Fact or Fiction: Are Nurses Too Busy to Go to School?

More and more nurses are looking for ways to upgrade or expand their skills, in order to stay competitive. Earning a BSN degree is a logical step. Yet many nurses perceive barriers to going back to school. It’s easy to see why – adult nurses are likely to have family obligations, as well as the need for a steady income. It’s a completely different situation from when they were 18-year old high school grads first entering an RN program.

One of the most common of these perceived barriers is a lack of time. In a recent survey of nurses enrolled in an online RN-to-BSN program at the University of North Alabama, a whopping 66 percent of the respondents reported they initially felt reluctant to return to school, based on the time requirements of their current nursing jobs. Yet 50 percent also reported that once they made the jump and actually started their studies, they no longer perceived time management as an obstacle.

Going back to school is definitely a time commitment. It involves studying, writing papers, and interacting with fellow students and faculty. When does it all get done, and how were the nurses in the study able to balance work, life, family, and school?

Here’s what the study reports, in regard to the perception of time as a barrier:

Many touted the role of online education in dispelling this perception. Nearly 90 percent of these respondents said the convenience and flexibility of scheduling figured heavily in their selection of a school to attend and over half (56%) said the online environment figured largely into the decision.

One student related: I would not have been able to complete the degree in a traditional setting due to family and work obligations.

Said another:  The convenience of “going to class” when it was good for me made all of the difference in the world.

The online learning experience gives adult students a tremendous amount of scheduling flexibility and allows nurses to pursue programs that might not be available locally in a traditional classroom setting. It can virtually erase time and space challenges, making it possible for you to gain tremendous amounts of knowledge from a personalized work station in the comfort of your home. Best of all, online learning eliminates what is no longer necessary for obtaining a degree – like the need to battle traffic, find a parking space in a crowded university lot, or fit scheduled classes into your own schedule.

So we’re busting the time barrier myth right now – the fact is, nurses DO have time to go to school.

Time management basics

When you’re juggling work, school, and family, you simply can’t rely on blind faith that “it will all get done.” Identify those obligations that are set in stone (i.e. a child’s carpool) and work around them. Look for time slots which you can maximize for school work – whether it’s getting up two hours earlier or delegating dinner preparation tasks to another family member. The key to success is knowing when you can be your best, then creating a time management plan that dedicates these time slots to study.

You will also have to accept that time management involves compromises. If you can’t be a straight-A student while meeting the needs of your children, then tell yourself it’s okay to earn a B. If you have less time for housework while working on a paper, then tell yourself it is okay if there’s a little more clutter than usual.

Here are some other tips that can help you break down the time management barrier:

  • Use short blocks of time constructively. You may find you can get a lot of reading done during the 30 minutes you spend in a waiting room.
  • Estimate time realistically. Don’t tell yourself you can finish an assignment in an hour when it will take three hours. The panic you’ll feel at the last minute just isn’t worth it.
  • Don’t duplicate your own efforts – for example, by having to start an assignment over again because you misplaced the outline you constructed or allowed your carefully organized research to get shuffled.
  • Cut down on the activities that are your personal time-wasters – like checking Facebook or spending hours on the phone.
  • Be willing to make temporary sacrifices. It’s probably a given that you’ll have less personal time for hobbies and small indulgences, but you’ll get through it!

And the good news is, you’ll see the difference right away when you begin taking classes. The experiences provided by American Sentinel’s online RN-to-BSN program are designed to support your professional development based on real-world nursing in today’s health care environment. This means you’ll immediately be able to apply your newly gained knowledge to your current job in a way your employer will notice – what better way to maintain your competitive edge?