Are you thinking about going to nursing school and already have a family at home to take care of? While balancing nursing school with a family can be a big commitment, it’s definitely doable, and many nurses going to school later in life already have a family, often including multiple kids. If you have a family and are thinking about going to nursing school—or are already enrolled—here are eight tips for balancing it all and staying sane.
1. Talk about the changes with your family.
Before you start school or run out to purchase your scrubs, discuss all the coming changes with both your partner and the kids so everyone knows what is going on. If your partner is going to take on new responsibilities once you start school—such as picking up and dropping off the kids at daycare or taking them to doctor’s appointments—clarify expectations beforehand and work out a plan. Then let your kids know that you’re going to nursing school, and explain that everyone’s schedule is going to change as a result. If they’re younger, they may take time to adjust to the new routine, so be patient with them.
2. Create a master calendar.
Some people like to keep their work or school and personal calendars separate, but it will be a huge help for you and your partner if you consolidate everything into one master calendar. At the very least, the calendar should feature major events such as exams, recitals, and doctor’s appointments, and if you’d like you can get more granular and add your class schedule as well. And don’t forget to bring your partner on board and invite them to contribute to the calendar: They can add work trips and other major events from their schedule so you’ll have all the family commitments in one place.
3. Figure out your peak study periods.
Are you a morning person or a night owl? Would you rather get up at 4 a.m. and do your studying early before anyone else wakes up, or do you like to stay up late and crack the books after the kids have gone to bed? There’s no right or wrong answer, but your studying will be more efficient and you’ll retain more material if you work with rather than against your circadian rhythm. You probably already have an idea of when your most productive periods are during the day, so try to get homework done during those times whenever you can.
4. Make the most of nap time.
If you have little kids, you know the blissful quiet that (finally!) descends on the house when nap time comes around. While you may be tempted to take a nap yourself after running around after little ones all day, use this time to check some things off your to-do list: Finish that assignment, study for that exam, take care of that chore. After all, the more you get done during nap time, the less you have to get done either super early or very late in the day, when you’re less alert.
5. Determine what you’re willing to sacrifice.
You’re not a superhero. You’re only human, and you can’t do everything on top of managing your family and getting through nursing school. Before school starts, take stock of all the activities in your life and determine what you must keep and what can go. For example, you might not be able to spend as much time with extended family as you used to, or you might have to give up a time-consuming hobby such as knitting. At the same time, make sure you leave some time to take care of yourself: Maybe you give up the knitting projects, but you can continue to make time for your daily workout.
6. Schedule family and couple time each month.
Wrangling a family is difficult enough without adding nursing school to the mix. Despite the schedule chaos, do your best to block off at least one day or night a month for family time. Visit the zoo, host an at-home move night, or go out to a park together. And don’t neglect your love life either: If you’ve got a partner, aim to schedule one date a month if you can. Put away the books and stethoscope, get a babysitter, and enjoy some well-deserved time away from the kids, just the two of you.
7. Find a support system.
There’s a good chance there are other parents in your nursing program, so seek them out and make friends. They’ll understand the challenges you’re going through, and you can swap tips and babysitter recommendations. Of course, everyone in the nursing program is going through the same experience, but fellow parents will be able to sympathize with cramming during nap time and other strategies only moms and dads can understand. You may even become study buddies, as fellow parents will probably keep a schedule closer to yours, which makes it easier to find mutually available times to study together.
8. Consider a part-time program.
If going to nursing school full time isn’t feasible because of your family situation, don’t be discouraged—there are plenty of part-time nursing programs out there. Check to see if there are any part-time programs in your area; these programs will be spread over more months, but they’ll require less time of you each week. You can also look into online nursing programs, some of which provide on-demand video classes, let your work at your own pace, or otherwise offer a more flexible schedule to accommodate the demands of parenting.
There’s no denying that nursing school is challenging on its own, and having a family adds an extra layer of complexity. However, with hard work, planning, and prioritization, plenty of parents get their nursing degree each year and launch fulfilling careers in nursing. Follow these eight tips to balance your family life with nursing school.
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