How do I deal with work plus school?

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It’s not easy to balance a nursing career with academic advancement. Whether you work full-time or part-time, adding in a course of study is a challenge—but it can be done. The good news is that if you’ve decided to return to school, you clearly understand the value of education. You’re a highly motivated person, and that bodes well for your ability to handle a situation that tests the juggling skills of even the most organized nurses.

First, be realistic. Working full-time and carrying a full course load while caring for three young children and an aging parent might be more than you (or anyone!) can handle—and that’s okay. Until you have a better idea of what your coursework requires, consider easing into school. Maybe take a class or two the first semester and work your way up as you adjust to your new pace.

Consider adjusting your work schedule as well. Most healthcare facilities are very supportive of employees who return to school. So don’t be afraid to ask your boss if you can cut back to part-time or switch to another shift. Remember, it never hurts to ask.

Brush up on your time management skills as well. If you don’t already have a planner, get one. Fill in your work shifts and classes, and schedule in time for homework. Try to take advantage of “wasted time”—time you’d otherwise spend waiting around. If you normally spend 45 minutes per week at your son’s swim class, take along your textbook and read the next chapter.

Finally, take advantage of your position. As a returning-to-school nurse, you have ample opportunities to put what you’re learning to use. Introduce new ideas and techniques at staff meetings. Use unit problems as a jumping-off point for a research project. Include patient case studies (being sure to change names and identifying details) in your papers.

Above all, give yourself time. Soon, you’ll learn what works for you.

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