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How do I deal with going back to school?

going-back-to-schoolStepping back into the classroom after years away can be scary for anyone.

Let’s face it: Most of us don’t have fond memories of tests and homework. And returning to school as an experienced nurse is completely different from attending school the first time around. Besides wondering how you’ll fit in with your classmates, who may be younger and less experienced, you’ll probably face a host of life balance issues. Juggling school with a job and/or family is complicated, but it can be done.

Step 1: Check to see if your employer provides tuition assistance.

If so, great. If not, work to develop a reasonable budget. That may include working with your school’s financial aid office or seeking scholarships and grants on your own.

Step 2: Decide what’s best for you.

Some nurses find it easier to begin with one or two classes, while others decide to take some time off work while carrying a full course load. If you’re just starting back in, taking one starter class will give you a chance to get re-acclimated with the academic setting while learning to integrate school and work.

Step 3: Overcome barriers.

If it has been a while since you’ve been in school, you may be surprised by how much technology has changed. Clinical simulation labs no longer have stiff plastic dummies, but robotic mannequins that talk, breathe and bleed. Computers are de rigueur and assignments (and classes) may be online. If you have any doubts about what technical abilities will be required to complete your program, ask. Technical help is available on most campuses, and you could probably even hire a teenager to help you brush up on your tech skills.

Step 4: Own your knowledge.

You may be a relative newbie in the classroom, but your years of nursing experience give you an edge that your classmates may not have. Don’t be afraid to speak up and share your experiences. At the same time, don’t automatically discount your classmates’ opinions. Everybody has something to offer.

Step 5: Create a schedule.

It’s going to take a little experimenting to figure out how to handle all your responsibilities, but some kind of schedule is absolutely essential. Whether you use a paper calendar or a BlackBerry, pencil in every appointment, class, study date and assignment. Break down large assignments into manageable pieces, and pencil the pieces in, too. Simple routines, like laying out your clothes before bed or doing your homework after supper while the kids do theirs, can help you stay on top of things as well.

You got through nursing school once—you can do it again!

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3 Responses to How do I deal with going back to school?

  1. Tiffany Griego

    Good advice for a scary return to the classroom for most. I really support Step 4- a graduate school program is going to have a vast variety of different experience levels and nurses from all different specialties depending on the program. Something that I found most valuable through my nursing education was listening to people’s personal experiences in different nursing situations. The professors and fellow classmates will have a wealth of knowledge about specifics topics that you may not have. Something else to consider is the clinical experience you will get at that educational facility and if you get to choose your clinical locations. The bulk of the educational, hands on experience will be in the clinical setting. Be sure to investigate hospitals, clinics, or offices in the area that may be hosting students during their clinical rotations- look at location, the size of the facility, try to speak to other students that have worked there, and investigate if previous students have networked into jobs through their clinical locations. That is oftentimes a great outlet to find jobs post graduation- through people you have networked with/worked with in school. Good article for the nurse looking to return to the classroom!

  2. VICKI

    I am 50+years old and want to go back to school for my RN, but I am really worried about keeping up with technology and how I would be treated at this “age of the game” . I have been a LPN for11 years and remembering what I went through then scares me now. It was tough doing that, I need some motivation on this!

  3. Melony

    I’m 49 and just graduated in Dec., Passed my boards in march and am now doing what I always wanted to do, working on the Med/Surg floor in a hospital. Don’t give up on your dreams.