With nursing, there are plenty of options when it comes to climbing the ladder. If you are at the start of your nursing career, then you have most likely considered advancing even further, whether that’s to become a nurse anesthetist or a family nurse practitioner. Getting there can be a struggle, however, as you will need to further your education.
Attaining a nursing master’s or doctorate takes a lot of hard work, and it is amplified when you work as a nurse alongside it. Fortunately, there are ways to make the experience easier and more rewarding. Here are the top tips for studying while working as a nurse.
Find an Online Course
Traveling to a university while working as a nurse will massively cut down on the time you have to spare. Instead, search for an online nursing course. There are plenty of them out there, so whether you want to attain your master’s or work towards your DNP degree, there’s a course that will suit your needs.
By choosing to study online, you give yourself much more flexibility in your studies. You can choose your studying hours and your work environment while still having the ability to contact your tutors and interact with your peers. If you need to play catch up, you can take out your laptop during your lunch hour and squeeze in a little work. The flexibility granted by an online degree will ensure you will keep your focus both on work and on your studies.
Be Realistic about What You Take On
As a nurse, and especially in the early days, you desperately want to make an excellent impression. You want to show your supervisors and managers that you are worthy of advancing, and there are ways to do this, but they don’t involve taking on more work than you can handle.
When working as a nurse, the chances are you have been asked to do overtime more than a handful of times. While it is necessary to do this at times, do not say yes unless you are certain you can manage it. Taking too much on at once will only burn you out, and your work both as a nurse and a student will suffer because of it.
Speak with Your Tutor and Manager
It’s a lot of work to be studying while pursuing a nursing career, and you shouldn’t keep silent about it. Talk with both your course tutor and your manager about your other obligations. This isn’t to ask for any special treatment; it is simply so that they understand what else you have going on in your life. If your manager knows you have a huge exam coming up, then they’ll be more understanding about you saying no to overtime.
Take Breaks When You Can
It’s important to let yourself have rest. When you have multiple assignments along with a large number of shifts coming up, then you must give yourself a moment to relax – prioritize it as much as you do your studies! While you might not think taking a break is productive, it will serve you better in the long wrong. Sleepless nights will reflect negatively on your work and studies, so if you don’t want your performance to suffer, make sure you allow yourself enough breaks.
Consider Going Part-Time
Working full-time while studying full-time is an enormous responsibility, so consider taking one part-time if you are struggling with it. Remember, it doesn’t have to be forever, and it might serve you well over time.
Taking a part-time course rather than a full time, one might mean you receive better grades overall, so it is something to consider. There’s no correct way of doing education, so assess how much you feel you can take on and go from there. Just remember part-time is an option and getting your qualifications isn’t a race.
Find Study Buddies
One of the best ways to study is with other people. If you are struggling to keep up because of your work, then form a study group with your peers, as it will benefit all of you. You can exchange notes, go through anything you have missed, and teach each other things you previously didn’t know.
Helping others is a great way of learning yourself, so there is no negative in forming a study group. You might even come out of it with some wonderful friends in the same profession as you!
Spread Out Your Study Time
Many people starting a course make a promise to themselves that they will spread their studies out to avoid cramming at a later date. The problem is, many forget to do this as time goes on and find that they have to pull all-nighters close to deadlines. Don’t let this be you!
When you work out a study plan, make sure you spread it out as much as possible. Start with the very first week and plan for small study sessions spread out over the whole semester. This way, you will easily slot studying around your shifts, and you avoid the dreaded cramming session before exams.
Cultivate Strong Workplace Friendships
One of the keys to success is to have a great group of people surrounding you. As difficult as it will be to fit everything in, you must make time for friendships. At work, they are especially needed, especially for those post-work stress-relieving conversations.
By making strong friends at work, you ensure that you have people there to back you up. When you’re feeling tired and unmotivated, you can find someone you trust to either help you or simply listen to you. This is invaluable in any work setting.
Having great friends in nursing isn’t only beneficial while you’re studying – it’ll also help when you are seeking a new job opportunity or a promotion. The better your relationships with your co-workers, the more likely they are to recommend you for a more advanced nursing role.
Meet All Your Deadlines
Nobody sets out to miss any deadlines, but unfortunately, it does happen. You want to do your best to avoid this, as it could completely derail your efforts. If you are struggling to get an assignment in on time, message your tutor about it. You never know; they might be able to make an exception one time or at least help you get it in by the deadline.
A great way of making sure you never miss a single deadline is to print out a list of all your assignments with their deadlines and pin it in your living room or bedroom. This way, you will clearly see what you are working towards each day, which will act as a great motivator.
Find Your De-Stressors
It’s important to know what stresses you out so you can avoid it, but that isn’t always possible, especially when you are overworked. Instead, you should figure out what your de-stressors are, so when you are feeling the workload push down on you, you know what to do to relax.
When it comes to what relaxes you in the face of stress, everyone is different. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some popular choices, including:
Use Your Time Wisely
When it comes to balancing your work and studies, using your time right is key. Don’t ignore that hour you have traveling to work or your lunch break – they could be used for studying to give you more time to yourself in the evening.
Figure out when you are most productive and plan your schedule around that. If you seem to get more done in the mornings, then schedule getting up for an hour or so earlier so you can get the bulk of your studying done before you even begin work.
Create a Group Chat with Your Classmates
If you are studying online, and even if you are not, it is beneficial to have a class group chat. Open a group messenger app and add everyone you know from class to get the conversations rolling.
If you are struggling with a piece of work or have a question, the group chat is a place you can go to for help. Not only that, but you will talk to more of your peers, which could lead to more friendships. You’ll feel closer to the group in general, and you will have a group of people in the same situation as you that you can rely on.
Find Your Motivators
Much like finding your de-stressors, you must also figure out what your motivators are. Working as a nurse and studying at the same time is not always going to be a walk in the park, and there will be days where you must drag yourself out of bed. On those days, it helps to know what will get you through it.
A reward could be a good idea as a motivator. If you have a long day full of work and studying, then tell yourself that by the time you are finished, you get to order food or watch your favorite movie. It doesn’t matter what your motivator is, just as long as it helps you carry on.
Keep a Diary
Keeping a diary when you are studying while working is essential. You will have so much going on, from early shifts to looming deadlines, and you must stay on top of it all. Purchase one with plenty of space to write all your notes. When you are feeling overwhelmed, opening your notebook and seeing clearly what it is you need to do will help. If your obligations are all scattered in your brain, you will panic, so write them all down!
Look After Your Health
No matter how many assignments you have or how many shifts you’re scheduled for, you must make sure you look after your health. When you have so much to do, you cannot afford sleepless nights or illnesses brought on by lack of care.
When struggling with time, it helps to plan out your meals and exercises before the week begins. Look for some quick, healthy recipes for your mid-week meals and fit in exercise around your other responsibilities. You might think your time is better spent staring at a textbook than jogging around your local park, but the impact of your health on your work is not to be underestimated.
Keep Up with Your Tutor
During your studies, your tutor will be one of the most important people in your life. They will be there to teach you the course, answer your questions, and guide you in the right direction. This means it is crucial to keep up with them and let them know how you are doing.
If you are struggling with an assignment, message your tutor before it gets too late. They are there to show you where you’re going wrong and how you can adjust to make it right.
Focus on Your Goals
Taking on a nursing career while studying is a huge responsibility, and one you will only get through if you focus on why you are doing it in the first place. When times get tough, think about where you will be in a few years from now. Whether you want to become a midwife or a clinical researcher, your focus should always stay focused on your goal.