There's no way to get around it: nursing school is demanding. Exams, clinicals, labs, and lectures make up an often grueling school schedule, especially if you're also juggling work and family responsibilities. It can be difficult managing a full-time job while pursuing your RN but don’t give up hope; there are ways to successfully manage nursing school and work at the same time. Your life doesn’t have to be work vs. school: learn how to handle both so you can work towards your RN with less stress.
What are the main differences between work and nursing school?
When you’re balancing work and nursing school full time, both can feel like major burdens. Splitting your attention between earning a paycheck and earning a degree is a big ask, especially when each responsibility weighs on you differently.
While both work and school require your time and dedication, there are some differences as to how they’ll pull your attention.
Work vs. school:
- Managers vs. teachers: Your boss enforces tasks and procedures you’re already experienced in, while your professor explains new topics.
- Meetings vs. lessons: Workplace gatherings cover everything from company initiatives to team projects, while school lessons break down individual topics for manageable learning.
- Tasks vs. homework: Work assignments are generally completed within your scheduled work day, whereas homework is assigned for after class and is an additional responsibility.
- Paycheck vs. investment: Perhaps the biggest difference between work vs. school is getting paid vs. paying out. Your job reimburses you for your time whereas you’ll be making an investment for your education.
Is nursing school or work more stressful?
Nursing school and work each have their own stressors. While the day-to-day work grind can be draining, the pressure of passing classes, finishing assignments, and managing clinicals is also a lot to bear.
How you respond to different responsibilities will determine whether school or work is more stressful. For example, the hope and opportunity that comes with earning a nursing degree may keep you motivated and keep stress at bay, whereas working a job you love will help make your days move by easier.
Can I work and go to nursing school?
The answer isn't a simple yes about no. Depending on your program's flexibility, learning style, and living situation, working while you attend school may be possible for you. But, there's no escaping the fact to be successful in nursing school, you have to invest a lot of time and energy into your program. Consider if working full-time is feasible for you with your other nursing school obligations.
While working and attending nursing school has its challenges, don't let it discourage you. Working while pursuing your RN can be a great advantage for you, especially if your job is in the healthcare field. The experience you have can help you stand out and have an easier time landing a position as a nurse.
Working in healthcare while you pursue your RN expands on the training you'll receive while in school. Plus, you'll be building a relationship with a healthcare facility, most of which prefer to hire from within.
Finding a nursing program that fits with your work schedule will make a big difference in how you balance work and school. One option is an RN bridge program that is specifically designed to support working adults as they pursue their RN. Nursing bridge programs allow you to finish your RN degree requirements without having to leave your job.
A nursing bridge can help you:
- Save time: A system called credit by exam allows nursing students to test out of nursing prerequisites by passing a proficiency exam. This can be accomplished in as few as 5 weeks, which is a big time savings when compared to a typical 16-week college semester.
- Learn at a manageable pace: When you're working full time, going to nursing school full time as well may not be realistic. Bridge programs take this into account and allow you to learn at times that work for you.
- Get the support you need to succeed: Programs with built-in support systems make earning an RN less stressful. This can include anything from college planning to one-on-one tutoring and beyond.
Does my job pay for my RN degree?
Seeing if your job will pay for your RN degree may be another thing to consider. There are many companies and organizations that will pay for you to get your RN—under the condition that you'll agree to work for them for a set period of time. Since companies with such policies are invested in your success, they are more likely to be willing to work around your program.
How do I balance full-time work and nursing school?
Feeling like you can’t balance work and school? You’re not alone. Nursing students of all ages often report feeling like work and school is too much. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when balancing your career and education. Work and school are challenging enough on their own, so handling both is no small feat.
Before you decide that juggling both is too much and give up on one or the other, there are ways to make your schedule more manageable.
How to manage work and nursing school:
The key to balancing your work schedule with pursuing your RN is proper time management. One way to ensure proper time management is to plan your schedule ahead of time. This will make sure that you complete everything on time.
Time blocking, or reserving certain times of your day for specific tasks, is an excellent way to fit study time around a busy schedule. An app, spreadsheet, or planner can help you effectively time block. With time blocking, you can dedicate specific hours of your day to studying, attending courses, and work.
If you work the same times each week, this should be a fairly simple process. If your work schedule changes every week, start the beginning of your week by building your schedule. With time blocking in place, you should be able to effectively work and balancing pursuing your RN.
Time management is much easier if you have a flexible schedule to work around. With Achieve Test Prep's nursing bridge program, you attend just one course a week, making balancing your work life with your educational goals that much easier.
If you haven't been to college in a while or never went, you should prepare yourself for all of the assignments you'll likely face in nursing school. You'll likely have to complete assignments, homework, tests, and exams. While time-blocking works for these items as well, organizing the order in which you do your assignments is just as important as setting aside time for them.
Make it a practice to complete your assignments by prioritizing them by their due date. When you prioritize your assignments this way, you avoid turning anything in late and can stay ahead of the curve.
Managing stress while you juggle school and work is key, and that's why self-care, especially as a nurse, is so important. You can't do well with your studies if your mental or physical health is failing.
Set aside time each day just for yourself. You can exercise, read a book, take a long bath, or do whatever you need to for relaxation, and that includes getting a good night's rest.
As tempting as it is to spend the night cramming for your next exam, study after study shows that it is best to get a good night's sleep. Sleep ensures that you're productive and healthy to face your next day at work or school.
Balance work and nursing school with Achieve Test Prep
Even with the best planning and most organized schedules, working while going through a traditional nursing program can be extremely challenging. That's where Achieve's RN Bridge Program comes in.
We offer the most flexible, supportive path to an RN that builds on the experience you already have as an LPN, CNA, or other healthcare role. We teach you how to maximize the credit by exam system so you can shave off up to one year of college instruction, all from the comfort of home.
We're with you for every step of your RN education, providing:
- College planning: Map out every step of your RN journey with a customized bridge plan.
- Test prep courses: Learn everything you need to test out of nursing prerequisites.
- On-demand tutoring: Get one-on-one support while you work through your core nursing classes.
- Licensure exam prep: Pass your NCLEX and become a registered nurse.
We've helped thousands of working adults make real, manageable progress towards their RN while juggling work, school, and family responsibilities. To learn more about how we can support your goals as well, connect with our Advisor team today.