Considering Working While in Nursing School? 8 Tips to Help You Balance

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If you decide to continue working while in nursing school, understand that the road ahead will not be easy. While it is generally not recommended to work while in a nursing program, students can find a balance by not procrastinating, setting a realistic budget and finding a flexible job.

nurse with backpack and books smiling at camera

Many individuals who enroll in nursing programs face personal responsibilities they cannot ignore, leading them to wonder whether they can continue working while in nursing school. It is important to remember that nursing school demands a significant time commitment, akin to a full-time job, especially for accelerated nursing programs.

Accelerated nursing programs allow students to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in a shorter timeframe than a traditional four-year BSN program. For example, Pacific Lutheran University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program allows students to earn their BSN in as few as 16 months, which can make the workload feel intense.

Given this substantial commitment, it is generally recommended not to work while in nursing school. However, if you need to work, it is possible to manage both responsibilities. Below are eight tips to help you balance work and nursing school, paving the way for a rewarding nursing career.

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1. Do Not Procrastinate

Working while in nursing school leaves you less time to complete coursework and study, making procrastination your enemy. Complete your coursework promptly to stay caught up.

Procrastination will only intensify your workload. If you are enrolled in an ABSN program, such as the one offered at Pacific Lutheran University, you are already part of an intense curriculum that condenses the content of a traditional four-year BSN program into a shorter timeframe. If you complete your coursework as assigned, you will find it easier to stay on top of your responsibilities.

2. Always Set Time Aside to Study

Nursing school requires significant time to study for assessments and prepare for simulation labs, clinical rotations and the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). It is crucial for success in nursing school. Regardless of your schedule, you should always try to prioritize your studies.

Consider your work and school schedules to determine how much time you can study. Map out your schedule in a day planner or calendar to keep track of your responsibilities. Remain flexible; you may need to adjust your routine if your weekly work schedule changes.

PLU nursing students working in skills lab

3. Remain Organized

Organization is paramount to balancing work and nursing school. Keep track of your assignments, assessments, schedules and coursework.

Write everything down in a day planner or calendar to easily view your availability throughout the day and plan your week accordingly. Keep all coursework easily accessible in binders or folders. Staying organized helps reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed by your responsibilities.

4. Set a Realistic Budget

Setting and adhering to a budget is crucial to balancing nursing school and work. Carefully consider your expenses and establish a realistic budget. Automated payments may also be helpful during this time. This way, as you focus on school and work, important costs are covered and will not slip your mind.

5. Save Time by Meal Prepping

Meal prepping for the week will save you time and alleviate the stress of daily planning meals. Small changes such as meal prepping can go a long way if you are working while in nursing school. Choose a day with the most free time, such as Sunday, and prep your ingredients for the coming week.

Simplifying cooking gives you more time to focus on your studies and will be helpful when you are under time constraints and must rush to your next shift or class. It will also help you save money compared to quick and easy solutions, such as ordering takeout.

6. Choose a Flexible Job

Flexibility is key to working while in nursing school. Try to find a job with a flexible schedule or one that allows you to set your hours. You may work unusual hours during clinical rotations, so a job accommodating flexibility is critical if you need to adjust your schedule at the last minute.

7. Maintain Open Communication

Like a flexible job, open communication with your employer is important for knowing how to work while in nursing school. Be upfront with your employer. Inform them that you are in a nursing program that includes clinical rotations and that you may need to modify your work schedule or find someone to cover your shift at the last minute.

When you establish this from the start, your employer knows what to expect and can be more accommodating when the need arises.

8. Find a Job That’s Relevant to Nursing

PLU nursing students talking in simulation lab

A job related to what you learn in nursing school serves as income and real-world patient care experience. Jobs such as working at the front desk of a hospital unit or as a certified nursing assistant—if you have the necessary qualifications—provide invaluable exposure to the healthcare industry, benefiting your nursing school experience and the NCLEX preparation.

Consider exploring alternative job opportunities, like tutoring fellow students at your school, which allows you to revisit previously learned material and assist others. Consider your current qualifications and research options to find a job that provides relevant experience while working in nursing school.

Other Ways to Pay for Nursing School

If you are still asking yourself, “Should I work in nursing school?” remember that it is not always an option for everyone. It is important to assess your ability to handle coursework and stress levels. The workload and time commitment may not leave much room for a job; however, if paying for nursing school is a concern, other options are available.

Students can seek federal, state or university grants and scholarships to help finance their education. That said, ABSN students might not qualify for these options. Instead, they can consider direct federal or private loans and third-party scholarships.

Regardless of your circumstances, numerous options are available to help you pursue a nursing career without needing to work while in nursing school.

Nurses with a BSN are highly sought after and better prepared for career advancement opportunities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent data reveals that registered nurses earn a median annual salary of $77,600, which will likely increase as you progress in your career. While nursing school certainly requires an initial investment, nursing students undoubtedly experience a substantial return on this investment throughout their professional journey.

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Earn Your BSN at Pacific Lutheran University

Is a nursing degree worth it? A nursing degree is absolutely worth it. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, BSN-prepared nurses are crucial in enhancing patient outcomes. A recent study conducted in 2022 reinforces this belief, revealing a clear correlation between a higher proportion of nurses with a BSN in a hospital setting and lower 30-day inpatient surgical mortality rates.

A BSN program provides nursing students with a comprehensive education. Through online nursing coursework and on-site nursing simulation labs and clinicals, the ABSN program at Pacific Lutheran University equips students with the knowledge and skills they need to confidently sit for the NCLEX and embark on a journey toward a fulfilling nursing career.

Contact an admission counselor at Pacific Lutheran University to learn more about our ABSN program and take the first steps toward becoming a registered nurse.