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7 Strategies to Balance Getting an Advanced Nursing Degree While Working

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Getting an advanced degree to improve career prospects is more accessible than ever to nurses in 2021. Today, there is an increasing number of flexible, online and hybrid advanced nursing programs that are designed with full-time registered nurses in mind. Whether you want to take your career to the next level and become a nurse manager, nurse educator, nurse practitioner, or focus on a specific nursing specialism, it’s easier than ever to find and enroll on a suitable program that allows you to study online and fit your education around your career as an RN. 

However, while studying for an advanced nursing degree online can certainly have many benefits for you as a nurse and a student, it’s important to make sure that you are prepared for the workload. Working as a nurse is not an easy job, and when you’re studying at the same time, it can easily become overwhelming. If you are determined to make it work and get to where you want to be in your nursing career, here are some strategies that you might find useful. 

Understand the Program

Whether you have decided to aim for a career as an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner with a focused MSN or want to work in critical care as an advanced practice registered nurse with these AGACNP programs from Baylor University, the first thing to do is to make sure that you get a solid understanding of the program that you have chosen. Before your start date, spend some time doing as much research as possible into the program so that you have a clear idea of what to expect and to make it easier for you to plan the best strategies. 

Plan Your Schedule in Advance

Registered nurses often work shifts and unsocial hours, meaning that if you’re working full-time as a nurse and want to fit your studies around your career, you need to stay on top of planning your schedule. If you work different shifts each week, then this will usually involve looking at your work schedule for the week and coming up with a study timetable that you can manage. When you’re doing this, planning apps or even a physical planner can be your best friend; figure out what times you’ve got when you don’t need to be doing something else and slot in studying wherever possible. Plan as far in advance as you can, so that anything further that comes up can be arranged around your degree rather than the other way around. 

Get a Quiet Study Area

Studying from home can make the process of getting an online degree much more doable for busy registered nurses. However, it’s important to be realistic about the downside of studying from home, which is often a result of the distractions that you will find around the house. Whether you need to try and study around your family or there’s a never-ending list of chores to do, you might find that actually settling down to study at home is easier said than done. If you can, creating a room in your home that’s dedicated as a study area can be the best way to avoid getting distracted. When you’re working in your study, you won’t be able to see the laundry that needs to get done and keeping yourself separate from the rest of the household will encourage family members to leave you to get on with it. Set up your study with everything that you need and invest in some ergonomic furniture to make sure that you have a comfortable experience. 

Network with Online Students

While studying online can sometimes feel quite isolating as you might not have the same chance as campus-based students to meet with the other students on your program and network effectively in-person, building your professional network is still an important part of getting your advanced nursing degree. And, the good news is that with online degree programs becoming more and more popular with registered nurses who want to take their careers to the next level, colleges and nursing schools are providing a greater range of options for socialization when studying online. Find out what’s available to you – most colleges set up forums, chat rooms, and social media groups that you can be a part of, along with local events for meeting other students from your area. 

Set Small Goals

It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you consider all the work that you need to do to get your advanced nursing degree alongside holding down your full-time career. To avoid becoming stressed and overwhelmed with your workload, it’s a good idea to break down the work into smaller, more achievable goals that you can easily meet. Setting yourself a weekly or even a daily goal is good practice for keeping yourself on track, and you will usually find that the workload becomes much easier to manage when you’re breaking it down like this rather than trying to tackle it all at once. 

Reflect Regularly

As a registered nurse, you will know just how important it is to reflect on yourself. Self-reflection is an important skill in any healthcare profession and one that nurses use all the time to improve their skills and broaden their knowledge. While getting your advanced nursing degree online, it’s a good idea to keep a reflective journal or set aside some time on a regular basis to reflect on how well you are doing, and consider any changes that you can make to get better results. 

Take Breaks

Finally, don’t let all the work get you to a stage where you are burned out. It’s important to make sure that you are setting aside some time to step away from the workload. Don’t study on all of your days off and make sure that you are getting at least one day a week to yourself, to recharge your batteries and refresh your mind – you’ll return to work and study feeling much better for it. 

More nurses today are juggling work and online study to get an advanced degree. If you want to further your career in this way, keep these tips in mind to succeed in meeting your goal.