It isn’t easy to work while studying, no matter how many concessions are made. Night school is tiring and takes time and energy to get to and from that you sometimes don’t have. Taking time off of work is often impossible. This is the standard across the board, but it’s actually harder for those who work in healthcare.
Nurses, in particular, are often encouraged to work and study simultaneously. Unlike doctors, they don’t require all their years of medical school before they can start their training. This makes it far more accessible, but it means if you are looking to complete a BSN or a specialized degree like an FNP MSN, then you will need to follow this guide.
What to Look for in the Degree
Anything that takes a lot of effort needs to 100% be worthwhile. If it isn’t, then there is a big risk of you either wasting your time or breaking down. To stay committed, you simply need to believe in what you are working towards. In professions like nursing, it is more clear-cut, but you still want to ensure the degree is perfect by going through this checklist:
Designed to be Completed by Working Professionals
You need to be the intended student for the degree in question. Some are more theoretical and meant for researchers or academics. If you are working and studying online at the same time and are looking to become an FNP, for example, then you want your degree to help you progress in your career every step of the way.
Designed for Online Learning
It may seem small, but the course you choose should not be translated for online learning but rather designed with online learning at its core. This will make it so much easier and more intuitive to learn remotely.
In healthcare, you must have an accredited degree. Without one, you won’t be eligible to take the state exam or become an FNP or any other type of APRN.
Those who work full-time in the healthcare setting, like nurses, don’t want additional things to worry about. So if you are studying to become that FNP, choose an institution that works with employers to provide the placement training you’ll need to graduate and take the state exam.
Well Ranked and Regarded
Ranking does matter, but often not as much as you have been lead to believe. For one, overall school ranking doesn’t matter, as one great department can artificially bring up the rest of the school. Department rankings are important, as they are a better indicator of the quality of education you can expect to receive.
What is most important, however, is how the alumni view their degree. If they know it has helped improve their career, then chances are it’s a good choice.
What to Look for in the Academic Institution
The course may have everything you need on paper, but before you make your final decision, it’s a good idea to look at what the university as a whole has to offer.
We all face our own struggles. You may need help with the coursework, or you may need help with your career. 1-on-1 coaching gives you the individual attention and help that you need. Your institution and your professors should provide this 1-on-1 help when you need it, even if it’s something as small as a chat just so you can clarify some things.
Alumni benefits aren’t essential, but it is a great cherry on top that you can take advantage of later on. If there are career services, career newsletters, talks, and more offered either free of charge or exclusively to alumni, then you can make your tuition go further and make your alum work for you.
Career planning is something every academic institution should have by now. So, if you have a specific goal that you want to reach, get in touch with the career services so that you can build a game plan with actionable steps.
Improving Your Application
There is a massive shortage of nurse educators. It’s even worse than the nursing shortage in healthcare itself. Due to this, thousands of students turned away, so you really need to go above and beyond with your application. It will help improve your chances of getting accepted the first time. If you don’t, however, it doesn’t bear anything on you. Just keep trying and you will get a place.
Brush Up Your Resume
Many degrees, particularly higher-level degrees (especially DNP degrees in leadership), will want to look at your resume. Technically the only thing you need to qualify is a BSN and an active nurse license to get accepted to an FNP MSN, but with so much competition, it never hurts to make your application glow. Start by brushing up on your resume to showcase your dedication and commitment to become an FNP.
Get Glowing Letters of Recommendation
Ask your managers and employer to write you letters of recommendation to go alongside your application. Going above and beyond like this can help you get accepted in the first time you apply, but again if you don’t, that is no bearing on you or your skill. Just brush up on your application and try again.
Go Through Three Drafts of Your Application
Plan to go through your application on three different occasions. This way, you can get all the information you need, weed out any errors, and generally just be 100% confident in your application. By spreading out your edits, you’ll find it easier to spot problems.
Prepping Your Routines
While you are waiting to be accepted or for the course intake to begin, prep your routines. Changing how you live with these tips will help you manage your energy levels better without any additional stimulants like coffee. They take time to get used to, which is why starting before your degree does provide the most tangible benefits.
Making Deep Sleep Clockwork
You feel like you can take on the world when you get a great night’s sleep. You actually have the energy to do everything throughout the day. Your mood will probably be improved, your mind just works, and everything seems to fall into place. Getting that great night’s sleep on a consistent basis? Seems like a joke, doesn’t it?
