Liesl is a nurse and a mother of young kids who finds rostering a vexed issue – she can feel scared to speak out to ask for a suitable roster. How do we keep work-life balance at these times in our lives?
Liesl: The issue of rostering is clearly a universal topic for discussion given our female-dominated workforce. I have been a registered nurse for 12 years. Prior to having children I didn’t really have any roster preferences. I used to request every second weekend off with my husband, other than that I worked whatever I was given.
In the seven years since I became a mother I have tried a few different jobs in order to create work-life balance. I did general practice for a short time at a significant pay cut and lost my annual leave and sick leave, however that wasn’t the job for me at the time.
I also worked as a CNE, which helped as I worked part time and could drop off and pick up my kids from daycare while my husband worked and studied. That worked for us for a couple of years. This was challenging for me in that I changed hospitals and worked outside my speciality area and was concerned about losing my clinical skills in this time.
However my passion has always been in my critical care speciality and I returned to this specialty area and remain there on a part time contract. Since my return and in a short time I have had several different people write my rosters, each of them having their own idea about what is fair and reasonable.
The thing that I find frustrating is that being available on a 24/7 roster is difficult at many stages of our lives. There are those with childcare responsibilities, those who are carers for aging parents, those who want to get involved in educating others or furthering their own education. As a profession we need to find a way to roster our staff that allows for all of us to have work-life balance no matter what our reason for it is.
Retention of skilled senior staff is vital to support safe patient care and development of junior or transitional staff.
It is not acceptable to state that people should simply work casually or work elsewhere to suit their preferences. Why should we lose our sick leave, annual leave and salary packages because we choose to become parents or because our parents need us to care for them or because we are so passionate about developing the future of nursing and teaching others?
Have we not invested enormous time and energy (and money!) studying and developing our skills in our specialist areas? Does that not make us valuable enough to be flexible?
As a young person when I dreamed of becoming a nurse I also dreamed of becoming a mother and so many people around me told me how nursing would adapt for me at different stages of life. Now I find my life needs to constantly change for nursing.
Are you able to have work-life balance as a nurse?
Previously on Nurse Uncut: