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“Can I go back to school full-time while working full-time?”

iStockphoto | ThinkStock

iStockphoto | ThinkStock

It’s the dream: Raking in a full-time salary while completing your degree in a reasonable timeframe by also going to nursing school full-time. The perks are obvious, as you can complete your degree without going into debt (or at least come out of school with less debt than if you hadn’t been working). But the obstacles are just as obvious – one of the primary factors being that the number of hours in a day are, unfortunately, finite.

For some, this is no dream. It certainly can and has been done by many nurses throughout the years, and we’ve even provided some tips for those who do go the 2x full-time route. But not everyone will be able to handle the stress and demands of working full-time and going to school full-time. Many times that has less to do with you and more to do with the nature of your program, the demands of your job and many other factors.

Here are a few questions for you to ponder when considering what school/work balance will work best for you.

How flexible (and how intensive) will my nursing program be?

Many of the variables you have to consider when determining if you can work full-time during school have to do with the program itself, what degree you are earning and which school you choose. Fortunately, you can learn from the past experiences of others who have been through the program you’re considering. (Psst! Check out our Nurse’s Guide to Nursing Schools for nursing school ratings, reviews and comments from former students.)

The availability of online courses certainly can make it easier for some to work and take classes simultaneously, but you’ll also need to find out how often you’ll be expected on campus and when and where clinicals will be held.

How flexible will your job be?

Similarly, it is also imperative that you know how flexible your employer will be as you go back to school. Some working nurses can work full-time by packing three 12-hour shifts in every week and using the rest of the week to study, but that’s not possible at all jobs (and not all nurses are going to want to work twelves).

This potential scheduling conflict can be even more of a problem if you aren’t already working as a nurse, depending on how your employers feel about you going back to school. But since every situation is different, be sure to evaluate exactly how flexible your job will be when it comes to changing class and clinical schedules every semester.

How flexible can my personal life be?

It’s hard enough to juggle your own schedule, let alone those of your friends and family. Taking stock of your personal responsibilities when deciding on a school plan is probably one of the first things you’ll do, but be sure to be realistic with yourself about how much free time you’ll actually have.

How do you handle school?

Speaking of being honest with yourself, you must also take a close look at how your personal habits will affect your work and study habits. When it comes down to it, nursing school is intensive for everyone, but some take that stress better than others. Additionally, some students need less time to study than other students. Make a realistic assessment of how you’ve performed in the past, and factor that information into your decision.

In addition to the stress of classes, homework and studying, you have to remember the physical stress that will be put on you. We’ve joked about the amount of sleep we get in nursing school, but if you are someone who just doesn’t function with less than eight hours of sleep per night, you may want to consider making your job or your school part-time.

Going back to school full-time while working full-time is certainly possible…the real question is if that’s the best course of action for YOU!

Nurses, do you have experience going back to school full-time while working full-time? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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