Students enrolled in an online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program often have many other responsibilities. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 40% of full-time college students and 74% of part-time college students worked while attending school in 2020. The Education Trust reports that more than 20% of college students are also parents.
Pursuing a bachelor’s degree on top of these important commitments is certainly challenging. But, with some strategic planning and persistence, success is within reach.
Is Creating a Support System Helpful?
Besides being committed to self-development and advancing your education, gaining buy-in from family, friends and even coworkers and employers is essential. Share your plans with individuals you trust and know will offer encouragement and support and hold you accountable.
Due to the increasing demand for BSN-prepared nurses, your current employer will likely respond positively and supportively to your continuing education goals. According to 2021 findings from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 27.7% of hospitals and other healthcare setting employers require a BSN for new hire nurses, whereas 71.7% strongly prefer the BSN qualification. Magnet hospitals require a BSN for nurse managers and nurse leaders.
Many employers offer tuition reimbursement programs, bonuses and career advancement and leadership opportunities for nurses who earn a BSN. So, making your employers aware of your plans creates another potential avenue of support.
Plus, employers and other entities like the American Nurses Foundation provide resources to help nurses navigate challenging times, supporting well-being, mental health and skill development. This support can be crucial in stressful circumstances nurses face, such as healthcare working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How Can I Balance Work, Family and School?
At first glance, balancing work and family with school commitments seems impractical, but that is far from the reality. Although you should prepare to curtail some activities and duties, the flexibility of an online degree program allows you to retain the core of your current lifestyle and responsibilities without significant disruption.
In addition to gaining buy-in from your family, friends and colleagues, consider doing the following to achieve better balance during your degree program:
Focus on the why. When you identify and connect with your primary reasons for pursuing a BSN, you will often have more resolve to stay the course when roadblocks arise. Adult learners frequently enroll to improve existing skill sets and gain access to a wider range of career opportunities. Many also use the opportunity to demonstrate the value of continuing education to their children and show that it is never too late to pursue one’s dreams. Identify your unique why(s) and carry them with you each step of the way.
Use the resources available to you. While an online degree program requires self-guidance and motivation, you are never completely on your own. Be sure to take advantage of all the resources available to you. If you have questions or need support, for example, reach out through the online interface to connect with professors, instructors, librarians and classmates.
Schedule family homework time. Set aside time each evening or several times per week for family homework time. Mark it on the calendar and lay some ground rules, such as no TV, phone calls or texting, to ensure you make the most of this time together.
Be mindful of your time. Refrain from overcommitting to others and recognize how a long weekend trip or an extra shift will impact your ability to study and complete assignments. Instead, use small chunks of time — such as your lunch break or time spent waiting to pick up the kids — to return emails, make phone calls or complete reading assignments.
Have a backup plan. Any student trying to juggle work, family and school should expect the unexpected. While planning for every unforeseen circumstance is unrealistic, having a general backup plan to smooth over any rough patches is highly recommended. For example, think about how you will navigate acute illnesses within the family or where you will go to study when you need absolute quiet.
Going All In
An online RN to BSN program is a realistic pathway for busy parents and nurses interested in developing their skill sets and advancing their careers. And you can complete the University of South Carolina Aiken’s online RN to BSN program in as few as 12 months.
While managing it all is challenging, gaining buy-in and support from those close to you helps ease the burden. Having a plan, utilizing university resources and remaining focused on your end goal are also key factors. With determination and a short-term commitment, earning a BSN while raising a family and being employed can be both achievable and worthwhile.
Learn more about the USC Aiken online RN to BSN program.