Tips for Getting an Online Nursing Degree


Are you thinking about going back to school?  I graduated from a diploma program which was the last class for a 3 year diploma program.  Times changed and it began to be a requirement to have at least a 2 year Associate degree but preferred a 4 year Bachelors degree.  I never had the desire to go back to school since I was a single mother raising 2 children.  I worked more than 30 years and the lack of the degree never held me back from any job or position I chose.

Today, however it is more important to continue with your education if at all possible.  Administrative positions almost always require at least a BSN and most often a Masters.  If you have decided now is the time to continue your education and you love travel nursing then consider online courses.   Just know it is not as easy as you might think.

My experience with online learning taught me a few things.  Since the internet is open 24/7 you would think this would be perfect.  Most RN-BSN nurses work a job either part time or full time. Many of you work long 12 hour shifts and just want to get home to bath and bed.  As an online student you will have homework and deadlines.  I know you think that you can use your days off to get it done, so you spend the days researching and writing papers.

Here are a few ideas to help you get that online degree and not sacrifice all of your personal time.

Get organized

Probably the most important thing you can do for success is to get organized.  Set up your study space or office.  My favorite thing to get this done is to visit my local office supply store.  I love shopping for items to help make my work easier.  Make a list of some things you may need like a three-hole punch, folders, three-ring binders and dividers for each class you are taking. If you are one who is extremely organized try color coding. To limit those trips to the store buy printer paper by the case  to save time and money.  I keep extra printer ink on hand to prevent having to run out in the middle of a study session to get more.

You may choose to print everything, but I prefer to make a folder on my computer desktop to keep documents handy.  You should keep it in the cloud or back it up on an external source as well.   If the professor didn’t get your most recent paper you need a copy to provide. Make sure not to delete the original from your computer.

Keep class work handy once the course has ended.  Store it away out of sight in case you need it at another time.

Find space

Try to have a separate work space for your class work. You will want a space where you can leave your papers and books out and have access to computer and printer.  A study space saves you the headache of having to put everything away and drag it all out again each time you want to work on lessons.  Keep you food and drink out of your work space to prevent accidentally soiling your work. Create a space where you can close the door and take a break if you need it.

Get it cheap

I  use the app called Offerup to find furniture cheap.  You can also shop the local thrift store to buy used office furniture or a comfortable chair. Make your space comfy since you will be sitting for long periods of time.

I like to shop the local big box stores to save money on supplies.  Fall is a great time prior to the start of school to find great discounts. Look for those rebates or coupons to save on supplies.

Buy used books whenever possible. Use the neighborhood library or hospital library for research. Most libraries have websites that allow you to order books for research and they’ll email you when the books are ready for picked up.  Saving time and energy are important for success.

Treat yourself

I am the worst at thinking about my wants and needs and I tend to put myself last.  Learn to take a few hours each week just for yourself.  something simple like time with family and friends to catch up.  Spend time with a friend and get coffee or ice cream.  to connect with friends or family.  My personal favorite is to get a pedicure and/or manicure. Taking a little break can help to lift your spirits and change your mood.

The best part is you can take your work with you as you travel making it ideal for travel nurses.  All you need is a WiFi connection to connect for homework and class information.

Find the time

Look at changing your hours if possible.  Many jobs will consider letting you work alternate shift if they know you are in school.  Try  2-12s and 2-8s or even 3-12s for 40 when possible.  If you can afford it, work part-time. You can always go back full-time when you finish your BSN. There are multiple ways to take classes.

Take one class per semester to stretch out your time.  Look at taking a class or two during the summer months since they are generally offered over eight weeks instead of 15.

All schools offer options to fit your schedule. Do not self destruct by trying to finish your degree in two years, work full-time and a have family.   Your body will let you know when you have taken on too much, pay attention.

Housework will need to take a back seat.  If you have family have them pitch it otherwise hide it when you can.  If you have roommates or family living in the household set some ground rules for getting the work done.  When you have deadlines let them know you are not available to pitch in.  Find those things you can do while listening to web cast discussions that is the good thing about a mute button.   They will never know what you are doing.

Speak up

You probably want to be independent that is one reason for online learning, but there can be negative effects. I learned that it was overwhelming at first and the amount of  information streaming in was endless. You are not alone professors and fellow students can help if you reach out. Professors are eager to help and  can offer you assistance or extensions if you ask. Rely on tech support if you are having difficulty with the technology. Remember there are online libraries and librarians available to help if you need it.

You can do this

There is never just the right time.  If you have made the decision to go for it  then enjoy the process. Pace yourself and let the 24/7 learning experience work for you. No two people work the same but since you’ve been to college before, do what works for you. Remember to breathe, laugh, have fun and enjoy the ride!

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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a Registered Nurse and retired US Army Reserve Nurse Major. She has more than 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career, she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and to South Korea. She was trained as an Army Medic during the Vietnam era and later as an OR tec. She went on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and then completed her nursing training as a Registered Nurse. She was then commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserves. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and work in other medical facilities. During her career, she had the opportunity to work in several specialties to include, OR, Occupational Health, Hospice, Sexual Assault Team, Forensic/ Correctional Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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