Nurse Money: How To Pay Off Nursing School Loans Fast

Nurse Money: How To Pay Off Nursing School Loans Fast

(This post may contain affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure page here).

Are you struggling with how to pay off nursing school loans fast?

The last thing any busy, hard-working nurse wants to think about is how to pay off student loan debt from nursing school.  Unfortunately, you can’t wish it away no matter how hard you try. (Trust me, I’ve tried!)

Nursing school student loan debt will remain right where it is until you get aggressive and attack it. Don’t be the sucker who spends their entire life paying off student loans. They will NEVER go away if you don’t make them, even if you file for bankruptcy.

Becoming a mom changed my financial priorities.

After I became a mother I realized that I needed to get smarter about where my hard-earned money was going.  My nursing school debt needed to go.  Years of making the minimum payment just wasn’t going to cut it anymore.

Motherhood also taught me something very valuable:  being debt free AND having money in my bank account was way more important than spending money on stuff I didn’t need.  

So I did everything I could think of to motivate myself to get rid of the almost $30,000 in student loan debt that I had. I began by listening to financial podcasts specifically focused on paying off debt.  Then I took everything I had learned from those podcasts and formed my own simple yet aggressive payment plan.

My plan was easy to follow, yet aggressive:  don’t spend any money on anything that is not an actual need.  At that time, my true needs included grocery shopping, housing, pet food, and childcare. That’s it!

It took me close to a year to pay off almost $30,000 in debt from nursing school.  I became debt free on November 1st 2016 and my savings has been steadily growing ever since!

piggy bank surrounded by dollars

How to pay off nursing school loans fast and become a debt free nurse:

1.  Understand that student loan debt is NOT good debt.

There is no such thing as good debt. I don’t care if there is a 0% interest rate. Debt is debt. It is still a black cloud handing over your head that never goes away unless you force it to.

2.  Cut your budget way, way down.  Then cut it again.

Take a look at your budget and be honest about what you actually need.  You need clothes to wear, and I bet you probably already have plenty hanging in your closet.  You may still want to shop for more clothes – but that is where the budget cut starts.  If there is something you absolutely think you need, give yourself  a week to think it over.  You may forget you even thought you wanted it in the first place.

An easy way to start cutting your budget is to cook all of your meals at home and packing a lunch for work.  You also may want to wait until you completely pay your loans off before planning any vacations.

Tip:  Want to know a trick to how to pay off nursing school loans fast?  Plan to give yourself a gift you really want after your payoff is complete!

3.  Contribute the maximum possible amount of your paychecks to your loans.

In order to pay off your student loan debt fast you have to get aggressive.  This means that you need to contribute the maximum possible amount that you can towards your nursing school loan debt.

Pick a date that you want to be completely debt free and figure out how much you need to pay each month to make that happen.  You know what they say, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” Put your plan in writing and place a copy in several places – on the fridge, on your desk or in your wallet.  Keep it close to you so you are constantly reminded of your payoff goals.

How to pay off nursing school loans fast!

How to pay off nursing school loans fast!

4.  Find your motivation.

I listened to financial podcasts and read a ton of books to motivate myself during my student loan payoff.  Some of the podcasts I listened to included The Money Guys, Stacking Benjamin’s and Dave Ramsey.

What will financially motivate you?  Whatever it is, make sure you think about it everyday.

5.  Work, work, work.

Work no less than 3 shifts a week, but try to work much more if you can.  Overtime is golden if you are able to make time and-a-half or better yet, double time.  It will be hard and you will be tired, but becoming debt free will make it all worthwhile.

6.  Get used to making sacrifices and feeling a little uncomfortable.

Take a look at the things you can reasonably live without.  Brand new clothes and expensive restaurant meals are not necessities. Try going for a run, instead of spending money on a gym.  Learn to cook if you are used to ordering take-out.  Make your coffee at home instead of getting your daily brew at Starbucks.  Making a few sacrifices along your debt-free journey will help speed up your payoff time.

You may even surprise yourself.  In some ways buying less stuff can make your life easier because you don’t have as many things cluttering your home.

7.  Once you are finally debt free keep living on less and keep saving and investing money.

Continue with the same motivation that you had during your payoff and keep saving for the future.  Let your savings gap grow bigger each month.  Lastly, vow not buy unnecessary stuff you don’t actually need that will probably end up in a dump in 5 years anyway.

