Nursing is a profession with no end of opportunities for those who wish to advance their careers. Whether you are considering training to work in a specific area of nursing and healthcare or want to progress to working as a family nurse practitioner, nurse manager, or a nurse educator, there are plenty of programs, training courses, and other pathways that you can take in order to achieve your overall career goals. However, one thing’s for sure – working full time as a nurse while studying to advance your career is certainly no easy task.
For nurses who are taking on this often-incredible workload, taking the time to look after their health and wellbeing is absolutely essential. As a job, nursing is already physically and mentally stressful, and with the added responsibility of studying, it’s even more essential than ever before to ensure that you are taking care of your health and wellbeing and getting as much support as you need.
Choosing the Right Nursing Program
First things first, if you’re going to be juggling studying with working as a nurse full-time, then it’s important to make sure that you’re enrolled in the right program. Today, online programs are the ideal options for nurses who want to advance their careers since they are more flexible and allow you to fit in studying around your professional life. However, not all online advanced nursing degrees are the same, so make sure that you do your research before you begin. Consider the intensity of the course, whether or not you will be required to be online for classes at certain times, and where you will be required to do any work placements.
As a nurse, you already know just how important healthy food is. When you’re dealing with such a heavy workload, it’s important to make sure that you are fueling your body with the right foods in order to ensure that you are getting the right nutrients and have enough energy to keep up with all the demands. But, when you’re working long shifts as a nurse and studying in your spare time, it can be all too tempting to order take-out or take advantage of convenience foods that are often packed with saturated fats and salts, and not very nutritious.
To combat this problem, you might want to consider setting aside some time at the beginning of each week to meal plan and batch cook your meals for the week ahead. Making large, freezable batches of healthy meals like curries, soups, and stews means that all you have to do at mealtimes is warm the food up. And it’s much cheaper than getting a take-out, so your bank balance will thank you too.
Any nurse knows just how important staying hydrated throughout the day is for your body and mind. But when you’ve got a lot of work to juggle, finding the time to drink water can often feel like a struggle in itself. Not only are nurses working long shifts on their feet and grabbing a drink of water might be impossible at times, but it’s all too easy to forget to hydrate yourself when you’re sitting at your desk to study for a few hours too. Help yourself out by getting a refillable water bottle or even investing in a home water fountain for your home study. A water filter for your home is an ideal option since it provides clean, healthy filtered water for you on-demand whenever you need it, eliminating the need to stock up on bottled water to drink.
While nursing is a job where you are on your feet most of the time, studying can often be quite sedentary and if you’re cutting down working hours to study more, you might find that you are less active than usual. And, experts recommend that even people with physical jobs like nursing can benefit from doing a different type of exercise that they enjoy in their leisure time; whether you like swimming, cycling, yoga, or weight lifting, it’s nice to have something that is just for you. When you come up with your schedule for fitting your studies around work, it’s a wise idea to try and schedule some time for exercising. Choose a time where you know you are going to feel more motivated and are likely to stick to it, such as first thing in the morning when you have more energy.
It can be all too tempting to stay up until the early hours of the morning trying to finish an assignment or revise for an exam, but the truth is that interferences with your sleep can have a hugely detrimental effect on your overall health and well-being. As a nurse, you are probably all too aware of the importance of sleep and probably advise your patients to make sure that they are getting enough of it, so don’t fall foul to the temptation of staying up longer to get more done. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night; you might want to think about sleeping and rising earlier if you’re struggling to get things done so that you can fit more into your mornings rather than having a huge to-do list at the end of the day when you are already feeling tired.
Stick to a Schedule
If you are currently working as a nurse and plan to enroll in an advanced degree from an institution like Marymount University to advance your career, it is worth speaking to your employer to ask about any support that they can offer you. Many healthcare employers will offer financial support to nurses to help cover the cost of tuition fees and other study costs; however, they can also offer practical help, such as changing your shifts so that you work the same shift every time, making it easier to put together a study schedule that works for you. Getting into a good routine with studying and working will definitely make things easier to manage. Take a look at your typical week and determine where you can fit in study time – you might have to give up socializing a couple of times a week, but it will definitely be worth it.
