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How to go to nursing school and work full time while staying sane

Whether you are already a nurse looking to advance your training or you are working in another field and want a nursing degree to enter the healthcare world, going to nursing school while working full time is a daunting task. You will need to keep up with your job’s normal workload while finding time to do your classes. You will also need time and energy for studying. This can mean long hours and quite a bit of hard work, but the payoff will be great. The key to working while in nursing school is learning to achieve a work-life balance.

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The importance of work-life balance while in nursing school

Nursing school is rigorous and requires long hours of studying and clinical work. If you’re also working, it can be difficult to accomplish. A work-life balance is essential to protect your mental and physical health as you meet these two very intense responsibilities. If you don’t learn how to balance a normal non-school, non-work life with the demands of school and work, you will suffer burnout and extreme amounts of stress.

How does this look for the nursing student? The answer will depend on many factors, such as what your job looks like, what your family life is like and whether you are a full-time or part-time student. Still, regardless of these factors, there are some things you can do to help achieve the balance you want. 

Tips for balancing work while in nursing school

Balancing work while in nursing school is hard, but you can do it. The key is to go into the process with the right plan. From getting organized to enlisting the support of others, these tips will help you stay on task both at school and at work.

Stay organized

Managing the demands of a full-time job and a school experience is not easy. If you add family responsibilities to the mix, you will have a lot on your plate. It is doable, but you will need to stay highly organized. From managing your schedule to keeping your house calm, make organization a way of life during this time.

Prioritize your to-do list

There will be some things that simply can’t get done when you’re in nursing school and working. Be willing to set some priorities. When you look at your to-do list, determine which items are “must do” and which items are “would be nice to do,” and make choices accordingly. Make sure that the “must do” items get done, and be willing to let some other items slide during this time.

Plan ahead

Try to plan ahead for the items you know will come each week. For example, if you know you have a big exam to take, you may want to schedule yourself fewer hours at work the day before or avoid taking two back-to-back twelves if you can. If you know you have a big family event coming up, then work ahead on your schoolwork in order to leave room in the schedule for the family festivities.

Have a support system

You will need friends and family members who can surround you and offer support while you are juggling work and school. With the right support, you can get through this time. It can be a struggle doing it on your own. Babysitters, a significant other who can pick up some of the housework and even kids who are willing to forgo some of the extra family things you normally did can all be an important part of that support system.

Celebrate accomplishments

Take time to celebrate the small accomplishments you make along the way. Did you make it through a grueling shift? Reward yourself with an extra-long soak in the tub. Did you pass a difficult exam? Take the family out for a special dinner. Celebrating small steps along the way will motivate you to keep pushing for more as you achieve your goals.

Take online classes

Online classes often allow you to work at your own pace from the comfort of your home or workplace. In fact, with the exception of clinical hours, some nursing programs are fully online. Online classes make your degree more flexible and give you the freedom to work your schooling around your work schedule, so use these to your advantage.

Open communication with your employer

Your employer needs to know you’re going back to school, and why. If your degree benefits your current position, they are more likely give you some extra support. If it doesn’t benefit your current employer, keeping open communication will help them know why you may not have as much flexibility as you used to have.

Ask for help 

When you need help, ask for it. People may not realize that you need it if you don’t ask. Let your professor know if you need help on an assignment. Make use of student services teams who help you navigate student life. Let your employer know if you need some flexibility in your schedule. Let your family know if you need more help at home. You can’t get this help if you don’t ask, so be willing to vocalize your needs.

Don’t neglect mental health

Working full-time while going to school full-time is going to be mentally draining. Make mental health a priority. Consistently make time to:

  • Stay physically active.
  • Verbalize stress to a safe person.
  • Slow down with some downtime.
  • Sleep.
  • Talk to your doctor if you are really struggling and need professional help.

Remember, mental health is the foundation of physical health, so you need to prioritize it.

Know your hard work will pay off

This time frame—when you are going to school and trying to manage your career—is challenging, but it is work that will pay off. In a short time, you will have your new nursing degree, and that can open doors to leadership roles, higher pay or more interesting positions. Keep at it, and you will reap the rewards.

Start on your RN to BSN program today with CMU

If you are ready to advance your nursing career, it may be time to advance your education with an RN to BSN program from Central Michigan University. This fully online 30-hour program can be completed in one to three years, depending on your workload. Learn more about application requirements and the degree today.

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