Balancing a Full Time Nursing Career and an Advanced Degree: How to Prepare

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If you are currently a registered nurse or an advanced practice nurse, there are several potential reasons why you may be considering the prospect of going back to school to study full-time while continuing to work. Nursing is a career with endless opportunities for progression and advancement, with several ways for you to boost your credentials, earn advanced certificates and degree qualifications, and take your nursing career to the next level. Whether you want to work in advanced clinical practice, take on a management or executive role, or provide education to nursing students enrolled in master’s degree programs and other advanced training courses, getting an advanced nursing degree will help you achieve your ultimate career goals.

However, trying to balance working full-time as a nurse, your other personal and professional commitments, and a full-time advanced degree can be challenging. Here are some of the ways that nurses have been able to manage it.

Study Online:

Online degree programs like these DNP programs online from Baylor University have been a welcome option for many nurses looking to advance their career. Often, nurses aren’t able to quit work for a couple of years while getting a degree and need to find a way to fit working busy shifts around furthering their education. Studying online has provided the best solution for this with many programs that are completely flexible and give nurses the option to choose when they’d like to study based on their timetable. In addition to this flexibility, many nurses who decide to study online are less stressed due to having a greater level of control over their education, and the option to save money without commuting to classes.

Ramp Up Your Time Management:

If you thought that you were cramming a lot into the time that you have before, then it’s only going to get even more hectic when you are studying for an advanced nursing degree at the same time as working in nursing. When it comes to being successful with your online advanced nursing degree program, your time management skills are going to be your best friend. Use all the skills you have for managing your time in your job and apply them to your education too. Plan ahead so that you always know when you’re going to have the time to study and make a plan for completing assignments well ahead of time.

Create New Study Habits:

It can take a few weeks to get into a new habit, but once you have started to do something habitually successfully, it’s likely to stick. When it comes to studying, the best way to be consistent over time, and ultimately successful, is to make a habit of it. Wherever possible, set your study times to be roughly the same each day so that you can get into a routine. This could be the same time every day, or if your work doesn’t allow for it, set times on different days of the week that fit around your shifts as a nurse.

Understand Your Learning Preferences:

Knowing how you learn best is powerful knowledge to have when it comes to getting your advanced nursing degree while working. When you are aware of your learning style and preferences, you will find it easier to take in information by gathering it in a way that’s more likely to stick with you. Some people are more visual learners, while others tend to gain more from listening to information. Others prefer to read, while some students struggle to retain information until they have written it down or typed it out. If you’re not sure which works best for you, you can find quizzes to take online to point you in the right direction. Or, just try them all out and see which one you prefer. If you find that one style of learning tends to get you better results, stick to it.

Have a Dedicated Study Space:

Being at home all the time, where you’re probably surrounded by all kinds of distractions, is one of the downsides to studying for an online degree. Focusing is important when you’ve only got a little bit of time to make sure that your study sessions are high-quality and that you benefit from them. The best way to make it easier for you to focus, even when you’re at home, is to set up somewhere in your home that’s dedicated to studying. This could be your home office, a spare room, garage, basement, or even a corner of an existing room in the house. Make sure that it is well-lit, quiet, and well-organized. You might find it helpful to get rid of any distractions such as by doing chores or switching off the TV before you start studying, so there’s nothing to tempt you away from it later.

Get Support from Your Employer and Others:

Juggling your full-time, advanced degree with a full-time career as a nurse is never going to be easy, so it’s a wise idea to get as much support as possible from as early as possible. Your employer is likely to be the first that you’ll ask for support, since healthcare employers often have a lot to offer these days when it comes to nurses getting advanced qualifications.

With advanced nurses in higher demand than ever before, it’s easier to get tuition support from employers with some employers willing to cover the entire cost of your degree as long as you will continue working for them once you have graduated. Along with letting your employer know your plans, be upfront with your family and friends, too. The people who are closest to you in your life will often want to know if there is anything that they can do to help ease your workload while you’re studying and working at the same time.

With online degree programs, nurses can get an advanced degree faster by juggling flexible study with their career. However, it’s not an easy or a light workload, so getting fully prepared is important.