Even before the pandemic, a growing number of nurses were opting for online nursing schools. But—as the world has discovered over the past year—while it’s a marvel of technology, online schooling requires an extra helping of discipline, and the techniques used for learning on a screen can be very different from in-person classes. To assist you on your way, we’ve put together eight great tips to help you excel in school and complete your nursing degree online!
1. Perfect Your Time Management Skills Now, Not Later
Time management skills will be crucial throughout your career, and you should hone them now as they will also play a starring role in your success as an online nursing student! Planning your day and scheduling things ahead of time will help to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.
And when it is time to be in class, complete assignments, or just study, also be sure to use tools to help you work on tasks and take only intentional breaks. Whether you use apps or just a day-planner is totally up to you, just so long as your time is fully managed.
2. Set Boundaries
If you’re not careful, school can be all-consuming. It’s important to dedicate yourself to your studies and do as well as possible in school, but it’s just as important to make room for a social life and to simply rest and relax.
It’s never too soon to start setting boundaries to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This vital skill will make life easier for you as a student and throughout your nursing career. Many nursing positions, particularly long-term ones like caregiving, require long hours and a huge personal commitment. Knowing when to step back and say no will help you avoid burnout and keep your career going for the long haul.
3. Join or Form a Study Group
One of the best parts of being in school is the lifelong friends you make. It’s harder to hang out in person when you’re pursuing an online nursing degree, but that doesn’t mean you can’t meet incredible people and become friends!
In addition to boosting your GPA and ability to work with other nurses, joining or creating a study group gives you a natural way to meet and bond with your fellow students. Having that kind of regular camaraderie will also give you friends who know what you’re going through when things get tough at school.
4. Keep A Dedicated Study Area
Your brain occasionally needs physical cues to understand that it’s time to focus up and study. It’s hard to give it that if you take classes and do all your work in your bed. You’ll have a much easier time getting work done if you have a dedicated study space. It signals to your brain that it’s time to learn, just like going into a physical classroom would.
Ideally, your study space should be a desk with a comfortable chair. It should be as tidy and organized as possible. If you can, put it near a window, because natural light makes it easier to absorb information. And you should minimize distraction as much as possible. Keep away from TVs or get a pair of noise-canceling headphones and face away from anything that flashes.
5. Planning to be an RN? Don’t Wait to Start Using a Nursing Exam Study Guide
It can be difficult to mark the passage of time when you’re doing most of your schoolwork from home. You won’t actually take the NCLEX until you graduate, but that time will pass much more quickly than you expect! Make sure you’re on track to learn everything you need to know and prep for your exams by getting study guides and starting work on them early.
You obviously don’t have to be proficient at the very beginning. But prepping for the end result from the beginning will help you stay on track and follow the required arc of your nursing education, even if you’re doing it yourself from home.
6. Always Ask for Help if You Need It
It shouldn’t be a surprise: nursing is hard! Knowing when to ask for help is part of being a good student. Schools offer tons of resources, so whether you’re struggling scholastically or socially, there are people or organizations who are ready and able to help.
Especially if you’re considering per diem nursing after graduation, you’ll have to know how to ask for help to find out where things are in each new hospital. So start asking for help when you need it now. Schools offer free tutors, professors have office hours, and don’t forget to scan the Nursing Student Career Advice sections in DailyNurse and Minority Nurse!
7. Find Time to Go Outside
Even though most states are trying to expedite a “return to normalcy,” we will probably continue spending much of our time at home this year. To get the most out of your classes and studying, make time in your daily schedule for regular fresh air and exercise breaks.
There are plenty of ways to bring your work outside as well. Whether it’s going for a walk, meeting with a mentor, or just reading textbooks on a park bench, make sure to get some sun in somewhere. Investing time in outdoor activities refreshes your brain, lifts your mood, improves your overall health, and makes it easier to learn, whether your school is online-only, hybrid, or in-person.
8. Remember Why You’re Doing This
Keep your motivation in the back of your mind, or better yet, write it down and post it somewhere visible. Sometimes it can feel like online nursing school lacks the perks of in-person learning, but an online education has its own terrific perks! You’re on a journey to launch your dream career, get out into the workforce, and contribute some help and healing to a hurting world.
Whether your plan is to establish a long-term work home at a “brick and mortar” address like a hospital, clinic, school, or correctional facility, or you’ve set your heart on a gig nursing lifestyle, always remember what’s driving you to pursue this in the first place. It will keep you going through tough times and help you avoid burnout so you can stay happy and motivated for your whole career.