Managing Health And Wellbeing When Studying As A Full-Time Nurse: A Guide
Nurses and other frontline workers have been through the ringer this past year. They have worked hard, tirelessly, and were the last defense against a raging pandemic that brought the entire world to a halt. Their work has never been more important, and never has it been so apparent that not only do we need more RNs, we need more APRNs and healthcare administrators with DNP degrees.
Taking time off to commit to full-time education, however, is not an option. Most nurses will have and want to continue to work to support themselves and their families financially. However, even if they didn’t need that financial support, there are too few nurses and too high a demand for the number of nurses this country needs the training to take a sabbatical from their career.
However, with online education, nurses can continue to work while studying to earn their next academic qualification. Online degrees have become increasingly popular as times goes on – and for a good reason. It is the best option for both the nurses and for patients.
Staying healthy and well, however, is an entirely different story. Several strategies need to be put in place. It isn’t just your health and wellbeing that matters, after all. Push yourself to the brink, and you won’t be able to provide patients with the level of care they need and deserve.
These tips can be used when you work towards your BSN, your MSN, or even your DNP. They are universal, effective, and designed specifically to help nurses work in shifts and work in set hours.
Start with a Degree That Supports Your Career
There are many excellent online degrees out there today for nurses. It is, after all, the best way to train up existing nurses without detracting from the current workforce. It is in everyone’s best interests to make online degrees that are effective, informative, and helpful.
Not every institution will be the same. Nevertheless, you deserve better than an outdated interface and a degree that hasn’t properly integrated all the benefits of a digital learning environment. Moreover, you deserve more than just a removed classroom; with the power of technology, you can learn better and more effectively right in your own home than you could at night school or even with a full-time education.
There are a few ways that you can check the quality of the online degree that you are looking to apply to. The good news is that these tricks will help you find the perfect degree whether you are applying for a BSN, an MSN, or even a DNP.
1. Check for Accreditation
This is a bare minimum. If a recognized institution in your state does not accredit the degree, then you cannot use it. It’s as simple as that, so do your due diligence from the start and narrow down your options from accredited nursing colleges.
2. Inspect the Faculty
Nursing is one of those careers where you want to be educated by a career professional. The faculty, therefore, should be full of exceptional nurses who decided at the end of an already illustrious career to move their efforts towards helping the next generation.
Not only can this help you decide which degree you want to go to, some degrees, like the DNP, have a final project that acts very similar to a dissertation or thesis. You will therefore have a faculty member oversee your progress and help you with writing and finalizing it. Finding a faculty member that has the same career as you aspire for and want to invest in is a great way to choose the DNP program for you.
3. Check Ratings and Reviews
While a high-ranking university looks good on paper, it doesn’t actually mean a lot to you. After all, the ranking of an entire university could be because of a different department entirely. They may be well regarded because of their bachelor programs or arts programs, not because of their nursing programs.
You deserve the best of the best, even amongst nursing colleges and institutions. To do that, you will want to see how well the department itself ranks amongst others like it. You will also want to see if you can find reviews and testimonies from alumni, and if you are going for a DNP, you will want to find previous graduates on your own or through the alumni network to ask questions about their experience.
This extra legwork is important if you want to choose the best degree for you, both in terms of your professional goals and personal needs.
4. Examine Available Support
Support can look like many different things. The most basic support level that you will want from your BSN, MSN, or DNP degree is flexible learning. Ideally, it would help if you chose between 8-week courses or 16-week courses and the ability to take on one or two courses at a time.
This is how you can learn while studying. It is the only feasible way to manage a career as demanding as a nurse and commit to any degree, from BSN to DNP.
It doesn’t matter how many times you have been around the block, either. Just because you are an APRN now does not mean that you will find earning your DNP easy, especially this year. The workload is larger. The pressure is more demanding. The last thing you need as an APRN today is to be bogged down by a degree that does not take your good work and stress into the equation.
This stress is where the next suggestion comes into play. To truly succeed, especially in a leadership degree like a DNP, it is imperative that you have a success coach. One-on-one coaching can help keep you above water and, most importantly, can do a lot for the sake of your career.
DNP healthcare administrators are invaluable, both in policy and in healthcare settings. That being said, you need to be very strategic to beat out competitors and to earn a higher wage in your pay scale.
