How to Balance Education and Your Nursing Career

As a registered nurse, you are probably no stranger to long work hours and a busy schedule. In fact, you might be wondering how you’re going to make going back to school fit into the equation. At Notre Dame College Online, we understand that prospective RN to BSN students are concerned about how to balance work and school. The good news is that it can definitely be done. There are several strategies that successful online students use that can be applied to a busy nursing professional like you. Here are some great tips and tricks on how to survive and thrive.

Get organized
This one means several different things. First of all, it’s important to set up a place in your home that is specifically dedicated to your nursing education, whether it’s a home office or a comfortable chair in the living room. This is where you should keep your computer, books and other study materials. It can be motivating to know that you have your own space that is reserved just for school. Other ways to get organized include using technology to your advantage. All of these strategies help you stay focused on your goal and keep things from falling through the cracks.

Prioritize
It’s important to identify what things are the most important to you and stick to them. This could mean taking time at the beginning of the week to list your projects, deadlines and work days into a to-do list, or scheduling out your study time so that you spend an hour reviewing notes three days a week rather than for three hours on a busy day.

This keeps you from having to do things at the last minute, and also helps you balance both your work and school responsibilities. You should also learn to say no to things that aren’t important to you. Take on tasks that you know you will be able to complete, and don’t overbook yourself. School, family and your nursing job are big responsibilities already. Now may not be the time to volunteer to run the school bake sale. Taking on too much can overwhelm you and burn you out, not to mention lower the quality of your work, both professionally and in school.

Expect the unexpected
Disruptions are going to happen, especially when you’re balancing work and school. Some weeks you’ll have plenty of time to get everything done, but other times you may have no idea where the time is going. When this happens, take a step back and reprioritize. Don’t be so reliant on your plan that a flat tire or a late assignment sends you into a tailspin. As long as you remain motivated and excited about your nursing career, no setback is too serious.

Communicate with work
When you get ready to start your RN to BSN program, make sure you tell your boss or supervisor of your plans. Not only will that open the dialogue for tuition reimbursement or future promotion, but it also sends the message that nursing is important to you and your development as a nursing professional is one of your top priorities. This will be recognized and appreciated, and your supervisor will keep you in mind for future opportunities.

Manage stress
Your education is important, but so is your sanity. Taking time to exercise, getting enough sleep and spending time with family and friends will help you stay healthy. If you let your studies take over your free time and spend the rest of your time working, you may start to see your performance go down in both areas.

Leisure time is important, so take a break when you need one. Have a date night with your spouse or significant other once a week, or do a movie night with friends every weekend. Going back to school while working does not mean that you have to give up fun. Part of the reason having an organized schedule is so important is that doing so allows time for you to de-stress.

Have a support system
Remember that you don’t have to do everything on your own. If you are working and have a couple of demanding school weeks coming up, look into switching hours with coworkers. You can also ask family members to help out with errands or household chores. Ask for help if you need it, because support is just as important to balancing work and school as any other strategy we outline here.

Focus on the goal
Earning your RN to BSN degree is an important step toward both lifelong learning and career development. Balancing work and school is never easy, but it is definitely doable with planning and willpower. Keep in mind why you are doing this and what your long-term goals are, because these motivating factors will definitely help you stay on track.

Realize that this is a special time in your life because you are doing something that will not only increase your earning potential and advance your career, but will also strengthen you as a person and deepen your understanding of and appreciation for the art of nursing.

With some planning and prioritizing, earning your BSN is easier than ever thanks to the flexible, online format and accelerated courses that are part of our online program. If you keep these strategies in mind for balancing school and your nursing career, the investment of continued education will definitely pay off.