How to Stay Healthy While Balancing a Nursing Career and Advanced Study

It is certainly no secret that nursing can be a very emotionally and physically demanding career. Nurses work in a position where they are often dealing with situations that the general public does not often experience. It can often be a high-stress environment where patient’s lives hang in the balance. Because of this, nurses do not only need a high level of knowledge and skill to do the job that they do, but they will also need to prioritize their own health and self-care to ensure that they are always at the top of their game. 

For many nurses, this increases even further if they are working full-time as a nurse while enrolled in a training program to advance their career at the same time. Thanks to online learning, it’s easier than ever to study to become a nurse practitioner or get your master’s degree in nursing while continuing to work as a registered nurse. But this doesn’t mean that the workload isn’t high or that the experience isn’t stressful – for many nurses, it can often be one of the hardest things they’ll ever do. 

If you are a nurse and are considering enrolling in an online degree program to boost your career while continuing to work full-time, here are some of the main ways to keep on top of your health and wellbeing so that the stress doesn’t get the better of you. 

Choose the Right Program:

First of all, it’s important to spend some time researching advanced programs and choose one that is going to be the best fit for your lifestyle right now. A program with minimal commitments that is flexible enough for you to choose when and where you’d like to study most of the time is usually the best fit for nurses who are planning to continue working while studying. 

Stick to a Schedule:

While studying for your advanced nursing degree online, it’s a good idea to have a schedule worked out that you can stick to. This will make sure that you’re not double-booking things or end up without much time to eat or sleep while you’re trying to juggle the two. 

Wherever possible, it might be worth speaking to your employer to see if you can be given more predictable shifts for the duration of your training program. When you’re working on the same days and times every week, it becomes much easier for you to plan when you are going to study. 

Alternatively, many nurses consider looking for a nursing job that allows them to work more sociable business hours while they are studying as this is often easier to balance with a degree program compared to working long hours or night shifts at a hospital. For example, working as a nurse in a doctor’s office will usually give you the opportunity to work 9-5 or similar. 

Invest in Your Comfort:

The job of a nurse is often quite physically demanding and even when you are not juggling it with advanced studies, it’s important to be comfortable when it comes to the clothing you wear and the equipment that you need to use as a nurse. If there’s anything that is bothering you right now like scrubs that are too tight or shoes that are pinching, chances are these are only going to have a bigger impact on you when you’re dealing with more commitments. Before you get started, spend some time and money investing in your own comfort. The right footwear can make all the difference to how you feel when you’re on a shift and getting ergonomic, comfortable office furniture at home will make it easier for you to study online. 

Speak to Your Employer:

For the most part, nurses who decide to take an advanced nursing degree program online are benefitting not only themselves, but also their employer. By getting an advanced nursing degree, you will be providing your employer with a more highly educated workforce and a better chance at being able to hire from within for certain promotions, which is often a welcome situation. Because of this, most healthcare employers are willing to do what it takes to support nurses who are planning to study while continuing to work full-time. A conversation with your employer before you start studying can help to alleviate any worries that you have about your schedule or the cost of your program. Many employers now offer tuition assistance programs that you can use to put towards the cost of getting your advanced nursing degree. 

Stay Physically Fit:

Keeping yourself physically fit and strong is an important part of self-care that will enable you to do your job as a nurse as well as possible. This is especially true if you work in a nursing role that involves the handling or moving of patients. As a nurse, you will already be aware of how important it is to keep fit – but doing so in your own life might not always be easy if you are working long shifts and studying for an advanced nursing degree in your spare time. 

It’s a good idea to put plans in place for fitness and exercise, even if you only get out for a few minutes of walking or jogging per day or do a home workout before or after you go to work. Exercise and fitness will not only give you the strength and energy that is needed to do your job well but can also help lift your mood and provide you with mental energy, which is more important than ever when you’re studying at the same time. 

Get Emotional Support:

Working as a nurse often means that you are in the center of some devastating situations. Whether you are working with a patient who is terminally ill, treating patients who have experienced life-changing injuries or have to tell a family that their loved one has passed away, this side of the job can be extremely upsetting, especially for nurses who are often highly caring and empathetic people. While most nurses go into this field to help others, it is impossible to help everybody and this can begin to take a toll. 

The mental toll of nursing can be even higher when you are studying alongside your job since you have less time to relax and recuperate after a tough shift. To keep yourself mentally strong, it’s important to get appropriate emotional and mental health support from a professional such as a counselor who can help you make sense of the experiences you have had at work and process traumatic situations that you have dealt with as a nurse in a safe and confidential space. 

Get Practical Help:

Working as a nurse can be a tiring job that takes up a lot of your time – and juggling it with studying for an advanced nursing degree can mean that your spare time is even more precious. So, you probably want to spend as little of your spare time as possible focused on everyday tasks. Getting practical help can make a real difference to your stress levels while you are working as a nurse and studying at the same time. 

  • If you have children, it’s worth speaking to grandparents, other relatives, and close friends to find out if they would be willing to help out with things like school runs or babysitting more often so that you have more time to study and so that you can spend more of your spare time having quality time with your kids. 
  • Hiring a cleaner for your house can make it easier for you to keep on top of household chores and reduce your stress levels. 
  • A meal delivery service that comes with the ingredients all ready and packaged for you to cook can definitely make every day life easier. 

Wherever there is help available, take it as it’s going to make a difference to how well you cope. 

Take Breaks:

Taking regular breaks from both your job and your studies is important when you are in this situation. Ideally, you should try to take at least one day per week where you are not working or studying, just so that you can have time to yourself to spend with family and friends and do the things that you enjoy the most. Try to book some longer breaks throughout the year when your studies are quieter, such as after exams or after a big deadline, so that you have the chance to recharge your batteries and enjoy some me time. 

While there’s a lot of work involved in studying for an advanced nursing degree while working in nursing at the same time, working flat-out without a break for a long period of time is only going to add to your stress levels, damage your health, and potentially even impact your job performance. 

While it’s entirely possible to study for an advanced nursing degree without taking time off work due to online programs, it’s not always an easy experience. Make sure that you’re prepared to keep your health and wellbeing a top priority with these steps.


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