Take Time Off
Going hard and hustling might be a big trend on social media right now but, as a nurse, you know that this can be bad for your health. Working as a nurse and studying for your advanced degree without taking a break will put you at a higher risk of getting burned out, which could impact your performance in both your education and your career. To avoid burnout, it’s best to try and take at least one day a week off both studying and working so that you can have some time to yourself. Whether you spend the day meeting up with friends, spending time with family, getting some household chores out of the way, reading, or watching TV is up to you, but make sure that you make time for relaxation so that you can come back to your workload refreshed and ready to take it on.
Self-reflection is an excellent tool for professional practice, and you can also use it to help you as you study for an advanced nursing degree. Journaling is a great way to get your thoughts and feelings out and help you make sense of things. You can use a journal to simply track how you are feeling on different days and look back on it to figure out what is going well and what could be changed in order to improve things for you. Journaling and self-reflection can also be excellent for your mental health and it’s very helpful if you find yourself dealing with high levels of stress and anxiety while studying.
Create a Distraction-Free Study Space
Whether you choose to study before or after going to work, or on your days off, the last thing that you want is for the area where you are studying to be filled with distractions. This could be anything from the other family members living in your home to the pile of laundry that you need to put in the washing machine. A study space that you can retreat to is a good way to keep distractions at a minimum and make sure that you are able to focus on the work each time you have a study session. If you have a spare room in your home, this could be converted into a study, or you could even use a sunroom or a garage if you have the right facilities for heating and lighting. If you don’t have a spare room in your home to turn into your office, consider a quiet corner of your living room or kitchen, and make sure that all household chores are done beforehand so you don’t find yourself focusing on them.
Get Support from Family and Friends
The people in your life who love you and are close to you will always want you to succeed, and chances are that they are more than willing to offer you some extra help and support while you advance your nursing career. It’s time to reach out to your social circle and get support from the people in your life who are happy to offer it when you need it. Sometimes, it’s the small things that matter the most, like accepting an offer of more babysitting for your kids throughout the week from a family member or asking your spouse if they would be able to pick up more household tasks while you are studying.
Get Familiar with College Support
Your college, university, or nursing school will also likely offer support for students who are juggling study with working full-time. It’s a good idea to talk to any student counselors or your personal tutor who will be able to help you navigate the support options available to you and help you come up with a plan for success. Some colleges will even offer student counseling sessions free of charge that can be useful if you need academic or emotional support at any point during your journey. Your college will have a lot of resources that you can take advantage of to help with common problems that often come up for students in your situation.
Look After Your Mental Health
When juggling any heavy workload, particularly when you have a lot of responsibility for others as is often the case with nursing, there is always a risk of developing stress, anxiety, and other mental health problems that could make it harder for you to focus and impact your day-to-day health and wellbeing. As a nurse, you know just how important it is for you to stay mentally strong and resilient in order to do well at your job and deal with the stressors that a career in nursing can throw at you. Talking therapies can help, and the sooner you reach out to somebody who can offer professional support if you begin to feel overwhelmed, the better.
Revisit Your Plans
In some cases, it might be necessary to revisit your plans to ensure that they are still working out for you. Taking the time every few weeks or months to check what is going well and determine if there are any changes worth making to improve your experience and make the process more manageable. There is nothing wrong with adjusting your learning, for example, switching to part-time classes for a while, if the workload is becoming too heavy and you are struggling to handle everything that is required of you.
A career in nursing can be hugely exciting, with so many different opportunities to choose from for nurses who want to specialize or progress in their careers. However, many nurses who want to improve their careers must juggle working and study at the same time in order to do so. Looking after your health and well-being as you do this has never been more important.