Prioritizing Work-Life Balance While Studying for an Advanced Nursing Degree

It’s definitely no secret that nursing can be one of the most physically and emotionally demanding jobs in the world. Nurses often deal with high-stress and high-pressure situations that most of the general public will not experience in their lifetimes. Nurses need to be available around the clock and a high level of knowledge along with a range of essential transferable skills are necessary for them to do their jobs well. 

In addition to education and skill, nurses need to put their own self-care and wellbeing first in order to ensure that they’re able to work to the best of their abilities. For many nurses, the need to prioritize self-care and their work-life balance becomes even greater when a nurse is working full-time and studying for an advanced nursing degree alongside their career. With online learning now more available than ever before, it has become easier than ever for nurses to find the right program for them to successfully work and learn at the same time, but it does involve a high workload that can get quite stressful and will require a lot of forward planning. If you are currently working as a nurse and want to take a master’s degree program, family nurse practitioner program or another type of advanced nursing degree to improve your nursing career and climb the career ladder, here are some work-life balance tips that may help. 

Choosing the Right Nursing Program

First of all, it’s important to spend some time choosing the right nursing program for you. Spend some time researching the different programs that are available to choose the right one for you. The good news is that many advanced nursing programs are designed to be a flexible choice for nurses who are taking them alongside working full-time. They understand the needs of nurses to be completely flexible to allow for shift work and career commitments while studying. An advanced nursing program that puts you fully in control when it comes to when you study and how you access the learning materials is often the best choice. Some popular advanced nursing programs to choose from include:

  • Master’s Degree in Nursing

The Master’s Degree in Nursing is one of the most popular choices for nurses looking to advance their careers since this degree program offers the widest range of opportunities. With an MSN, you can get into a variety of different advanced nursing career roles including working as a nurse practitioner, nurse educator, nurse management and leadership, nurse-midwife roles and more. To enroll on an MSN program, you will typically need to have gained a BSN. Check out the range of online BSN and MSN programs available to study at Wilkes University

  • Nurse Practitioner Programs

You can find online degree programs that are specifically designed to prepare you for working as a nurse practitioner. These can be taken either as part of a master’s degree or in the form of a postgraduate certificate after getting your MSN. A FNP master’s program might be the best choice for you if you know that working as a family nurse practitioner is your main goal. 

Determining Your Study Schedule

While working full-time and studying for your advanced nursing degree online, it’s a wise idea to spend some time beforehand working out a schedule that you’ll be able to stick to as you study. This will keep you clear when it comes to when you have time to study and when you are working, so you don’t end up missing out on study time by double-booking things or not keeping track of your time. You may want to spend some time at the start of every week to go through your work hours, family commitments, and anything else that you have to do throughout the week to make it easier for you to figure out your best study times. 

Creating a Study Space at Home

One of the best things about studying online is that you don’t have to go anywhere in particular to learn. If you prefer, you can take your laptop to a local library, co-working space or even a coffee shop if you find that getting out of the house helps you to focus. However, it’s still a good idea to have a dedicated study area in your home. So, create somewhere that is free from distractions, well-organized, and comfortable. If you have a spare bedroom, box room, sunroom, or even a useable basement or garage in your home, it’s worth considering using one of these as your study area since it will be easier for you to focus if you are away from the main house and all its distractions. Invest in ergonomic office furniture for your comfort and to avoid aches, pains and stiffness after a long study session. Wherever possible, choose a study area in your home that has plenty of natural light. 

Stay Physically Fit and Healthy

The earlier you put a plan in place for looking after your health and fitness before starting on the huge journey of working as a nurse and studying at the same time, the better. Staying physically fit and healthy is something that all nurses know the importance of, but sadly, finding the time to do it might not always be easy if you are juggling long nursing shifts with studying at home in your spare time. When coming up with your schedule for the week, it’s a good idea to think about when you might go to the gym, for a walk or run, or take part in sports. If you need to reduce the time you would have normally been studying, it might be worth doing so since looking after your health will pay off in both your work and education. Exercising will help you stay focused, raise your mood, give you confidence and help you avoid health issues that might arise from spending more time sitting down at your desk while studying. 

