By Deborah Swanson
If you’re contemplating working full-time during nursing school or you’re already struggling to balance these commitments, read on for seven tips to stay sane while going to nursing school and holding down a full-time job.
1. Find a flexible job.
Maybe you’re lucky enough to already have a flexible job: You can set your own hours to a certain extent, you have a retail or food service position, you often work remotely or you freelance exclusively and can schedule your work whenever you want. If this describes your situation, then great! That will make it easier to continue your work during nursing school. But if it doesn’t, you might need to look into making a change. Your work schedule will need to accommodate classes from the get-go — and eventually shifts for clinical work as well.
2. Search for healthcare positions.
If you’re contemplating a job change to make it easier to work full-time while going to nursing school, consider looking for positions in the healthcare field. There are plenty of other jobs available in healthcare, such as home health aides and medical assistants. These roles sometimes offer shift work or schedules that are otherwise flexible, and the relevant experience will help bolster your resume when it comes time to search for that first nursing job after graduation.
3. Talk to your supervisors and co-workers.
Once you get accepted into nursing school, you’ll need to broach it with your supervisor at work. If your school hours won’t interfere with your shift, this might be a simple heads-up so they know you’re going to school — but if you’ll need to change your schedule, prepare for a longer conversation, and have a proposal in mind beforehand.
Sit down and take a hard look at your finances, with your partner if you have one. Tally up all your current expenses (rent, food, gas, etc.) as well as any specific costs for nursing school, like tuition, textbooks, scrubs, nursing shoes. See if there’s anything you can reasonably trim, and figure out the absolute minimum income you need to bring in to cover all your expenses. Even though money seems tight, it’s only for a couple years.
5. Schedule your life.
Balancing a full-time job with nursing school means you’ll need to get really good at planning ahead and maximizing your time. Break down your semesters into months, the months into weeks, the weeks into days and the days into hourly blocks. First, mark down major dates such as exams and breaks. Then put down your classes and work hours. From there, you can determine when you have time to study, cook and take care of other necessary activities.
Speaking of scheduling study time, creating a study group can be a great way to keep yourself accountable. When you procrastinate on studying, you’re cancelling on yourself — but it’s a lot harder to cancel on other people. Being part of a group makes studying an actual event, and you’ll be more likely to show up if other people are involved.
7. Look for a low-stress environment.
While you won’t always have a choice, if you do find yourself in the position of deciding between multiple jobs it’s worth considering which one will cause you less stress. Working in a calm, slow-paced environment can give you a respite from the hustle and bustle of nursing school and hospitals and add some balance to your life.
Deborah Swanson is a Coordinator for the Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com. A site dedicated to celebrating medical professionals and their journeys. She keeps busy interviewing caregivers and writing about them, gardening and walking her dogs.