Delivering the best medical care to patients requires staying abreast of developments in the medical field, including any new technologies that may apply to your area. Returning to school for an RN-BS is a great way to further theoretical and practical knowledge in the field. Whether the decision to continue your education is yours or is required by your employer, you’ll reap these benefits:
- The opportunity to develop a specialty area
- The possibility of returning for a nurse practitioner program in the future
- Networking opportunities within the medical community
- Career advancement opportunities
- Improving computer literacy (particularly if the workplace uses electronic databases)
- Opportunities for better pay
Even with all these exciting possibilities, it may be hard to imagine how you’ll balance earning your degree with your work and home life. Unlike the traditional college student, you have a career and maybe even a family. Relocating for school or spending 40 hours a week on class assignments may be unattainable, but you can customize your school experience to fit your schedule. These four steps will put you on the right track for a valuable nursing school experience.
1. Plan Applications With Plenty of Time
Nursing programs tend to fill up quickly. Research nearby colleges and reputable online schools as early as possible. These steps will help you work through the logistics of applying and scheduling:
- Be ready to send in any required materials with your applications. These usually include official transcripts from high school and college work you’ve done, as well as references and a personal essay.
- Contact schools you’re interested in about the application process and deadlines.
- Finances may be tight if you have to drop hours at work to attend classes. Fill out the FAFSA to take advantage of some of the financial aid available to nursing students.
- If distance could be a problem, apply for online programs, such as those at IPFW.
- Apply at multiple schools; nursing programs are in high demand.
- Once you’ve made a decision on where to enroll, discuss earning your degree on a part-time schedule with an academic advisor. He/she can also answer questions about the enrollment process.
- Enroll as soon as possible, before classes fill up. You may be able to enroll online, even for in-person classes.
2. Make the Most of the Time Before Classes Start
Examine your current schedule and decide how it will fit with your school responsibilities. If you will have a full work schedule and busy home life, consider how many classes you can handle, in addition to that. Analyze your current activities, and prioritize them to decide what you’ll drop in favor of studying and class attendance. Determine whether or not you will need to switch to a part-time workload. To calculate the approximate study hours you’ll need per week, multiply the number of credit hours you’re taking by three. Actual time needed varies based on class difficulty, distractions and study techniques.
In addition to fitting study hours into your schedule, plan to make the most of them by practicing effective time management. Some techniques to start with include:
- Schedule multiple short study sessions instead of a long one
- Prioritize assignments so that when you have less study time than usual, you’ll know what to tackle first
- Plan your week in advance to help track your study goals
- Work ahead to give yourself wiggle room in case of emergencies
- Find a distraction-free study zone. If possible, try noise-canceling headphones and listen to calming nature sounds or white noise to block out distractions.
- Bribe yourself with a treat or a fun activity if you lack motivation
3. Familiarize Yourself with the Resources Available to You
When you arrive on campus and see fellow students fresh out of high school, you may feel out of place. Remind yourself how much you’ve accomplished with your life already. Then focus on the distinct advantages you have as an adult learner, including:
- Better concentration
- Longer attention span
- More personal discipline
- Years of nursing experience
Scope out the library and any study centers available for student use. These can provide a quiet zone that’s invaluable if you have a loud family, and you can often find helpful study tips there.
4. Take Initiative Throughout the School Year
When the first day of class comes, you’ll finally be on your way to getting your RN-BS. You can prepare in advance for a great first session with these essential tips:
- Obtain textbooks and supplies in advance
- Download and print syllabus if available
- Enter assignments into your planner
- Set reminder alarms on your phone
- Complete the first reading assignment
- Keep supplies together to avoid forgetting anything on your way out of the door
After the first class, remember that you’ve only just begun this experience. Even if returning to school wasn’t initially your choice, you can look at the experience as an opportunity to enrich your life and career. Learn more about IPFW’s program offerings today as you start the search for the right nursing program.