Whether you’ve been a practicing nurse for a few years or a few decades, you’re most likely aware of the industry’s push for RNs to pursue baccalaureate degrees. The call for a BSN-credentialed nursing workforce is coming from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), and individual hospitals – so it’s quickly becoming the norm. Here are five practical tips to help you successfully overcome some of the potential stresses you may encounter when you go back to school.
1. Choose an online nursing school that allows you to draw upon the experiences and knowledge you already have.
Adult nursing students like you have the advantage of many years of life and work experiences. Let that be your first stress reliever: realizing that you already know, on an experiential level, that you’ll relate to your course material. Rest assured that BSN course work will not present a foreign world of impossibly strange ideas; it offers new ways to understand ideas and gain new knowledge.
Your own daily experiences provide the basis for developing new skills and improving critical thinking ability. Part of adult learning is the uncovering of strategies and new ways to relate to familiar concepts within an academic context. This is a model of learning that enables you to utilize what you already know, from being a nurse in the real world. Experiential learning provides a familiar foundation of knowledge as you learn how to expand that knowledge.
2. Choose a school built on an adult learning model.
An adult learning model provides a learning environment that allows collaboration and teamwork with other BSN-bound nurses. Adult learning models encourage you to confer and discuss course work and ideas with other adult students. The emphasis is on discussing concepts, not memorizing facts. Gauging whether you’re on the right track through discussion with others in the same boat enables you to get successes under your belt right off the bat – and that builds confidence, which reduces stress.
3. Choose a school that truly supports you as an adult student.
Going back to school requires the support of your family, co-workers, managers – and your school. Look for a school that provides an assigned student advisor, tutoring services, online librarian support, and faculty who are encouraged to communicate with you one-on-one and who care about your success. Knowing that you are not a “cog” in an education mill, but are instead recognized as a human being who needs ongoing encouragement and support, is a significant stress reliever.
4. Build a time management system, a calendar, and a dedicated workstation.
Adult students are successful when their time is organized to accommodate studies, work, and family life. One of the most beneficial time management techniques is to identify your personal time commitment rhythms: are you more alert in the morning or at night? Do you prefer an early dinner with the family, followed by school work; or school obligations first, then dinner? When do you have blocks of time to yourself? Mapping out a schedule of your commitments and personal style helps ease stress. Another key way to organize your time is to create a syllabus calendar in which you pinpoint due dates for assignments and goals — and then plan for them. Last, but not least, is the necessity to establish your own workstation or work space that provides a quiet place for introspection and thinking.
5. Get the support of your family and co-workers by explaining your needs, then setting expectations.
Your employers and family should hear from you why earning a degree is important to your career, and how they can help you reach your goals. One positive feature of an online school is that you won’t have to spend time driving to a campus or sitting in class — your family can be in close proximity during study times. Knowing and explaining how much time you’ll need to be a student will help you plan around your job and your family – and will help your family, co-workers and managers know in advance what to expect.
Is your hospital supporting further education for RNs? This may be a good time for you to develop new skills and empower yourself with knowledge through an online RN to BSN or RN to MSN degree. American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of online nursing degrees, including programs that prepare nurses for a specialty in areas like infection control and executive leadership.