Stepping 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!