Nurse Keith: Finding Your Nursing School Cadence

Nursing school can be consuming, and creating an efficient workflow can be a challenge for many students. For those simultaneously raising children, working to put food on the table, and tending to other personal and professional responsibilities, finding an effective cadence or rhythm can have a significant and positive impact on both quality of life and quality of the educational experience. 

Assess the flow at home

Whether a nursing student is pursuing a BSN, MSN, or DNP, it must be assessed whether there are chores and responsibilities that can be delegated to others during the busiest times of the semester. Roommates, family members, and friends can be recruited to temporarily shoulder extra burdens so that the student is free to focus on work and school.

Since many nurses are highly autonomous individuals who naturally prefer to simply put their heads down and get things done, delegating to others may take discipline and the willingness to relinquish control.

If there are children at home, arrangements may be needed for uninterrupted study time, play dates, and babysitters. If caring for aging parents or a disabled spouse is an issue, a search for creative solutions might be necessary. Creating quiet blocks of time is essential for efficient schoolwork and study habits.

Since the home is where much assiduous studying needs to happen, a home environment conducive to educational success is crucial.

Assess the flow at work

For the nursing student with professional responsibilities, assessing the workflow in the place of employment is also paramount for educational efficiency.

A nurse manager with multiple direct reports may need to delegate certain responsibilities, temporarily resign as chair of a committee or working group, or lean on colleagues for support at key times.

For the nursing student serving as a staff nurse, cutting back on one shift per week can produce a goldmine of extra study time, if such a move is financially feasible. Another alternative is working fewer but longer shifts, decreasing the number of hours spent commuting. In terms of commuting, the use of public transportation can provide extra study time in the best of circumstances.

And if the nurse finds him- or herself in a negative or hostile work environment, this will not lend itself to educational success due to unnecessarily high levels of stress. In this case, it would be prudent to seek other nursing employment where work does not serve as an additional significant psycho-emotional burden.

Assess the internal flow

Aside from the workflow at home and in the place of employment, the most important rhythm to assess is the internal one.

A hardworking nurse performing double duty as a diligent nursing student must tend to his or her own inner landscape. This is where decisions are made, dreams are dreamed, plans are hatched, and the emotional and spiritual life tended.

Poor work-life balance and a hypervigilant system always in fight or flight can lead to physical and emotional breakdown. Thus, effective self-care is necessary to finding a cadence that fits with the nurse’s many responsibilities and hardships. Exercise, adequate sleep, good nutrition, and positive lifestyle habits are key to a healthy internal rhythm.

Cadence and rhythm

The dedicated nursing student and professional nurse needs a livable cadence to his or her life. Inner and outer workflows must mesh, family and friends need to step up to the plate, and the student must honor that which must be done, including self-care.

Personal wellness and family responsibilities don’t magically take care of themselves, shifts must be worked, money must be made, and studying must occur. The nursing student in pursuit of excellence and balance, juggles these many plates with an eye towards efficiency, rhythm, effectiveness, and optimal success.

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, consultant, author, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers. Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. He can be found at

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