Your career demands education. For some, what you learn on the job may be enough to help you achieve your goals. For other careers, especially those like nursing, further education isn’t just nice to have, it is a legal requirement. You can earn so much as a nurse, but only if you push through to become an APRN.
Nursing is an excellent example of when education is a must. Without an MSN degree, you will forever be locked into a lower pay range. APRN nurses earn on average around $97,000 to $100,000 per year. FNP professionals in 24 states can even open their own clinics.
There are a lot of possibilities as a nurse when you push forward and continue to work while studying, even when the job you are focused on is demanding and tiring. To succeed, you need to put your health and your wellbeing at the forefront of your efforts.
With your health cared for, you will have enough energy to handle your workday and then continue your studies at home. With a good enough routine you can stay productive and healthy even if you work hard shifts.
Nurses have to deal with heavy workloads, stress, and compassion fatigue. They are the perfect profession to use as an example because what works for them, will work for everyone.
What to Look for In Your Degree
Before we get into health and wellness tips, we are going to focus on the degree. The degree is one of the most crucial components to your success. A poorly designed degree, even one that you can technically do online, is not enough. You need one that was designed to be completed online by working professionals – and that is the minimum.
If you are a nurse, and are working towards an FNP or MSN, then you need a degree that teaches you and is mindful of the fact that you are a working nurse during a pandemic. Yes, you have agency, and it is ultimately your responsibility to only take on what you can handle, but that is just the tip of the issue.
A great degree is one that knows the challenges its students are facing and works to make it easier to learn while working. With nursing the consequences are not just personal for the students, but for every single patient.
An RN can learn so much from an FNP degree, but if that FNP degree fails the RN, then nothing will be learned.
That is why you need to be careful about the degree you enroll in, and why you should use this short checklist to make sure that you have a good one.
1. Accredited, Were Essential
Not every degree needs to be accredited, but if there is any sort of license or legal requirement to your career progression, you need to look for that accreditation. An FNP degree without accreditation is not one that will be recognized when you go to pass your exam and then apply for your license. It doesn’t matter if it taught you better than an accredited degree, because the state does not recognize it.
This isn’t always the case. For those degrees that lead to careers that don’t have legal requirements, you will instead want to look at rankings and alumni testimonials.
2. Online and Flexible Log-In Times
Some degrees will be 100% online. Others, like a FNP degree, just can’t be because by law you need to have clinic training to graduate. It doesn’t matter if there is a small portion of your degree that needs in-person experience, what does matter is that the online component is well designed, but more so that the online component is flexible. You should be able to log in at any point during the day.
This will be most essential for those who work in shifts or those who are either officially or unofficially on-call throughout their time off
3. Great Faculty
Having a great faculty is just a cherry on top. Most who go for master’s or other degrees while they work are doing so specifically to advance their career. As such, the degree should be designed with career-application at the heart. You don’t want an academic degree unless you are intending to work in academia.
A good way to tell these two degrees apart is by the faculty. If the faculty’s credentials are solely in academia and research, then you know what type of degree it is. If your faculty have a long list of workplace experience, then you know it’s right for workplace progression.
Support You Should Get from Your Institution
You will have problems with your online degree. You should have support from a dedicated IT team if you have any issue with the modules. You should also have the support of faculty and even your own student success coach. The top FNP degrees offer this, and they are loaded with applications from hopeful RNs looking to progress their career. If those FNP degrees can offer success coaching and ongoing support to their students, then every institution can offer these benefits.
Health and Wellbeing Tips for Those Working While Studying
Having the right degree and the right support means that everything up until this point is smooth sailing. If you can just improve your own routines and health habits, then you will be well on your way to successfully working while completing your degree.
Routine is the keyword here, however. You will never be able to gain the benefits if you only eat well once a week or get a good night’s rest only once in a while. As routines take some time to build (around 2 months, in fact) you will want to get started on these tips either before you apply to your degree, or as soon as you apply.
1. Diet Tips
Your diet is going to be one of the hardest things to alter, and that’s okay. Foods that aren’t healthy for us unfortunately taste good. They also cause a feedback loop in the brain that can leave us physically craving things like sugar or salt.
