Nursing is an incredibly important position in the Texas healthcare landscape. Nurses are responsible for caring for patients in some of the worst moments of their lives and ensuring that they recover as quickly and completely as possible. As their responsibilities are so great, nurses must complete intense schooling and training before they can enter the job market. Balancing studies with family life can be tricky, but there are a few things that nurses can do to make the process easier.
This article will explore the ways nurses can balance their time and give both family and studies the attention they deserve.
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Take advantage of nontraditional scheduling
For nurses with a family to care for, attending school is daunting but not impossible. In conjunction with excellent time management skills, these nurses can consider nursing courses that are designed for ‘nontraditional’ students. These often take place online and don’t require as much in-person time compared to a more conventional degree program. For example, instead of meeting on campus every day for class and labs, students will complete most of their work online using a library of lectures, worksheets, quizzes, and exams, among other tools. This allows students to fit schooling in wherever it best fits their schedules. If a student has a few hours at the beginning of the day, for example, they can make that their designated study time.
Nontraditional courses are also helpful when the unexpected hits. If a student has a family emergency and is away from their phone or computer for a day or so, they may be able to simply pause studies over that time without worrying about missing entire classes. Professors are also typically more accommodating in online courses, so even if a student misses a live video lecture, the professor might be understanding and make catching up easy.
One of the most important things a student can do to balance family life and their nursing education is to manage time well. While this might sound obvious, sometimes people assume they are managing their time well with no effort at all. Even if a student believes that their time is being used efficiently, there are probably a few areas where they could cut time and create a few extra minutes or hours to spend with family. To manage time well, there are a few steps to take.
Make a list
The first thing to do when learning to manage time well is to make a list of daily needs and responsibilities. Students should include breakfast, lunch, and dinner, class and studying time, and anything else that is important to them on a daily basis. They don’t need to add special one-time occasions at this point – the list is just to cover a baseline of their schedule.
Anything they spend time doing should be included. Prepping meals and showering, for example, are both entries on the list. Students should add sleeping to the list, too. When making this list, they should consider moving through a regular day methodically. It should begin with waking up and continue steadily through the hours.
Once a student has a list of their daily responsibilities, they should prioritize them. If spending time with mom is the most important part of their day, for example, they should put that at the top of the list. Students should spend some time on this step and make sure they are being honest. Any individual needs to understand their priorities clearly. With a completed list in hand, it is time to move on to creating a schedule.
Create a schedule
Understanding what must be done during the day is important, but knowing when to complete a task and what to do after it is even more so. Those who are unphased by schedules and typically take a laid-back approach might be surprised at how much more time they have when they plan everything out.
Schedules serve a few different purposes. First, they ensure individuals can move through the day mindfully without forgetting anything important. They also give individuals parameters to live by. For example, when a student knows they must finish two chapters of anatomy by five and it’s half three, they will be more aware of how much time they are spending on other things or procrastinating. Once nurse students understand how much time they spend on certain activities and tasks, they will be better able to condense the less important things, creating more time to do the things they enjoy.
Schedules are especially important for unpleasant chores or activities. Some people dislike checking their email every morning, for example, and so they put it off and meander through the task rather than staying time efficient. When they have a schedule, however, it is a lot easier to sit down, breeze through emails during the time allocated, and move on to the next task.
Creating a schedule is easier than some may think. Students should start by blocking out time for sleep and travel so that they have a loose framework for the day. Priorities are added next. They should start with the most important and block out the ideal length of time to spend on them. This should be completed even if the hours of the day won’t line up – students can par downtime later in the schedule creation process. Tasks with defined start and end times (such as lectures and exams) make this process easier, but they aren’t required.
Once everything essential is blocked out, it is time to go back through the schedule and begin the time management process. Most people will end up with a time deficit on the first draft of their schedule. So, they should write down how far over 24 hours they are and start reducing the schedule to match. Schedulers should be careful about reducing sleep or free time. While it is sometimes possible to safely cut down on both, many people sacrifice a good night’s rest for additional time during the day. Although this provides more awake hours for family time or study, the quality of time produced is not sufficient. Sleep deprivation may reduce attention span, capacity for learning, and emotional stability.
It is important to include some downtime as well as a margin of error. Sometimes, lectures run over, and if students don’t have any time blocked out for flexibility, they will fall behind in all other tasks. It is wise to include 10 or 15 minutes around each activity to ensure that even if something unexpected happens, the individual can get back on track.
Once the schedule is complete, it is time to put it into practice.
Stick to the schedule
Developing a schedule is useless if the user does not stick to it. While emergencies are a part of life and some circumstances are unpredictable, student nurses should still be adhering to a schedule. This might be difficult when the temptation to postpone is strong, especially when family is concerned. While pushing off studying until tomorrow might provide more time with family, falling behind in studies will require the student to spend even more time studying for the rest of the week. There’s always a give and take.
Furthermore, schedules don’t always pan out. Students can always, and should frequently, revise their schedule as the need arises. New classes and work responsibilities might demand more or less time, for example, which means the rest of the schedule should be adjusted accordingly.
Communicate with family
Nursing studies are important, but so is family. Balancing the two can be tricky. Being open and honest with family, however, and explaining the schedule to them may make it easier to meet the needs of both. When a nurse or student no longer has loved ones calling during study time or showing up when they are trying to cook dinner, for example, staying on track is a lot simpler.
Students should consider telling family when they need more or less time to study or accomplish tasks. If they are able to cut down on studying one day for a game or sports practice, for example, they should ensure everyone understands that the time must be made up in the coming days.
Resources for Texas families
The nurse practitioner salary in Texas is quite tempting for many prospective nurses. There is additional good news in that there are also resources in the state designed to help studying and working parents manage their time and keep their families safe and secure. Some schools, such as Texas Woman’s University, offer online schooling designed to allow students to work and meet other responsibilities outside of class. Their online MSN-FNP degree has produced high-quality nurses currently working in Texas and across the US. This type of program is ideal for students hoping to balance studies with family life.
The Texas Workforce Commission offers Child Care Services (CCS) designed to provide parents with affordable childcare so they have more time to attend school and work. This is achieved in several ways, but primarily through giving parents financial aid for childcare needs as they move through the education process.
Parents in need of extra help as they pursue their studies while raising their families might be interested in some of the additional resources the state of Texas has to offer:
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Both programs can help busy parents make ends meet as they work towards building a strong career and can sometimes even reduce the amount of time they must spend working as they study. This, in turn, makes it easier for students to complete their nursing education and start looking for work in the medical field.
Those looking for more resources should contact the education provider directly. Universities often offer additional support to their students who are raising families. Whether they are studying online or are planning on spending as much time on campus as possible, students might be surprised at the resources some schools offer. They can try reaching out to a professor and asking them if there is aid available. Students might also have some success using Google to search for family resources in their area, although not all available programs will show up as search results.
Begin nursing education
Those ready to start nursing education have an interesting journey ahead. There are many great resources designed to make the process easier, especially for those raising a family at the same time. From online courses to on-campus childcare options, many educational institutes are willing to work with nontraditional students to make their academic experience as easy and successful as possible. By studying to become a nurse while balancing family life, so many students can attain the knowledge and qualifications needed to succeed in the field.
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