Are you in the process of paying off your student loans?  Do you have alternative advice regarding how to pay off nursing school loans fast?  We always enjoy hearing from our readers.  Share your tips with other readers.

Additional Recommended Reading:

How To Find Time To Blog As A Busy Nurse & Mom

How To Find Time To Blog As A Busy Nurse & Mom

(This post may contain affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure page here.)

How to find time to blog as a busy nurse and mom:

My biggest challenge as a busy nurse & mom blogger is simply finding the time to work on my blog.  This post discusses ways that I manage to grow my blog despite having a very busy work and home schedule.

#1.  Schedule time to blog

Treat your blog as a side job.  How much time do you have to invest in it at the moment?  Is it only 5 or 10 hours a week like me?  That is better than nothing!  Its going to take you longer to build a blog and following but it can be done.  Building a blog is a marathon, not a sprint.

A lot of people ask me when I have time to work on blogging.  The truth is, not much.  The only time I have to blog is for up to an hour while my kids are napping and after I put them to sleep at 8pm.  On the days I work 12 hour shifts as a nurse I am only able to blog after I get home and shower, and by then it’s usually 9pm.  And I need to try and get some sleep since I’m either up for work or being woken up by one of my children by 5:30 or 6 in the morning!

The most important thing that busy bloggers must do is to be with the little bit of time that they do have.  You can actually get a lot done in 5 -10 hours a week if you use your time wisely.

#2.   Batch write

Instead of writing 1-2 posts a week, try writing 10 over a period of a several days and then schedule them out far in advance.  This process can help you free up a lot of time!   My process goes something like this:

  • Keyword Research and pick titles for 10 blog posts
  • Write outlines for ten blog posts
  • Do all content creation
  • Optimize all SEO
  • Go back and insert affiliate links and internal/external links for each post
  • Make all graphic designs for each post
  • Schedule posts on WordPress scheduler

This process has saved me so much time and just makes blogging more simple.

#3.  Outline your blog posts first

Is your writing method just to start writing and see where it takes you?  Unfortunately, that may not be the most efficient way to get things done.

When you are trying to inform and create a structured piece, more planning is generally better.  After you do your keyword research and pick your title, try writing down each of the points you want to make.  Then you can use those points as headers for the post to break it up into smaller, more digestible pieces to read.

Think of your outline as the foundation that you can build amazing content around.  Outlining will make your posts easily for you to write, and that will save you time.

#4.  Always have a plan for what you are going to do as soon as you have a free moment for blogging.

If you are going to be a blogger you need excellent time management skills.  The second I put my kids down for a nap I know exactly what I am going to spend that hour doing (usually content creation).

I do chores around the house and all of the cooking while my kids are awake.  That way I can free up some time to work on the blog when my kids are asleep.

blogger typing on a laptop

#5.  Quit doing time wasting activities

Stop using social media.   I know  people who spend hours on Instagram every single day, yet they swear they are so busy that they never have time to get anything done!  I bet if you quit using social media for 1 week you would find that you are suddenly so much more productive.  And probably happier and more in the present to boot!

If you are going to be a blogger you have to get really good at using your time wisely.  Be overprotective about your time.  My time is the most important asset I have and it is important to me.  As a result, I rarely use Instagram or Facebook anymore.  Hopefully one day I will be able to source out a lot of my work (except content creation, of course), but until then I’ve got a lot of work to do.  There is no time to waste.

#6.  Use an editorial calendar

I am almost completely paperless, except for my editorial calendar (which I use as a hard copy for pretty much everything that goes into my blog).  You can find editorial calendars online, but I have found that by using my hard copy of EPIC blog and my scheduler on WordPress that I stay super organized.  I always manage to stay on top of deadlines.

At some point I would love to create my own editorial calendar for bloggers.  Until then, my EPIC blog editorial calendar is super helpful!

 

#7.  Listen to blogging podcasts

When you are starting a project and don’t totally have a grasp one what you are doing, there is only one really good thing to do:  find people who are doing it well and learn from them!

Anytime I take my children for a walk in the stroller or I am on my commute to and from work I listen to blogging podcasts.  Podcasts keep me motivated during the times I am physically unable to blog.  Plus I am able to learn from other bloggers who have had some of the same blogging struggles I do.