A one-on-one coach can help give you advice throughout your degree, including what to do with that DNP after the fact.
Personal Methods to Managing Stress
Stress is both mental and physical, and therefore to improve your performance at work and help improve your ability to study, you will want to focus on those two areas of your health.
1. Stop, Remove, or Lessen the Physical Symptoms
Stress causes adrenaline to spike, for the body to tense, and for fight or flight to kick in. In small doses, it can give you the edge. Stress is, at its core, neither a necessarily bad thing nor a good thing. It is a survival response. However, put yourself in too many stressful situations, and your body and mind cannot cope with it. The mental trauma of stress and stressors can be extreme, and if you find that you experience issues like PTSD or disassociated (and not just from work), seeking out professional care is a must.
However, stress will cause physiological symptoms that will be painful, from muscle knots to stomach cramps, even heart arrhythmia. So the first step to reducing your stress is to remove, lessen, or at the very least stop the symptoms of stress from causing ongoing pain long as you go home.
A massage therapist or other physical therapist can help you with those pesky physical symptoms, as can a doctor if you develop issues such as stomach ulcers. However, unless you address the physical pains, they will only stress you more, making it hard to do your job and focus on your degree.
2. The Benefits of Sleep and Stress Management
Getting a good night’s rest when you work shifts at a hospital is going to be difficult. During your shift days, you will maybe get a few naps in at completely random intervals when you have the time. Unfortunately, this can destroy the possibility of a consistent routine – which is, by far, the most effective way to get a good night’s rest.
What you need to do is use routine to replace the schedule. For example, instead of going to sleep at the same time every day, do the same activities before bed and the same activities when you wake up. This way, your brain can associate certain progressions as the precursor for sleep.
For example, a few hours before you go to bed, you can start a meditative activity. Drawing, puzzling, gardening, or anything else that allows your hands to work while powering down your brain is a good idea. Then, of course, you could read, but try to stick with books that aren’t hard to put down; otherwise, you could end up waking your brain up inadvertently and ruin your efforts to get a good night’s rest at any time of the day.
Whatever you do, choose something meditative, relaxing, and ideally away from the blue-white light of electronics. This way, you can ease your mind into a quiet restfulness that should help you sleep more deeply.
3. The Benefits of Exercise for Stress Management
Exercise offers many health benefits. For stress, it offers two things. One, it allows you to work off nervous energy that may have built up through the day. Two, it causes the body to produce endorphins. Exercising regularly is also proven to help you sleep better at night, allowing you to enjoy multiple benefits all at once.
4. The Importance of Diet
Diet is imperative for health – we all know this. However, foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat have the added detriment of causing energy crashes. They are hard on your body and harder on your mind because they don’t provide the energy or the nutrients you need to successfully power through a full day at work and then, depending on your study structure, continue your day by investing time into your degree.
Tips to Improve Your Emotional Wellbeing
It isn’t just health and the physical symptoms of fatigue that you have to worry about as a full-time nurse taking on the pressures of a stressful job; you also need to be aware of the toll it can take on your mental health.
5. Build a Support Network
You need a support network that helps you. They should help you emotionally and physically, and to do that, you need to have more than one source of support. The nurses at work, your friends and family, and even other students are working on the same nursing degree as you are all excellent places to start. You are not in this alone, and having the emotional support and people there to help you with your responsibilities is going to be instrumental to your efforts.
6. Have Planned Breaks
Breaks are the key to success. Work too long or focus too long on any one thing, and your attention is going to drift. The brain will try its hardest to make the work you are trying to do easier on itself. By taking a break, you can give your mind a breather and actually learn better and do your job better.
At work, you won’t have the same ability to control when you have a break, which is why you should be kind to yourself when it comes to studying for your degree.
7. Reconnect with Nature
Hospitals and other medical locations are not known for their connection to nature. You can feel very disassociated as a result, especially if you work in an area where you either cannot focus on what’s outside the windows, or alternatively are not even near windows at all.
To relax and recharge, try to spend your breaks and time off outside as much as possible. Being amongst nature is a natural stress-reducer and can even improve things such as your focus and memory. In short, it is an excellent and wholesome way to spend your downtime that will actually work to improve both your career and your studying efforts.