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As a nurse, you’ve probably found that studying online to improve your prospects and further your career is easier than ever. More and more online-based degree programs are cropping up. This makes it possible for busy full-time nurses to work on developing their jobs without having to make drastic changes to working hours or family commitments.
But wherever you are in your nursing career journey, deciding to study from home can be daunting. While online studying provides many benefits like complete flexibility to choose your study hours and the option to connect with like-minded students based all over the country or even the world, studying online is a drastically different experience to being in a classroom-based setting.
Determination, motivation, and dedication are all certainly required to study from home and succeed. So, if you’ve chosen an online program to further your nursing career, here are some strategies to use for the best results.
Research the Program
Knowing as much as you can about the program itself before you begin will make sure that you’ve got a clear idea of what to expect, and help you avoid any surprises.
Don’t just look at the website and read the prospectus – if you can, try and get in touch with current students or alumni to ask them about the program and get a real-life take on it.
Many online schools and programs have social media groups or online forums that anybody can join; these can be excellent resources for new students looking to learn more about the program that they are embarking on.
If you’re planning to study for an advanced degree program like a DNP nurse executive course, then you’re going to need some serious dedication whichever way you decide to study. However, studying online often requires even more careful planning and preparation, especially if you will need to dedicate a certain number of hours per week to the program to stay ahead and be successful.
You may find the following ideas useful:
- Get a planner – write down your daily schedule and figure out where you’re best able to fit studying in. Then, schedule it in so that you can get into a routine with it from as early on as possible.
- Rearrange things in advance – if you need to make some extra time to study, avoid waiting until the last minute. Make adjustments to your schedule a few weeks in advance to give yourself time to adapt to the changes before you begin, rather than having to deal with it all at once.
- Ask for help – there’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it, and the planning stage is a great time to determine where you’re most likely to need some support and ask for it now so that you’ve got something to rely on when the time comes.
Studying online is fantastic for many reasons. There’s far more flexibility, it’s often cheaper, and you get to choose from a much more extensive range of programs. On the other hand, however, it can also become incredibly isolating. So it’s essential to be prepared to offset this by networking and socializing as much as you can.
Even when getting out and meeting up with people in person is tricky. The good news is that it’s becoming easier and easier for online students to socialize with their peers. Facebook groups are a fantastic way to meet, get to know, and keep in touch with your fellow students, and many programs have sub-groups for students based in certain areas, which is ideal if you do want to try and meet people in person too.
Most will hold regular meet-ups or study groups locally, which can be helpful if you tend to work better when you’re with other people.
Set Up a Designated Study Area
Ideally, you should have a study area that’s equipped with everything that you need and is as distraction-free as possible, to help you focus and get things done. The last thing that you need is to end up studying in your kitchen where you’ll be distracted by household chores for half the time, or in your lounge when you’ve got the kids at home, and they are demanding your attention.
Of course, there may be times where you’ll need to make do – but it’s still a good idea to have a dedicated study space that you can go to as often as possible. A spare room, garage, sunroom, or even a quiet corner of an existing room in your home works well.
Invest in a sturdy, spacious desk and a comfortable ergonomic chair so that studying becomes as pleasant an experience as possible. A well-lit area is best to help you stay alert and keep you motivated.
Don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed with distractions when studying from home – it can happen! If you can, find somewhere nearby you can go – a co-working space, coffee shop, or library are all ideal study locations if they have Wi-Fi.
Use Reflective Practice Skills
Finally, when you’re juggling home, work, family, and everything else with trying to study full-time to advance your nursing career, it can be all too easy to become overwhelmed with trying to do everything at once. Many nurses find that putting the reflective practice skills that they have learned into the workplace to work here can be helpful for them.
- Take some time each week to reflect on what went well and what could have gone better. Make adjustments as necessary as you go.
- Keep a journal if it helps. You may find this useful for tracking your emotions, coping mechanisms, reactions and decisions at different times to determine when you’re at your best and when you need to be gentle with yourself.
- Get a mentor. Whether it’s a co-worker, who’s been in the same position before or anyone else you look up to, having somebody to ask for advice when you need it can help you cope.
Studying for advanced nursing qualifications online is becoming increasingly popular for a good reason. But, juggling everything at once is a lot of work, so keep these strategies in mind and set yourself up for success.
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.