You need to do two things when it comes to improving your diet. First, you need to cut out or reduce those unhealthy foods. Cutting them out entirely is the best solution, because once you stop craving them it is infinitely easier to eat healthier.
Cutting down can cause relapses, especially if you eat a lot of sugar or fats. These are comfort foods for a reason, and the first step is to break that association.
While you are cutting them out, you will want to replace them with foods that are healthier alternatives. Instead of chips as a snack, try enjoying nuts. There are many healthy food switches that you can make that will have you feeling better and being better.
Eating food from scratch is also going to be the best solution for your health, so when it comes to your work or even at home meals try to get into the habit of prepping. Making food ahead that you can easily reheat will take the stress out of cooking and allow you to eat healthy, without any extra effort. You can either prepare whole meals or prepare things like sauces so putting together healthy dinners or lunches is a simple, short process.
2. Sleep Tips
Sleep is one of our most important functions. It is also one of the best ways to improve memory, concentration, and your overall energy. If there is anything that you need to help you juggle work and a degree, especially when that work is as a nurse and that degree is an FNP degree, it’s sleep.
Sleeping better for most will be all about getting your circadian rhythm to work on your side. This rhythm is the body’s natural internal clock. If you stay consistent with when you go to sleep, and when you wake up, you will find that you will naturally start to tire and wake up around those times.
Of course, there are a lot of things that can sabotage your efforts. For those who work shifts like nurses, it’s going to be work that interrupts your ability to keep a consistent schedule. For others, it may be the blue-white light of your electronics, or even stress can keep you up.
3. Exercise Tips
Exercising when you work in an office environment is a no-brainer. The issue, however, is that exercise is also important for those who are on their feet all day. If you think about it, if a nurse is strong and in prime physical condition, then being on their feet all day won’t be as exhausting. Dealing with patients and medical equipment won’t take as much energy.
Exercise also works to improve cognitive function and can help you feel more awake and alert, giving you every benefit, you need to keep up your energy throughout work and later on when it is time to start focussing on your degree.
Don’t make exercise a punishment, however. That is the last thing you want, especially if you are in a high-pressure job like nursing. Find something fun and enjoyable to do, and you’ll have an exercise routine that doesn’t just build up muscle, but also works out stress and helps give you a big rush of endorphins from the exercise, and the fun.
4. Study Tips
There is the hard way, and the smart way. When you are doing something as incredible as working while completing a degree you need to take corners where you can get them.
Build a Study Group
You will have others taking the same degree you are. Get in touch with them and create a digital study group. This is great for morale, and to help you create more detailed notes. They will even be there to help you through your stress, making them an essential support system you’ll need if you want to successfully complete your degree while working.
Use Digital Tools
There are so many great digital tools to get started with. The first one you are going to want is a good note app. There are many free and paid options to choose from.
Overall, you are going to want one that makes it easy to clip up notes, save sources, and add multi-media content. You will also want it to be cloud-based, so you can access those notes wherever you are, on any device.
Revise on Your Commute
One of the best ways to revise is to use up dead time. This way you won’t just sit over your notes and try to cram in all the information you need before your exam. There are several options as well, thanks to the conveniences of modern technology. You can read your notes, you can use text-to-speak features on PDFs and on web pages to read content aloud, or you can even create your own voice notes. This way it doesn’t matter if you drive, bike, walk, or take public transport – you can slowly and easily revise throughout your degree.
Be Kind to Yourself
The last thing to remember is that you must be kind to yourself. Working towards an something like an FNP qualification takes time and it takes effort. Don’t try to race through it. racing is something you can do when that degree is your sole focus. Working while studying? That is juggling while trying to balance on a beam. It requires a lot of dedication, and any number of external factors can cause you to lose focus and either drop a ball or stumble.
You need to be kind to yourself and above all else listen to what your body is telling you. If you find taking two courses at a time too much, then reduce that to one course at a time. If you find certain other responsibilities too much, like organizing an event you promised a friend, then forgive yourself for bailing out. You are under enough pressure already, and there will need to be some give.
Be kind to yourself, be mindful of your health and wellbeing, and you too can successfully complete that degree while working full time.