#8.  Make time for rest and rejuvenation

You can only burn that candle from both ends for so long.  If you work too hard with no rest then you end up burned out, sick and wondering why you even wanted to be a blogger in the first place.  Giving yourself time to rest can also be great for creativity as well.

Additional Recommended Reading:

Nurse Burnout Symptoms To Watch Out For

Nurse Burnout Symptoms To Watch Out For

(This post about nurse burnout symptoms may contain affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

The nursing profession tends to attract the most compassionate and empathetic people alive.  For that reason, nurses are also the most susceptible to experiencing “burnout.”  Eventually, chronic overwork and stress can lead to nurse burnout symptoms such as exhaustion, anxiety, physical injury or even depression.  If you have been a nurse for a while then you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

Nurse burnout symptoms don’t start right away.

A novice nurse is so fresh.  The happiness to be done with nursing school combined with the excitement of having the title RN after your name moves the new nurse optimistically through each 12 hour shift.

Yet, many nurses find themselves experiencing nurse burnout symptoms, sometimes after only a year or two in the profession.  Still, they continue working with the same rigor and determination without taking good care of themselves.

A tired nurse holding her head down with nurse burnout and compassion fatigue

Here are a few nurse burnout symptoms to look out for:

1.  Chronic exhaustion

Have you ever gotten 8 hours of sleep yet still felt exhausted when you woke up?  Or, are you so tired that you can’t imagine how you are going to make it through another 12 hour shift?  If so, you may be experiencing chronic exhaustion.

Many nurses aren’t just tired, they are worn out.  Not only do nurses work long 12 hour shifts, but many nurses are working mid shifts, night shifts and overtime. In fact, studies show that the longer the shifts for hospital nurses, the higher the levels of burnout and patient dissatisfaction.

2.  Compassion Fatigue

Nursing is a caring profession and compassion is one of the most important elements of patient care.  However, constantly caring for others’ needs before your own can lead to compassion fatigue.  Symptoms of compassion fatigue include emotional exhaustion, irritability, and poor job satisfaction.  You simply cannot be a good nurse if you begin to dislike your job.

If you find yourself feeling like you are losing compassion for your patients because you are experiencing this nurse burnout symptom, then you owe it to your patients and yourself to take a break.  Go on a vacation, play a round of golf, take a yoga class or find a way to get some quality alone time to recharge your batteries.

3.  Losing your passion

When many nurses are asked why they decided to go into the nursing profession they say it was because they had a “passion” for helping humankind.  Passion is exactly what drives us to do good work.  So, if you feel you are losing your passion then it may be a good time to find it again.

Stagnation is the killer of passion.  Do you feel like you are no longer learning within your specialty? Perhaps it is time to become certified within your specialty or even find a new specialty altogether.  Nursing is a career for lifelong learners.  Learning keeps us educated and it can also help you find your passion for nursing again.  It’s a win-win!

Nurse burnout symptoms to watch out for.

More is expected of nurses than ever before.

Nurses need to find a work life balance more than ever.  Heavier patient loads and the physical demands that come with working arduous 12 hour shifts are killing the spirit of many RN’s.  To top it off, it seems as if hospitals are trying to save money in any way they can and unfortunately that usually translates into less and less resources for nurses.

The bottom line is this:  when nurses are able to take care of themselves they are able to give the best possible care to their patients.  This scenario is a win-win for everyone involved:  nurses, patients, and the business people who are managing healthcare.

As nurses, we simply cannot continue to burn the candle at both ends and expect a good outcome.

If you are experiencing nurse burnout, there is hope!  You can beat nurse burnout and even rediscover your passion for nursing.  A result of my own nurse burnout was that I became a nurse blogger to vent my frustrations and help find solutions for my own burnout.  However, it is your responsibility to figure out why you are unhappy within your career and find your nursing passion once again.  You too can beat nurse burnout!

P.S.  Sign up to receive your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health And Self Care” at the bottom of this post!

Additional Recommended Reading:  

Nurses Nurturing Nurses Interview With Jessica Smith, RN

Nurses Nurturing Nurses Interview With Jessica Smith, RN

In case you missed it, last week I was interviewed by the amazing Nurse Coach Jessica Smith and we talked about bouncing back from burnout.

