day taking care of patients just to go home and take care of your kids. But when is there time to take care of yourself?

Nurses are used to putting other people first. Ella (Hamilton) says, “Most of the time nurses put themselves second and the patients are first when you’re at work. Nothing else in your life matters and you need to focus on your patients. When you’re there, it doesn’t matter how overwhelmed, tired or overworked you feel, you need to be mentally “there” as people’s lives are at stake.” 

But while we appreciate all of the amazing things you do for us, we want you to be healthy too! To offer some support, we asked fellow nurses to share with us some tips on fostering good mental and physical health. 

  • Advocate for your needs, ask for reassignments when you are reaching a point of compassion fatigue and ask for accommodations and an extra hand when overwhelmed.
    –Anonymous, St. Johns
  • Make the best out of days off or after work. Spend time with your children doing activities you love.
    –Ella, Hamilton
  • Get time to yourself, even if it’s just 30 minutes.
    –Anonymous, St. Johns
  • Remember the good moments in your day. It’s so easy to focus on the stressful or awful moments in your job and take these emotions home with you, and you don’t want to be carrying that around with you. Take the time every day to remember a good moment you had, whether it was with a colleague or a patient, to help remember why it is you’re doing this.
    –Jon, Hamilton
  • Get enough sleep.
    –Anonymous, St. Johns
  • Take the time you need, when you need it.
    –Ashley, Trenton

We stand by what we said – nurses truly are real-world superheroes. But even Superman needs to hang up his cape every once in a while and take a breath. This International Nurses Day, reverse the roles and check on a nurse. Ask them how they are doing. How is their mental and physical health? Is there anything you can do to make their lives a little easier? No amount of words will ever be enough to show our appreciation, but together we can try. 

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