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Heading back to nursing school can be tough for any student. But suppose you’ve been in the workforce for a while and have decided that you want to continue your education. If your next step is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, how can you attain the most success in a BSN program?

Valerie C. Sauda, PhD, RN-BC, CNE, MGSF, Chief Nurse Administrator/Undergraduate Director, Husson University School of Nursing, answered our questions on this.

First, how would you describe a post-traditional student who would be working on a BSN? Would these be working nurses who earned AA degrees? Please explain.  

A post-traditional student is a student who enters a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at any point in their academic career, but who may have transfer credits or life experiences that give them time to pursue the BSN degree.

What are the most important things for them to keep in mind when they are pursuing BSN degrees? What will be their biggest challenges and how can they overcome them?

When pursuing a BSN degree, you should consider the following:

  • Time. Are you able to have a work and personal schedule that will allow you to study from 3-4 hours daily? Do you have flexibility to adjust your work schedule to meet the demands of clinical and simulation hours for the program that you are interested in? Would you be able to work part-time and extra hours during college breaks to limit the number of hours that you are working while you are in classes? Most BSN programs require a full-time commitment, although there are some innovative programs across the country designed for working nursing students to pursue the BSN degree.
  • Personal support network. Do you have a personal support network of family and friends who can help you with groceries, laundry, or babysitting (if you have children) so you can study or participate in class, labs, or clinicals?
  • Financial resources. This is probably the number one issue of concern for most nursing students pursing their BSN! Be sure that you maximize your financial aid resources through the college or university’s Financial Aid office, and look for scholarships and grants can really make a difference in your ability to be successful in the BSN program of your choice. 
  • Organizational skills. Having a good sense of organization and making sure that you can create a daily and weekly to do list and stick to it, can really be beneficial as you start a BSN program.

If they need help, whom should they ask?  

Colleges and BSN programs across the country are well-equipped to help with navigating the college environment. Each program is connected to a financial aid department that can help with financial resources. Campuses also have an office of advising or student success where you can get assistance in mapping out a plan for success as you enter the BSN program. The School of Nursing itself also offers support through web-based chats or email in addition to open houses. Asking for help is essential for your success in a BSN program!

What are the best tips you would give for how they can remain successful while earning this degree?  

Here are my top three tips for success. First, study hard. Use tutors, online course study resources, extra lab practice times, and faculty support to help you focus and reinforce your study. Second, be kind to yourself. Nursing school is challenging and balancing your work habits with your personal life is essential. Finally, take care of yourself.  Stay healthy by eating right, exercising, sleeping, and pacing your work. These can really make a difference in your success.

What if they find that they are overwhelmed balancing work, school, and family? What should they do? 

Most nursing students experience some feelings of being overwhelmed at some point in the nursing program.If you are feeling overwhelmed, speak with your academic nursing advisor or use counseling or student success services on the campus. Often, a little outside assistance can help you gain the support you need to reorganize and stay on track.

 If other nurses want to help these types of students (if they work with them), what would you recommend they do? 

Offer tutoring support and give kind words of encouragement. Each nurse has experienced the demands of a nursing program and can probably share stories of failure as well as success. Other nurses can also give students the motivation and grit they need to carry forward with the program. Be a mentor!

Is there anything else you think is important for our readers to know? 

Before entering a BSN program, be honest with yourself about the amount of time it will take to successfully complete this degree and understand how it will potentially affect your personal and work life. Wanting to be a nurse is an important first step. After that, potential BSN students need to carefully analyze whether this is the best time for them to enter a BSN program. Exploring your options and making sure that you have a full understanding of the program you’re entering, will help you better plan for your ultimate success in a BSN program.

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