Well, guess what?  I got ANOTHER chance to talk with Jessica this week about a topic that is near and dear to my heart:  nurses nurturing nurses!  (I had so much fun the first time, what can I say?!)

Our ‘Nurses Nurturing Nurses‘YouTube interview can be found HERE!

During the interview, we discussed:

  • Strategies you can use to attain a work-life balance with a busy nursing schedule;
  • How you can design your life around how you want to feel;
  • How doing simple things each day can make a BIG impact on your overall health and well-being;

I’d love for you to listen in – and even better – leave a comment!

Again, the link to listen in can be found here!

Take care,

Sarah

Additional Recommended Reading:
7 Ways To Beat Nurse Burnout
Nurse Burnout:  How Administration Can Help
How To Achieve A Work-Life Balance As A Nurse
Nurse Health:  Self- Care For 12 Hours Shifts

Pros And Cons Of 12 Hour Shifts

Pros And Cons Of 12 Hour Shifts

Before you consider hospital nursing as a career you may want to weigh the pros and cons of 12 hour nursing shifts.  I wish someone had shared this information with me before I became a nurse so that I had a better idea of what to expect.  Especially as a working mother.

Nurse standing with her arms crossed

Pros of working 12 hour shifts:

More work flexibility

When you work 12 hour shifts you can get more creative with a work schedule.  That is so important to me as a working mom. I want to be available when my kids need me to be home from work.  In addition, I often feel that I get to experience what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom and have the ability to also work full-time (although I am a very tired mom these days).  

I try to make my schedule the same every week for consistency.  I usually work every Monday and Wednesday, and every other Sunday. However, if I need to be home on one of my usual work days then I can request to work a different day, or switch days with another nurse.  

In addition, working as a per diem nurse has given me even greater flexibility with my schedule.  I can work as little as one day a week or as many as 4 or 5 as long as the hospital has a need for nurses (although I choose never to work more than 2 or 3 max).  

More days off

Who doesn’t want to work less days in a week?  When you work 12 hour shifts as a full time nurse, you get to work three days a week instead of 5.  That also means that you have 4 days off every week instead of 2.  

On the flip side, keep in mind that a 12 hour shift makes for a really, really loooooong day.  Never underestimate the exhaustion that comes with working as a nurse for 12 hours a shift!  You will need those extra days of to recover.  

Less commuting to work (save time & gas!)

Working three days a week instead of a more traditional Monday through Friday schedule means that you spend significantly less time commuting to work. In addition, if some of those days fall on a weekend then you can miss traffic completely!  Personally, I don’t love working on the weekend because I prefer to be home with my family, however I do appreciate how fast I can get to and from work.  That is something to consider when you live in a high traffic city like Los Angeles. 

Congruence of care

When nurses work 12 hour shifts they only give report to oncoming nurses twice in a 24 hour period.  Working 8 hour shifts requires that nurses give report 3 times in 24 hours.  With a 12 hour shift, nurses do less hand off and are able to spend more time with the same patients.

Less caregiver change could potentially translate into a decrease in nurse error because you are handing over patients less frequently.  There is less chance for miscommunication. 

Congruence of care is more important on nurse units where patients stay for longer periods of time.  As a ER nurse we are used to having several new patients and handing care over to floor units more frequently so this may not be as much of a benefit if you work in ER.

Possibility of taking “mini vacations” without using vacation time

When you have the option to have several days off in between work days, it becomes possible to take mini vacations without putting in a vacation request.  In fact, I have taken up to a week off at a time to go to Mexico without using any vacation days.  

When you consolidate your hours into longer periods of time per day, then you can take more days off in a row.  For example, if I am putting my schedule in for a two week period, I can request a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday for the first week and a Thursday, Friday, Saturday for the second week.  That leaves me with 8 days off in between!

pros and cons of 12 hour nursing shifts

There are pros and cons to working 12 hour nursing shifts that you may want to consider.

Cons of working 12 hour shifts:

May put a nurse’s health at risk

It is no surprise that nurses work incredibility hard.  I come home at the end of a 12 hour nursing shift with an aching back and burning feet.  This is because I, like most nurses, often don’t have time to rest while at work.  When I do have a minute to sit down to chart, I’m lucky if I can find a chair.  I know a few older nurses who have been working bedside for 25 years and they literally have a permanent limp and can barely stand up straight.  

