It may seem like it would take a superhero to balance full-time nursing work with continuing education and perhaps even a personal life, but take heart. It is possible, even without sacrifice. Continuing nursing education, whether for an advanced degree, studying for specialty certification, or keeping current on evidence-based practice, is a matter of discipline. That life is about quality rather than quantity is also true in the balancing act of being a working student.
The first step in nursing education is organizing the details: What would a full-time course load look like? Will it require cooperation from your employer, and if so, how willing are they to accommodate you? Will your employer help you pay tuition and what are the limits of that? What are your other commitments and how flexible are they?
One suggestion for making it work is to look at a typical week of your life and block out times that you are unavailable. This includes times that you spend with your family, running errands, and yes, even playing and relaxing. Make your class schedule around that, while at the same time remembering that there will be homework.
When you apply to school, start the process early and give yourself the luxury of time in the application process; it is easier done in small nibbles than large bites. Your application can be painlessly completed one transcript, personal statement paragraph, and reference request at a time.
Once enrolled, having the discipline to give your schoolwork quality attention will allow you to feel fulfilled and purposeful rather than deprived. When you study, turn your phone and TV off, ask for privacy, set a timer, and focus. And when you’re done, be done. Don’t give up anything important to you. Continue exercising, knitting, playing music, or whatever gives you pleasure and reprieve.
The last thing your patient or your family needs is an angry, tired nurse. Even if it’s one class at a time, you’re doing it. So…do it, but do it as you continue high-quality patient care and high-quality self-care.
If you ask any nurse why they went into nursing, their response will undoubtedly have a foundation of compassion. Whether it’s an anecdote about a family member, a childhood role model, or a personal experience, a career in nursing starts by caring.
And yet, in a modern health care system burdened by precarious political conditions, technology evolving at breakneck speed, and specialties becoming super-specialties, it’s easy to lose touch with sentiment.
The onus on nursing seems to be heavier than ever, and the workload seems to focus on skills and tasks rather than human connection. Within such a context, reminding a nurse (if you can catch him or her) that they need to give report to another unit may understandably yield a frustrated grunt.
Yet despite how inconvenient, time-consuming, and even unpleasant hand-off may seem, its purpose is not to frustrate the nurse but rather to serve the patient.
Remember SBAR? Have you heard that acronym since nursing school? Health care today is filled with endless acronyms and buzzwords. SBAR and others serve as simple solutions to the impossibly complex knowledge nursing requires. Likely to many nurses’ chagrin, SBAR is evolving, and even specializing, just like nursing; now there is SHARED, PEARLS, and IPASS, to name a few.
What does compassion have to do with giving report? If every nurse gave hand-off as if the patient was their loved one, it is likely that every scratch would be scrutinized, every medication change would be reviewed in minute detail, and personal details would be emphasized (e.g., “She hates when you call her Patty. Call her Trish.”).
Giving good report is not an advanced science, but a simple art that can be mastered with a few pointers rooted in the principle of quality care:
- Write pertinent information down; do not go by memory.
- Do not multitask while giving or receiving report.
- Be thorough; don’t assume the other nurse “should” already know something.
- Whether SBAR or not, use a simple guideline to be sure you have covered all your bases.
Caring nurses are thorough nurses. If the care that attracted a nurse to the field can inform every report they give (and every other task), nursing can become even more meaningful, efficient, and effective.