If you’ve visited the NCLEX-RN Blog at Magoosh before, you might have noticed a common theme. Many of us nurse bloggers will agree that nursing school is a challenging and busy time all by itself. But what if you have to work while you are in nursing school? I did it and lived to tell the tale! Here are my tips to manage working while in nursing school.
Identify Your Commitments
First things first. You need to identify all of your commitments. I’m pretty old fashioned about this but I would write out all of my commitments on a piece of paper or calendar so that everything is visible. For those of you that are more progressive (and probably more tech savvy), go ahead and pull up your favorite online calendar or to-do list app and type it all in. This will allow you to see all of your obligations in one place and help to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks. List anything and everything that needs a place in your schedule including work, school, family, church, and whatever else is essential to setting your schedule.
Create Your Schedule
Now that you have it all out there in writing (or on your electronic record of choice), it is time to create your schedule. First, fill in all the things that are fixed by date and time. Chances are you can’t move your class schedule but you might be able to fit working hours around your classes. Now is also the time to add in things you like to do. Just because it isn’t work, school, or a family commitment, doesn’t mean it can’t be scheduled. Make sure to account for things like social activities, exercise, and down time. Being too busy will only wear you out and impact your ability to be successful. Once you have your schedule, it’s time to stick to it.
Being able to tell others what you need just might be the most valuable tip to manage working while in nursing school. Keep your boss, your family, and your nurse faculty informed of your commitments. While it doesn’t always work out perfectly, keeping everyone informed goes a long way in getting the cooperation you need to keep the balance. Ask for help if you need it and be honest. It might be surprising, but many people will be supportive of both your work and educational efforts and will do what they can to help you balance it all — but they can’t help if they don’t know. Be sure to communicate, communicate, communicate!
Sometimes to manage working while in nursing school, students have to get creative. I know when I was in school, I took a job on the evening shift and when I was done at 11 PM, I would meet my friends at a local coffee shop for my social time. Sure, it isn’t conventional to eat out with friends so late, but I did what worked so I didn’t lose touch with my friends and got some much needed time away from school and work. Study groups are also a great way to mix social and study time. Get creative with your schedule and combine the things you can. You’d be surprised with how much you can get done when thinking outside of the box.
Even with the best of plans, something is bound to mess with the schedule. I know I told you earlier to stick with your set schedule — and I meant it — but being flexible is important too. Sometimes you will need to rework your priorities to fit everything in. Sure, you might have planned to go to the gym in the morning, but you found yourself really tired from a late study session the night before. That’s okay. Be flexible and give yourself some wiggle room. Move that workout to later if you can or maybe work it in for tomorrow. Keep your priorities in mind and keep moving forward. Communication comes in really handy here too. (Remember, I said communication was really important). If you have to make changes unexpectedly, keep those impacted informed and work to get yourself back on schedule.
Find Your Time
I don’t know why, but it always seems that the busier I am, the more I am able to accomplish. I always manage to find the time somewhere. Find your time. Some people cut out social media and free up a few minutes here and there. Others might cut out TV or order their groceries online to save a few extra minutes. All those minutes saved will add up. Even though it might be easy to do, don’t skimp on self care. You have to take care of yourself too and not just your duties at work and school. Look objectively at where you are and what you want so you can find your time.
This brings us to….
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Nursing school doesn’t last forever. Yes, you are busy now and you may have to make some sacrifices so that you can work and go to school but in the long run, you will be rewarded. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, keep reminding yourself of the light at the end of the tunnel. Before you know it, you will be passing the NCLEX-RN and getting that first job as a nurse!
These are just a few of my tips to manage working while in nursing school. It isn’t easy but nothing worth having ever is!