Nursing is an excellent career path, not just because it allows you to really give back and make a difference (both big and small). Nursing is very clear-cut and in great demand, meaning you have a clear path forward up the career ladder. It does require far more education than other career options, but this also means it’s actually easier to reach your goals. Hard work pays off as a nurse, especially when you invest in further training.
Every RN, for example, has the option to study further to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), and rather than try to work your way up a muddled, confusing career ladder, all you need is to achieve an MSN and to then take the licensing exam.
While harder, it is also a guarantee. You will be a qualified APRN at the end of your efforts and be hired as an APRN shortly after that. Few careers can offer this sort of guarantee, which is another reason nursing is such an excellent choice for you.
Of course, studying and working are no easy tasks. All the best nursing degrees allow their nurses to complete their coursework online and only have a brief period of in-person education for their training. What’s more, nursing degrees are designed to be completed by working nurses.
The nursing shortage demands no less.
Working and studying means you can juggle your responsibilities and even work to pay off your degree as you go. It isn’t, however, easy.
If you are studying to become a nurse, you need to be consistent, you need to be healthy, and you need a strong support system – you need to follow these top tips to help you succeed:
Explore Your Options
Your path and what you need to study, learn, and do is consistent until the next step in your career is becoming an APRN. A good place to start is to figure out what type of APRN you are interested in. On the whole, there are four main types of APRN, which then specialize in different areas of medicine or with different demographics:
Nurse practitioners work in primary care and provide a lot of first-hand care, including routine checkups, health promotion, and disease prevention. In some states, they can diagnose and even prescribe medication. They are even capable of managing chronic and acute health conditions in their patients.
Nurse anesthetists provide anesthesia during surgery, both in hospitals, clinics, and even dental offices. As a result, they make the most out of all the APRN types.
Nurse-midwives are there throughout the natal process and often see patients in their homes. They provide neonatal, natal, and post-natal care to their patients, both adult and newborn.
Clinical Nurse Practitioner
Clinical Nurse Practitioners focus on a specific area of medicine rather than a demographic. They provide relevant information, liaise with other departments, monitor, and improve the quality of care for patients, and so on.
Choosing the Right Degree
While understanding what type of APRN is a great place to start, it is just a start. Nurse Practitioners, for example, specialize in a whole host of different areas. The most popular option for nurse practitioners is as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), but that is just the start.
Here are a few examples of the different areas that NPs can specialize in:
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
The list does go on, and this is because nurse practitioners are the largest body of APRNs. They work directly with the patients, and in some states, can even manage their own clinics.
To become any type of APRN, you need an MSN, but the MSN you choose will need to be directly related to the role that you want to work in. You can absolutely change your career later on, but you will need to take additional courses and training to be able to earn the necessary license to work in that role.
Juggling Your Degree with Your Career
Choosing and enrolling in your next nursing degree is a big step. It can be daunting, especially if you feel stressed out and wrung out from work. Unfortunately, when it already feels like you are at the end of your rope, you cannot and should not enroll – at least, not yet.
Taking on a degree while continuing to work as a nurse is essentially having two full-time careers at once, without the option to choose one or the other. However, you need to be at your best and brightest, so use these tips to help you prepare your body and mind and to continue to help you balance the juggle:
Get Healthier, Now
The first thing that you will need is to be as healthy as possible. You may even want to have your blood tested to know scientifically what your body needs in terms of vitamins and nutrients and then work to introduce more of those through your diet.
Sleeping better can be a mixture of investing in your bedroom to using these tips to help you get a better, deeper sleep as a shift worker.
Though you are often on your feet all day as a nurse, finding a way to relax and exercise is another great addition to your routine. Yoga, in particular, may provide you great benefits for your body and mental health and should be at least tried. The goal is to help keep the blood flowing, to help with your strength and balance, and most of all, to help give you a moment of peace.
Of course, improving the health of your body does not always mean that your mind follows. If you struggle with your mental health, then this is something you will need to address before you get started with your degree. Whether you need therapy or psychiatry depends on the severity of your mental health concerns.
Your body plays a huge part in what you can do. If you feel sleep-deprived, your ability to regulate emotions (particularly stress) falls like a house of cards. Build up your health and mental wellbeing, and you’ll be ready to tackle a nursing degree.
Build a Strong Support System
Something you will want to organize while you’re working on improving your health is your support system. Friends and family are your most obvious support system, but it doesn’t hurt to work out what they are willing to do to help you out. For example, if you want to prep healthy meals to eat better throughout the week, even when you are tired, this is something that they can help out with. If you have a friend or family member who works remotely, is also completing a degree, or has a personal project that they need to work on, you can study together.
See what support networks are available at your workplace, and also get in touch with the universities you are looking to apply to and see how they can help you. Careers service, mental health services, resources, and more should all be there for you to take advantage of, but the first step to doing so will always be learning what is available.
Get Into a New Routine
Rushing into a new routine with so much at stake can set back a lot of your progress with your health and stress management. A good way to avoid the sudden influx of a new routine is to fake it. Of course, you won’t be studying towards your next nursing degree just yet, but that doesn’t mean you cannot get used to studying at certain times of the day anyway.
Find online courses, read nursing journals, or even just spend time on a hobby. By getting used to being mentally active during these periods, you will need to study; you can transition towards a nursing degree with far more success.
Share Education Tasks with Others
One of the support systems you will want to build is a study group, though you will often need to wait until you get started with your degree to build one. Get in touch with other students who are either in your area or at least doing the same degree and see how you can spread out study materials. Having such a support system with people who really understand what you are going through (and not even those that have already gone through it) can be a big help.
Care for Your Mental Health and Wellbeing
Stay on top of your mental health and wellbeing. Stress can easily pile up, especially if you work in a high-stakes department. Check in with yourself regularly, try to de-stress as often as you can and take advantage of all the mental health resources you have at your disposal.
You need your mind to be on board, so helping it stay healthy is the secret to managing it all and successfully completing your next stage of nursing.