The secret to a great night’s sleep on a regular basis is routine. Our bodies have an internal clock, but that clock cannot set properly if we always sleep at different times. If you can, always go to bed at the same time, and wake up at least eight hours later.
If not, then use the same bedtime and morning routine (with that 8 hours rest) to at least trick your mind into getting to sleep faster and more easily.
Easy Ways to Eat Healthier
Get rid of all the unhealthy snacks and junk and head to the bulk food store. Stock up on nuts, on dried fruit, on oats and grains. Get yourself an air fryer and a rice maker. Simple solutions like these make healthy snacking a breeze, cut down cooking time (and make healthier meals), and are perfect for prepping meals in advance.
There are other tips, but you will want to explore the options and pick out what seems like it will work out best for you.
Getting Into Shape
If you hate the gym and have wasted hundreds to have only gone maybe twice in your life, stop. Book a class like dancing or acrobatics instead. You need to have fun to keep active, and you can socialize at the same time by bringing your friends. Once a week is easy to make time for, even when you work and study.
Multi-Tasking Tips to Help You Succeed
Tips that you can use during your degree to make it easier to study, revise, and succeed both in your job and in your degree include:
Revise and Commute
Your commute can take hours out of your day. This can be a drag, or it can be the ideal opportunity. If you take public transport, read over your notes. If you drive or bike, use text-to-speak to listen to your notes or make your own voice notes. It’s easy and takes the stress out of revision.
Study and Socialize
Study with friends while they work on their own projects or start a study group of your own. This can be with other nurses that you work with (you don’t even have to all be working towards an FNP MSN) or online with your course mates.
Find the Right Balance
We always go on about balance. The work/life balance. The work/study balance. We talk about juggling everything so we can accomplish our goals. This sort of approach doesn’t really take in our energy levels, our mental health, and how much a bad day can throw a wrench in our plans. Finding balance isn’t about making time for everything so that you make progress; it’s about managing your health and mental wellbeing so that you can accomplish your goals. Everything starts with you, so safeguard your health with these tips:
Start with the Minimum Course Intake
There is no reason to force yourself through your degree as fast as you possibly can if you are also working. You are not a full-time student and should not try to act like one. You will also be getting back into studying again after a break. So if it’s been a while since your BSN, for example, take the minimum number of courses for your FNP MSN. Most good universities that design their courses with you in mind will allow you to take on just two courses at a time.
This isn’t just so that you have more time. It’s so you can actually absorb the information properly and use what you learn at work. Even with this approach, you can still finish an FNP MSN in as little as 2.5 years, so don’t rush yourself unless you feel 150% okay with the workload
Adjust As You Need
If you find two courses at a time easy, but then become overwhelmed trying to do three the next semester, then dial it back again. Finding it easy to manage a workload does not mean you should automatically jump towards making it harder. Easy is good when you are doing something as difficult as managing a career and taking on a degree.
It applies to your social life, as well. Adjust as you need. The greatest laid plans can go to waste in a flash, no matter what. Be flexible and work with how you feel to find that balance that supports your health and wellbeing.
Prioritize Mental Health and Wellbeing
If you feel like you are drowning, get help. If you feel like you are constantly stressed or concerned, get help. Asking is the first and most important step to take because people will otherwise assume that you are okay and can handle it all yourself.
Ask your employer to help by providing a more consistent schedule. Ask friends to come by to help you prep meals. Ask for help. Use your support network, and don’t make mental health services a last resort. A breakdown, chronic stress – all of this is not something you should go through on your own, or at all. With help, you can stay focused and well.
Take Advantage of the Resources Available
If there are avenues you can take to better your studying, your career, or your health, then it is up to you to take advantage of them. From university career service to writing help, all the way to programs at school or online study groups. Take advantage of the options at your disposal. You will find it so much easier to work and study online.
Those who work in healthcare, particularly nurses, face difficulties most won’t ever have to worry about. They are almost forced to work and study online, but this doesn’t have to be a challenge. It instead could be a great opportunity to support yourself while you learn. So, whether you are studying to become an FNP, or work in a different area of healthcare, use the tips outlined in this guide to take advantage of the opportunities in front of you and reach your dreams before you know it.