Look After Your Mental Health and Wellbeing

In addition to exercising and looking after your body, it’s important to have a stress management plan in place and understand what you need to do to keep your mental health well, too. Studying for an advanced nursing degree while working full-time as a nurse can be a high-stress situation, and the last thing that you want is for the stress to develop into full-blown anxiety or for you to be completely burned out after a few months of working and studying. Taking the time to manage your stress levels and be aware of how your mental health is at any given time is important. You might want to use stress management techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation or grounding exercises. In addition, speaking to a therapist or counselor on a regular basis is a good idea even if you don’t feel like your mental health is doing too bad. This can be a great way to maintain your mental wellbeing and keep your stress levels low since it gives you the chance to talk about anything that is worrying you in a safe space. 

Give Your Body the Right Fuel

As a nurse, you probably already know a lot about the benefits of healthy eating and why it’s important to make sure that we get the right nutrition. But making sure that your body is getting the right fuel is not always easy when you’re juggling a lot of different things at once, like studying for your advanced nursing degree while working as a nurse. To make sure that you maintain your healthy diet, there are several things that you can do. Meal prepping is a good idea; spend one day a week determining what you are going to eat for the rest of the week, and prepare as much of it as possible in advance so that on the day, all you need to do is grab a meal out of the freezer and heat it up. You might also consider the option of signing up to a meal subscription box. This allows you to choose what you want to eat for the week and have all the ingredients delivered to your door ready for you to cook. 

Ask Your Employer for Support

Having the support of your employer can certainly make things easier for you if you are working full-time as a nurse and want to study online for an advanced nursing degree. Since an increasing number of healthcare employers are looking to take on more highly-educated and specialty nurses, chances are that your employer will be happy to hear that you are trying to climb the career ladder, since it is beneficial for them as well as you. More and more healthcare employers are now working with people who are getting advanced degrees while continuing in their job full-time, so it is always worth having a conversation with your employer to find out more about what’s in place to help and support you as you study if needed. Your employer may be able to help with tuition, childcare support, reduced or more flexible working hours, and more. 

Arrange Practical Help

Depending on the level of the commitments that you have outside of working and studying, it might be worth arranging practical help for yourself to ensure that you have enough time to get everything done and aren’t overworking yourself. Even something as simple as getting somebody in to help you with housework one day a week can make a huge difference to how you feel and how much you’re able to get done. Delegating everyday tasks to other people might be worth the expense to avoid becoming overworked, stressed out and burned out, giving you more time to focus on studying and the other more important things in your life, like spending time with your family. 

Take Regular Breaks

Taking regular breaks from both your job and your studies is an important part of doing this successfully. When you’re working and studying at the same time, it can be all too easy to spend all your days off work studying, but this will eventually lead to you feeling burned out and exhausted. It’s important to remember to take time off for yourself, even if you don’t get a lot of it. Be sure to take shorter breaks throughout the day when you are studying – even going for a walk for fifteen minutes can be an ideal way to clear your head and return to your program with a clearer mind. And, schedule full days off and longer breaks wherever you can. It’s ideal to take at least one day off per week where you don’t have to either work or study. And, use your vacation days at work when you can to talk a longer break periodically. 

Get Enough Sleep

It cannot be stressed enough just how important getting enough sleep will be when you are in this situation. While it might be tempting to stay up later than usual to study, sticking to your usual bedtime routine and making sure that you get between 7-9 hours of sleep is key. This is especially important if your work as a nurse often has you working unsociable hours and different shifts, as it’s all too easy for your sleep pattern to be affected. It’s always better to go to bed earlier, get enough sleep and wake up early to study than it is to lose sleep staying up into the early hours to get your studying done, no matter how easy it might be to do that. Losing sleep can impact your focus and work performance both as a nurse and as a student, so this is one area of your life where it’s just not worth the sacrifice. 

Juggling full-time nursing work and studying online for your nursing degree might be more accessible than ever before, but it’s not always easy. Prioritizing your self-care and putting plans in place to make the process easier for you are important steps to take both before you start and throughout the process.