Many nurses work 12 hour shifts with minimal breaks. We are lifting and pulling patients, often spending the majority of our day on our feet, managing stressful and sometime critical situations while doing everything we can to hold our pee for hours on end!  Some days when I finally get a break to eat lunch and I am at my weakest, I find that our break room is stocked with donuts and cookies.  My exhaustion can be overwhelming and the temptation for a little pick me up is never higher than right at that moment.   

With all of our education, nurses should be good role models for health.  But unfortunately that is not always true.  We have created  a culture that sets many nurses up for unhealthy habits.  

More nurse burnout

A University of Pennsylvania study on hospital nurses found that the longer the shift, the higher the levels of burnout and patient dissatisfaction.  The researchers discovered that nurses working shifts that were ten hours or longer were up to two and a half times more likely than nurses working shorter shifts to experience burnout and job dissatisfaction.

One reason may be that longer shifts give nurses less time in a day to care for themselves.  I have found it challenging to do any self-care on days that I work 12 hour shifts because nearly every waking hour is spent caring for patients.  Furthermore, the study found that the nurse burnout associated with longer shifts increased the chances of the nurse wanting to leave the job.   

If you have kids, you won’t see them on the days you work

As a nurse and mom, one of the worst parts of working 12 hour shifts is that I don’t get to see my children at all on the days that I work.  They are still asleep when I leave for work at 6 o’clock in the morning and they are already in bed by the time I get home at 8:30 PM.  Even worse, when I work back-to-back shifts I may not see them at all for 24 to 36 hours at a time.  I could as easily have been out-of town as far as they are concerned.  Nursing is a good career for moms, but this still something you may want to consider.

In conclusion

Working a 12 hour nursing shift makes for a very long work day.  But that is the price I must pay for getting to spend more days at home. So, the benefits of the 12 hour shift far outweigh the cons for me.  Admittedly though, I really do focus on the benefits of working 12 hour shifts as much as I can. I must remind myself to stay positive.  There are some days I wonder how long I can physically keep up with the job before I permanently injure myself or completely burn out. 

Right now I remain passionate about helping others as a nurse and I am grateful to have work flexibility that allows me to spend more uninterrupted days off with my family than I would have with a standard 9 to 5 schedule. When I think about it in that way I realize I am lucky to get to have the best of both worlds.

P.S    Sign up below for your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” at the bottom of this article!

Additional recommended reading:

Bouncing Back From Burnout Interview With Jessica Smith, RN

Bouncing Back From Burnout Interview With Jessica Smith, RN

Nurse burnout sucks.  I’ve totally been there. 

So, it may seem odd at first to hear that I also LOVE talking about nurse burnout. In fact, I think every nurse experiences burnout at some point in their career (if you haven’t please email me back and let me know your secret!). 

Here’s the kicker.  Once you admit you have an issue with nursing burnout you open yourself to the idea of potential solutions.  But if you just pull your hoodie over your eyes and continue to suffer in silence then nothing ever changes.  And your burnout gets even worse.

So, let’s talk about solutions for nurse burnout!  (Solving problems is always better than complaining anyway). 

Bouncing back from nurse burnout
Last week I had an amazing opportunity to interview with nurse coach and fellow ER nurse, Jessica Smith about bouncing back from burnout!

Our Bouncing Back From Burnout YouTube interview can be found here

During the interview, we discussed:

  • How you can find a work-life balance with a busy nursing schedule;
  • Why nurses need to make their own health a #1 priority;
  • How getting to the “why” in your burnout can help you find patterns that contribute to your burnout;
  • And why you should always surround yourself with positive support!

I’d love for you to listen in – and even better – leave a comment or share it with your fellow nurse friends!  

Again, the link to listen in can be found here!

I can’t wait for you to check it out!

P.S.  If you are a nurse struggling with finding ways to take better care of yourself, here is a FREE E-BOOK .  It’s called Nurse, Take Care Of Yourself First.  Because nurses work really, really hard.  And we need to be taking better care of ourselves.  It includes tips for nurses on how to stay healthy during 12 hour shifts, ideas for better self care at home and suggestions for finding a better work-life balance.  

Additional Recommended Reading:

7 Ways To Beat Nurse Burnout
Nurse Burnout:  How Administration Can Help
How To Achieve A Work-Life Balance As A Nurse
Nurse Health:  Self- Care For 12 Hours Shift