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To advance in your nursing career, you will have to return to school for continuing education. Whether you attend on a part-time basis just to get the credits that you need or if you return full time to earn a more advanced degree, you're sure to find that it is tricky to balance work, family and school. Plenty of nurses manage to do so, however, and you can too. Here are 10 tips for balancing job and continuing education:
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1. Be Flexible
It is important to be able to roll with the punches while working and trying to advance your education. Keeping a clear schedule is crucial, but it's also important to understand that things happen. Disruptions occur. By being prepared for such times, you are less likely to throw in the towel in frustration. No matter what is thrown your way, keep focusing on your goal and don't let yourself get discouraged.
2. Create a Study Nook
You'll have an easier time with your studies when you have a quiet haven to retreat to when you need to hit the books. Take some time to set up a study nook somewhere in your home. If possible, use a room that has a door that shuts and locks. Otherwise, choose an area that is away from busy areas of the home and where you are less likely to be disrupted. Stock the room or area with pens, paper and other supplies that you will need.
3. Tell Your Manager
Before starting school again, give your manager a head's up. For one thing, this will give them the opportunity to help you with your work schedule so that it accommodates your studies more easily. For another, they won't be confused if they start noticing that you are more tired than usual. While you're at it, be sure to ask if your employer offers tuition reimbursement because it's a great way to reduce the cost of school.
4. Stay on Top of Your Schedule
With so many balls in the air, it's easy to forget about deadlines and other important things. While you can and should use your smartphone or computer for scheduling, you should also use a paper calendar or planner. Putting pen to paper makes it easier to remember things, and you can always refer to it at a glance. Create a list of names, email addresses and phone numbers for people who attend school with you, professors, coworkers and others who you may need to reach.
5. Establish a Support System
As early as possible in your studies, find fellow students and form a study group. If possible, meet on a regular basis to keep each other on track. At work, enlist the help of coworkers with whom you have a good rapport to assist you if you fall behind. At home, let friends and family members pitch in whenever possible. Remember: You don't have to do it all yourself. It is okay to ask for help.
6. Be Realistic
Like many nurses, you are probably a go-getter. As a result, you might bite off more than you can chew when enrolling in college or other continuing education. Remember to be realistic about your schedule and about what you can and can't do. Don't overburden yourself because it is sure to backfire. It is better to complete your studies more slowly than to cram everything into a small window of time. After all, you have other responsibilities to handle.
7. Prioritize Your Week
At the beginning of every week, make a list prioritizing the various responsibilities that you have to handle. For example, what needs to be accomplished this week for school? Pencil in times to complete the work, and try to break it into more manageable pieces if possible. What needs to be done around the house? What kinds of things need to be handled at work? By prioritizing everything, you will be able to get a lot more done.
8. Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Even if you feel very optimistic right now, know that there will be times when you feel overwhelmed and ready to quit. Counteract those feelings by remembering why you are doing this in the first place. Envision how happy you will be when you complete your studies and are able to progress in your career. All of your hard work will finally pay off. Remind yourself that this situation is only temporary and that it is well worth it.
9. Relieve Your Stress
One of the best ways to reduce stress under these circumstances is by scheduling in some time for yourself. Make sure that you have time in your day to get in a little exercise. Keep up with your hobbies, or look for some new ones. Stay in touch with friends, and schedule outings with them regularly. You might even consider treating yourself to an occasional professional massage or spa treatment.
10. Have Fun
As crazy as it may sound, you will probably look back on this time someday and actually miss it. After all, you are meeting new people and engaging in all kinds of new experiences. The work and studying are hard, but everything that you are doing will pay off well for you before you know it. Instead of being afraid of challenges, learn how to embrace them. As much as you can, maintain a positive, upbeat attitude, and surround yourself with like-minded people.
As a busy working nurse, adding school to your schedule can be very overwhelming. Still, continuing education is a crucial part of achieving success in the nursing field. At some point, most of your training will be done, and you will be able to relax. Until then, work hard, study hard and stay focused.