If you’re like many nurses, you’re currently working a full-time job while you earn your bachelor’s or master’s degree. In today’s tough economic climate, it’s nearly impossible to get yourself through school without holding at least a part-time job, unless you’re a trust fund kid. Whether you’re working as an RN while earning your master’s to become a nurse administrator, or you’re a college undergrad getting your bachelor’s degree while working a variety of short-term service and retail jobs, balancing a full-time workload with your college course load can be incredibly challenging.
It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s definitely doable. These five helpful on-the-job study tips for nurses and undergrad nursing students can help you make sure you’re on top of your schoolwork while earning the money you need to support yourself.
1. Start Planning Your Schedule in Advance
There’s only so much time in a day, and when you’re working and getting your degree at the same time, you’ll find yourself pressed to find enough time to get it all done. Planning in advance can be immensely helpful for making sure you can get things done without going crazy or losing too much sleep.
To start off, you can divide up your time across the week into “blocks” or chunks. For example, if you work from 9-5 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, that’s a block. If you have a night class those same days from 6PM to 9PM, that’s another block. So what’s left for studying, other than your lunch break? Depending on your sleep cycle and personal preferences, you could designate a 9PM-11PM block, or a 6AM-8:30AM block.
The idea is to do the most you can with time that isn’t already taken by either your job shifts, or your class schedule. You might find yourself with very little truly free time left, but it’s a sacrifice you’ll only have to deal with for a couple of years. The earning power your degree brings you, can make it very worthwhile.
2. Focus on Efficiency
“Work smarter, not harder” is a very common turn of phrase, and there’s definitely some truth in it. It’s not how much time you spend, it’s how much actually gets done. It’s important to have a good introspective understanding of your own learning style, and to know what study methods work best for you. Learning the information thoroughly is what’s truly important, not merely the amount of time you spend studying.
3. Think About Organizing a Study Group with Classmates
Some people really do study more effectively on their own, but study groups can be very useful. In a group, you can help one another out if someone’s having trouble understanding the material. If you’re having trouble with a topic, someone else in your group might be able to help you understand it better than your textbook or lecture notes. Plus, joining a study group makes sure that you have a predetermined block of time that’s designated for studying.
4. Make Sure Your Assignments Are Finished On Time
Missing homework assignments can mess up your grade in a class, even if you’ve performed very well on your exams, labs, and term papers. Make sure to look at the rubric at the beginning of the semester, and make a note in your schedule well ahead of time about when each assignment is due.
5. Be Realistic
You’re only human, and it’s very possible to overextend yourself and end up burned out, exhausted, and resentful toward the career path you’ve chosen. It’s okay if you need to drop a class because your schedule is overbooked and you don’t have enough time to sleep. Just make sure you make that decision early in the semester, so you won’t be penalized for it.
You Can Balance Work & School
With some careful planning and realistic expectations for yourself, you can make things work. Working while you get your degree is never easy, and it’s a really difficult balance. But in the long term, it will pay off very well for you. As long as you avoid burning yourself out, and you set realistic goals, you have what it takes to perform well at your job while getting good grades and earning your degree.