Nursing is simultaneously one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs imaginable. Registered nurses work long hours under considerable stress to deliver the best possible care for their patients. This may not be the easiest undertaking, but it pays off in the satisfaction of making a difference for those in need.
It’s no secret that nurses work hard but imagine adding yet another time commitment on top of the already busy schedule of an RN. That’s exactly what many do by pursuing their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) while working full-time.
Nurses hold strong motivation to take on this challenge: the promise of better earnings, leadership opportunities, and most importantly, a higher standard of care. These benefits are more than enough to justify the extra workload.
Unfortunately, obtaining a BSN can feel overwhelming when already dealing with the inherent stresses of full-time nursing. As such, when presented with the opportunity to pursue additional education, some capable nurses automatically assume that they cannot handle two seemingly competing demands at once.
In reality, simultaneously studying nursing and working as an RN is far from impossible. The time commitment may be considerable, but many nurses are willing to make this sacrifice in the interest of climbing the career ladder. In the short-term, this approach also allows nurses to integrate their academic discoveries into their daily work. Many observe improvements almost immediately. Such considerations should play heavily into any plans for working while in nursing school.
Nursing School and the Full-Time Job: A Mutually Beneficial Approach
Nursing school and full-time work need not feel like competing demands. Approached with the right mindset, these separate endeavors can support a shared goal: exceptional standards of care.
RNs enrolled in nursing programs gain valuable insight through their increased exposure to the industry’s top professionals and researchers, not to mention deep dives into academic journals and other resources. This knowledge can be immediately applied on the job to deliver better care for valued patients.
The opposite also applies with full-time nursing providing many benefits in the academic sphere. While attending classes or studying, RNs can draw on relevant insights from their everyday work. This practical experience helps them contextualize and, ultimately, reinforce the complicated theories and data to which they are exposed in nursing school.
How to Get a Nursing Degree While Working Full Time
If you are determined to take on the challenge of balancing nursing school and a full-time job, it’s crucial that you start planning now to make your schedule as manageable as possible.
Keep the following considerations in mind as you prepare for the complexities—and opportunities—that await you as a full-time nurse and student.
Develop a Strong Support System
Prior to entering your degree program, you should ensure that your partner or family members understand how you’ll benefit from their support both now and in the long-run.
Let loved ones know how they can help you make progress towards your goal. This might mean providing childcare or taking on extra errands. If family members understand why your dual approach matters and how they can be of assistance to you as you block out time for work, class, and studying.
Prioritize Your Health
When life gets crazy, nutrition, exercise, and sleep tend to fall to the wayside. This is true even among nurses who are well aware of the importance of maintaining healthy habits. Sadly, the repercussions of poor health are even more severe for nurses than they are in the general population. Unhealthy nurses compromise patient safety. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing highlights the importance of nutrition and diet in improving both RN health and patient outcomes.
It’s one thing to understand the importance of sleep and nutrition, of course, and another to actually make changes when you’re already consumed by work and academia. That being said, small adjustments can make a real difference.
Begin by practicing better sleep hygiene so you can get the most of every hour of shut-eye. The ideal sleep environment will be free of TVs, mobile devices, and clutter. High-quality light-blocking curtains will help you get more sleep if you work night shifts.
Small tweaks can also pay dividends for your diet and fitness regimen. Try these suggestions:
- Read notes or review flashcards during brief sessions on the treadmill.
- Commute to work or school by foot or bike when possible.
- Stock up on easy-to-eat snacks such as bananas or almonds. Enjoy while studying or during a busy shift at work.
Make the Most of Available Resources
As a full-time RN, you enjoy access to a variety of resources that might be difficult for other students to utilize. Hospital librarians, for example, can help you find the answers you need within a vast collection of relevant literature. This may expedite the process of collecting data for your next big paper or research project.
Another helpful resource? Access to other nurses in your position—or those who have already completed RN-to-BSN programs while working full-time. These nurses can serve as study partners or valuable sources of inspiration. Let them provide a powerful reminder of why you’ve you are committed to furthering your education.
Practice Soft Skills at Work
BSN programs help nurses develop far more than clinical skills alone. These degrees also emphasize soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and problem-solving. With conscious effort, these essentials can be developed within the workplace.
When possible, apply communication and bedside manner techniques referenced at nursing school. Additionally, keep an eye on cultural considerations identified within BSN courses. These may play out on a regular basis on the job but you might not have been aware of them prior to pursuing your degree.
Take Advantage of Online Opportunities
Managing your schedule is difficult enough as is, but imagine how much more challenging this will be if you need to account for specific class times and an additional commute. You will find it far easier to stay on top of your schedule if you enjoy the flexibility of online classes. These allow you to work at your own pace.
As a busy and possibly sleep-deprived nurse, you’ll appreciate the ability to carve out brief blocks of time for class whenever they arrive. This flexibility is particularly important for nurses working odd hours, as not all will be available for daytime or even night classes. The more you can shift your efforts online, the better you can strategize to ensure the best possible performance at both work and school.
As a registered nurse, you hold far more power than you realize. Passion and perseverance can go a long way as you take on one of the most important and beneficial challenges of your career: balancing nursing school and working full time. You’re You are in for a lot of hard work, but it will all prove worthwhile in the end.