Woman holding daughter.

Balancing Family and Nursing School: 24/7

We all know that the ETP program is an all-consuming, intensely rewarding, life-changing, crazy, crazy-busy year.  In that respect, it is much like parenting two small children except you get a diploma at the end and it actually does end, unlike parenting-which never ends and has no spring break.

Starting the ETP program with an 18-month old and an almost five year old at home was not a simple decision for me. It involved a huge transition from being at home full-time to mostly away.  Obviously, everyone’s situation is a bit different, but I do know that the few of us who do take on this venture while caring for small children firmly believe that the benefits of a dynamic and interesting program and the subsequent entry into nursing – (the best profession ever)  far outweigh the sacrifices we might make.  So yes, an accelerated nursing program like ETP is quite the experience, and yes, sacrifices will be made. When I speak of sacrifices, mostly I mean TIME.

No one is more used to a lack of time to do ANYTHING than parents of little kids.  Well, in ETP you will also lack time to do ANYTHING so that won’t change. In fact, you will adapt and become so efficient at finding time you will probably break down your calendar into 15-minute increments because 15 minutes is a lot of time in ETP.  The multitasking skills you have been honing at home – getting two toddlers dressed and fed and re-dressed because their dress got covered with food - will be put to excellent use in ETP.  You will also learn that 4 am is a great time to study, when everyone is asleep and no one wants anything and that weekends are over-rated. You will lack time and you will be tired, but by preparing and managing your expectations you will make it through.

So how do you “prepare” for ETP? Well, first off, I don’t advise springing your new schedule on your family at the last minute.  In my case, we made a family decision and I made sure everyone was aware of the changes that lay ahead.  As I knew that ETP would involve a lot of changes for my family, it was important to manage variables like housing, childcare and activities, and get everyone as stable and comfortable in their routines as possible before the program started.  If it “takes a village” to raise a child, then “it takes a village” to get a young family through ETP.  Help from friends and family was vital when my school responsibilities took me away from recitals, loose teeth and basic family logistics.  The transition was enormous for everyone, but tapping into a pre-constructed support system was really the key to navigating the ever-fluctuating waters of ETP.

Now for the hard part (at least for me) – Managing expectations. Ugh, this sounds extremely dull and adult-like. In my experience, during ETP expect a lot of work.  This program is a full immersion into nursing for a whole year and is thereby extremely unique and exciting. But for parents and non-parents alike, it leaves little time for other activities. For me, managing expectations  was truly indispensable.  I internalized early on (like the first week of summer courses), that my new ETP life would consist of school, FAMILY and….yeah.. that is pretty much it and more than ENOUGH.  I quickly abandoned ideas of training for a marathon or learning to knit or re-reading Game of Thrones. While my non-class hours left me some time to exercise, see an occasional friend, eat dinner with my family each night, read stories to the little one, the older one and to “Bidebum” (the older one’s doll), I had to let go of new hobbies and a full social calendar.  If you are a parent, this elimination of extraneous activities and commitments might seem familiar to you, you probably made similar adjustments when you had a new baby or a baby that wouldn’t sleep. Adjustments, tiredness, extreme busy-ness= parenting = ETP.

Sacrifice, preparation, expectation management and a pervasive time crunch. I fear I have painted a less than delightful picture for the parent managing life and school in ETP.  I am not going to say it wasn’t hard at times, but it is do-able, it can be fun and you will learn a lot.  As I rapidly approach integration next week, (Yeah!) I can tell you that it was well worth the time.  My 18-month old is now a chatty 2.5 year-old. My pre-schooler is now a soon- to-be kindergarten grad.  My husband and partner has become old-hat at things only Mommy used to do. And as for me, well I think in few short weeks (NCLEX willing), I will be a nurse! As is true for any achievement in life, goals are not met all on our own, thank you Andrew, Corina, Hudson and “Bidebum” for being awesome and joining me on this adventure.

- Rafaela de la Huerta, ETP class of 2014