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How to wreck your social life: Become a nurse

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I love my job. I love my schedule. I love how I can take a week off work without taking any “time” off work. I love the people that I work with. But one downfall of having a three day work week is losing out on your workplace social scene.

When people move to a new city, especially without a network of friends already set, your new friends (in most instances) become your coworkers. In the world of nursing where we work less than half the days in any given week, and the normal business hours are not 9-5, but instead a 24-hour window, it is very likely to not see some of your coworkers for weeks at a time. And when you do work the same shift with your friends, by the time you get off and get home it is usually after 8pm, too late for energy to go out to dinner and socialize.

This fact doesn’t bode well for bonding, or for coordinating spend time together outside of work.

I feel so fortunate to work with the nurses that I work with, and I feel as though after working there for four years I know many of them very well. But I had a revelation the other day on two different accounts. One of my coworkers’ husbands stopped by on a weekend shift to bring his wife lunch. And with lunch he brought their kids, two daughters, age four and six. The hard-working, focused nurse turned into this carefree, gentle mother full of pride right before my eyes. I loved seeing her in her “mom” element as she brought her daughters around to meet everyone and introduced us as her friends. It definitely goes to show that there are work faces and there are play faces, and when you don’t see people outside of work, it is hard to see that play face.

The other revelation occurred when I compared my schedule with a dear work friend of mine. For three full weeks in a row, we worked completely opposite days. One week she worked the beginning of the week, me the end. The next week we fortunately worked the same days but we were one opposite shifts (I was on days, she was on nights). And the third week, our schedule overlapped one day (yay!) and the only coinciding days off we had in the week were filled with appointments and conflicting schedules that didn’t allow for us to hang out. That being said, this is a good friend of mine who lives ten minutes from my house whom I have only seen once in three weeks, that being at work.

So, how can you be a nurse AND have a life?

1. Plan ahead. As soon as the new schedule comes out, sit down with that friend you want to see and put a couple of dates on the calendar. Don’t pencil them in, write in pen, that way you will plan the rest of your day around seeing your friend.

2. Suck it up. Some nights after a long day when all I really want to do is go home and go to bed, I end up thoroughly enjoying myself when I force my tired legs to the bar for just one drink. It lifts my spirits and gets me thinking about something other than how busy my day was, and I get to see my friends at the same time.

3. Get social at work. Plan a baby shower, a wedding shower, whatever it may be during work hours. Even if you can only get away for 30 minutes to enjoy each other’s company, that is 30 minutes that you will spend learning about each other that you may not have spent otherwise. And invite those not working to the event. That will build camaraderie amongst the nursing staff.

What do you do to have a social life as a nurse?

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Nicole Lehr

Nicole Lehr is a pediatric nurse. She can be described in three adjectives: content, thankful and fortunate. All credit for the aforementioned description can be given to the love she has for her profession as an RN. She graduated from University of Florida with her Bachelor’s in Nursing and moved to Atlanta to work at the Cardiac Stepdown Unit at Children’s — her dream job.

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