Financial Stressors: Are Your Student Loans Holding You Back at Work?

Getting a nursing degree is expensive, and all that added financial stress may be holding you back at work. Nursing is a difficult profession that requires every ounce of your attention. If you find yourself struggling to make ends meet or worrying about your student loans more than your patients, the results could be devastating.

Financial stress is often tied to a loss of productivity in the workplace. Don’t let your student loans take over your career. Use these tips to keep your financial worries at bay.

How Student Loans Can Affect Performance and Productivity

It’s no secret that going to college and getting a degree usually means taking out loans. Getting a Bachelor of Science in Nursing can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $200,000 in tuition alone. The average registered nurse makes around $74,000 a year, but this needs to cover housing, living expenses, saving for retirement, and paying off those student loans.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), 50% of nursing graduates said their number one concern was their ability to pay their loans back. And most graduate-level nursing students said they expected to leave their program with a median debt of $40,000 to $54,999.

With those numbers in mind, let’s take a look at how your student loan debt can affect your performance at work.

  • Financial stresses have resulted in a 34% increase in absenteeism and tardiness in the workplace, and financially stressed employees miss almost twice as many days (3.5) each year compared to their unstressed counterparts. In nursing, this can leave your colleagues high and dry on the floor, forcing them to pick up the slack.
  • Worrying about money can also distract you from the task at hand. 34% of Generation X, 16% of baby boomers, and 37% of millennials say they’re distracted at work by their finances.
  • If you’re tight on money, you may also put off going to the doctor. One in 5 people put off or consider skipping healthcare visits due to the cost, which will only lead to more health problems and higher absentee rates.

In the healthcare industry, losing sight of the task at hand or worrying about your finances on the job can put your patients at risk. It can lead to costly medical errors, poor patient satisfaction, and even higher rates of burnout and fatigue.

Overcoming Your Student Debt

Carrying around all that extra student loan debt can affect your ability to care for your patients, but you don’t have to succumb to this financial pressure. There are several ways to reduce your monthly payment, so you don’t have to worry as much about making ends meet when you’re on the clock. Refinancing or deferring your student loan debt can help you stay focused on the job, allowing you to take your career to the next level, which will help you pay off your student loans faster down the line.

Consider using one of the following repayment plans to pay off your student loans:

  • Graduated Repayment Plan

Under this plan, your monthly payment grows over time, so you don’t have to pay as much when you’re first starting out. As you grow in your career and hopefully make more money, your monthly payment will slowly increase.

  • Income-Driven Repayment Plan

This plan adjusts your monthly payment based on your income and living expenses. If you’re making less than the average nurse or you have other living expenses to deal with, this plan can help you make ends meet until you’re ready to start paying the full amount every month.

  • Refinancing Your Student Loan

You can also consider refinancing your student loan all together. This means taking your loan to a private lender. The lender will pay off your existing student loan debt, while creating a new loan. Under these new terms, you may receive a lower monthly payment and reduced interest rates to help you make ends meet, but you may also face more restrictive repayment terms and lose access to certain federal protections.

  • Student Loan Forgiveness

There are a variety of non-profit and federal programs out there that will forgive your student loans all together. You must meet certain requirements in order to qualify for these programs. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is one of the most popular among registered nurses. In fact, 57% of surveyed nurses plan to take advantage of PSLF. To qualify, you need to be working full-time at a government agency or non-profit organization. You also need to be making regular payments using an IDR plan.

If you’ve served or plan on serving in the armed forces, you may also qualify for a number of active duty student loan forgiveness programs. Under the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program or the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program, you can lower your student loan debt by working in high-need facilities or under-served areas, including rural areas.

Keep these options in mind as you continue paying off your student loans. You shouldn’t have to worry about making payments when you should be looking after your patients. You can also contact your loan provider directly for more information, talk to your colleagues or a financial planner for assistance, or reduce your living expenses to make each paycheck go further.

If you’re struggling with student loan debt as a nurse, share your story with us below!

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