When a woman takes a career break in order to spend time raising a family, it’s often seen as an either-or choice -- a tradeoff in which she accepts professional setbacks in exchange for the personal rewards that come with staying home to be a mom.
But while many employers dismiss those years as nothing more than a detrimental gap in work experience, there’s one profession with an urgent need for workers with the exact qualities and skillsets that seasoned moms bring to the table -- Nursing.
It’s also one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country, with more than a million positions projected to open up thru the year 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Those vacancies are becoming increasingly difficult to fill -- and that’s where you returning moms come in.
Your competitive advantage
Nurses are retiring at a faster rate than new ones can replace them -- and as reported in The Atlantic: the shortage is exacerbated by the fact that new, first-career nursing school graduates often lack the experience and maturity necessary to step into the role of those retiring nurses.
There are no substitutes or shortcuts for on-the-job clinical training. But as the CEO of ACCESS Nursing Services, I’ve discovered that the transition from nursing student to nurse tends to be much less stressful -- and the learning curve much less steep -- for veterans of the mommy trenches.
That’s because being the lead parent requires many of the exact same skills and qualities as being a competent nurse: maturity and judgment, warmth and empathy, and the capacity to keep your cool while juggling lots of time-sensitive responsibilities under pressure, just to name a few. And as it happens, women are also overwhelmingly the head decision-makers in the household when it comes to healthcare, according to a study in the Center for Talent Innovation -- another leg up for moms.
All these things add up to a valuable package for employers like me -- and it’s a package that’s fairly unique to second-career moms returning from a professional break.
In other words, in today’s competitive job market, your resume gap just became your secret weapon.
What’s in it for you
Nursing is a profession that’s exceptionally well-suited for moms returning to work, offering unparalleled flexibility, mobility and job security.
There is no hour of the day or night that nurses aren’t needed; it’s one of the few professions in which opportunities are literally available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The options are almost limitless -- part-time, full-time, temporary contracts and permanent gigs are all possibilities. And if your schedule or situation changes, and one placement no longer works for you, there will always be countless others waiting.
Nursing can also fill a need that’s fairly common among mothers whose kids are becoming more independent; it’s a nurturing role, so it can help provide some of those same feel-good rewards moms may miss from their days of being full-time caregivers in the home.
But perhaps the biggest draw is simple supply and demand: Thanks to the nurse shortage and the projected growth in the field, nurses have unprecedented bargaining power to negotiate the hours, wages and type of workplace setting that they want.
In other words, you’ll call the shots.
Making it happen
Happily, there’s also great flexibility in when and how you study to become a nurse. While the best-known path may be to study as a traditional, full-time nursing student, there’s no shortage of options for completing your education in a way that fits your lifestyle.
If you want to get to work as soon as possible, consider an accelerated nursing program. There are hundreds of accelerated baccalaureate programs, allowing nursing students to complete their undergraduate requirements in as little as 12-18 months, compared to the typical four years. Similarly, you could complete an accelerated master’s degree program in as little as two to three years.
Prefer to ease into it? There are numerous alternatives for part-time study, including evening and weekend classes, as well as online courses -- all helpful options for moms who still have responsibilities in the home, or who can’t afford to attend school full time. A number of scholarships for nursing students can also help bridge that gap.
The barriers to re-entry are all falling away, while the advantages just keep piling up. The timing couldn’t be better. So I’d like to extend to you my personal invitation to take advantage of this exceptional opportunity: Moms, your second career awaits!