How to Manage Your Life When You’re an Adult Nurse in School

If you’re committed to going back to school for a BSN or MSN, then you’re about to embark on an amazing journey. But it may feel like you’re living two lives: one as a full-time student and the other as a working nurse, spouse, parent, friend or volunteer. The first step in being able to manage it all is to envision your success.

For adult students, there tend to be three key areas that will test your commitment and communication skills as you head back to school: family life, work life, and your personal life. Here are some tips for managing each.

Gaining family support

Adult students often discover that their spouse and their children may express resentment at such a dramatic change to the family’s routines. This is why it’s very important to communicate what your life is going to be like as you work to earn your degree. The best advice? Lay it all out.

Explain what earning your degree means to you and what you hope to accomplish with it. Explain how much time you’ll need, what your life will be like, and how you’ll need help, such as with house cleaning or creating meals. Discuss who should manage certain chores around the house.

Express that your new way of life is temporary and doesn’t mean that you don’t care about their needs. Keep in mind, when you explain that you are doing something to enrich your life, you become a good role model. You have become the parent that is taking the time to advance your education – what could be more important?

When your family understands this, they have the best chance of becoming aligned with your goals.

Most likely, the reality will be this: you’ll be tucked away in a study area where you shouldn’t be disturbed, so maybe meals won’t be as exciting as they used to be. Yet, perhaps this is a great opportunity for family members to help out. Are your kids old enough now to learn how to cook some simple things? Perhaps your family can use this opportunity to learn new skills, just like you’re doing – and it allows them to take part in your journey. It’s a great way for families to try and do new things for which they will be rewarded.

Gaining support at work

Receiving supportive cooperation from your manager is essential. The good news is, by explaining clearly to your manager the level of commitment you have to your education goal, you simultaneously proclaim your commitment to your profession. Set time aside to discuss with your manager your commitment. A discussion will open the door to his or her concerns that may need discussion.

Planning and being organized at work is always important, but is especially important when you are also an adult student. The more organized you are at work, the less work stresses will affect your entire schedule.

Lastly, your journey also a great time to learn how to set limitations. Saying ‘no’ rather than attempting to accomplish everything (which may at first go against your nature) will help you keep your distance from burnout and fatigue.

Keep in mind that some people in your work environment may resent your new journey. (This is very common, by the way. It’s usually a projection of their own fear of going back to school.) But you just might serve as a positive influence for those who need it.

Supporting yourself

Study time is demanding. But remember, the payoff is huge! As a student, you’ll enjoy a tremendous sense of feeling alive; accomplishing assignments and getting feedback from professors and classmates creates a contagious effect (the good kind) you will be proud to share.

One useful way to help you envision your own success is to build a calendar based on the due dates and assignments in your syllabus. A calendar that you can see is tangible – a physical thing that is in front of you at all times. With due dates visible, you’ll rarely feel surprised about approaching deadlines.

Repeated exposure to due dates and assignment deadlines has the effect of reducing stress because the goals – and the steps to get there – are tangible, which makes the whole process much less intimidating. And with each success, you get to enjoy the physical act of checking them off as done.

The ability to envision your life as a student goes hand-in-hand with your ability to communicate well to others (and to yourself) what is expected of your new life. The ability to envision it is the empowerment you need to accomplish it all.

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