Online Nursing School Tips For Success
Congratulations on starting your online nursing degree program!
You can go back to school without sitting in a classroom, fighting traffic, or even finding a parking spot like you would at a brick-and-mortar university. Instead, you can go straight home after work, cook your family dinner, help your kids with homework, and then work on your studies when everyone is asleep.
Starting online nursing school is something to be proud of. But in the back of your mind, you may be thinking, “Should I have waited until the pandemic is over? Will I be too overwhelmed with online learning?”
Before addressing these concerns, see if one of the following four scenarios below mirrors your current lifestyle.
Scenario 1: You come home from work after being exposed to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 patients. You have not eaten. You have not gone to the bathroom. You are going on zero sleep because your 6-month old was up all night long. You come home from work and immediately bombarded with the needs of your children. Your babysitter has left the house in disarray, and now your husband calls and says he has to work late. Your online program starts next week, and you think, how am I going to do this?
Scenario 2: You are home-schooling your children and have a one-year-old who just learned to walk. You decide to get up early to get a head start on your work. You managed to get a couple of hours of work done until your 12-year old announces he needs help with an e-learning project that is due at 9:00 a.m. – the same time you have an important meeting. You sign in to Zoom, forget to mute, and the camera is on. You can be seen running after your diaperless 1-year old screaming in delight, thinking it’s playtime. The day is long and hard, with chores needing to be done, and your online program started today.
Scenario 3: You are now in the 3rd week of your online course. The COVID surge has hit your hospital hard, and you are working 60+ hours a week. You are already behind in two assignments and lagging in the discussions. You want to stay in class, but you also need to pay the bills and put food on the table. You need your degree to keep your job but don’t know what to do.
Scenario 4: You are working from home and get a call from the nursing home that your mother has taken a turn for the worst. You get in your car and receive a call that your 16-year old is COVID-positive and is coming home to quarantine. You haven’t seen your friends in ages and abandoned your own health care needs months ago. This whole pandemic has been very hard for you emotionally, and you don’t know how much more you can take. Your degree program is the LAST on your mind right now.
I’m sure many of you can relate to all or parts of these scenarios as you continue to ponder if online education is for you. You are not alone.
Online Learning and Reflections on Your Experiences
Before you think that pursuing your online degree during the pandemic may not be a good option, consider this: Part of learning online is about reflecting upon your experiences as a professional nurse AND applying these experiences to assignments in your classes. If you wait until the pandemic is over, you might miss out on one of the best opportunities of your life for reflection, personal and professional growth.
In all universities, objectives and curricula are designed according to national standards, such as an online RN-BSN program. Curricula contain specific courses for the program and are further broken down into course content.
Course content is typically divided into two main sections: discussions and assignments. Students have an opportunity to reflect upon and apply their experiences to demonstrate how they have met the overall program and university objectives. Therefore, the experiences you have accumulated from working through this pandemic can help you succeed in meeting program and university objectives.
What Can I Do to Be Successful in the Online Setting?
Now that you’ve considered the scenarios outlined above, there are ways to overcome many of those hurdles. Whether you are thinking about going to school online or have already started your educational journey, here are online nursing school tips you can integrate into your lifestyle right now.
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Online Nursing School Tips For Success:
Support is Key
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your professors, advisors, and loved ones. Your school has many resources to help you, from time management strategies to writing resources.
It is important to learn about these resources right away. Find out who your advisor is and discuss any concerns you have. Communicate with your professor often. A simple email indicating that you need help, or keeping them informed about ongoing circumstances in your life, keeps the lines of communication open. You and your professor can come up with a plan for you to complete your work. Remember that they are nurses, too. They will understand.
It is recommended you do not choose an online program that does not offer this type of comprehensive support.
Create an Action Plan
Creating an action plan is vital. Why? Because you can see a snap-shot of all your roles and responsibilities from child care, employment, your study schedule, and more.
Your action plan can be just a simple sheet of paper or an elaborate spreadsheet with time-tables and prospective future endeavors. The best part of this action plan is that it is a working document. You can add or delete from your list and find more time to do the things you need to do.
Start a Reflective Journal
Many have reflected upon how their nursing roles have changed during the pandemic and pondered about where they see their professions headed in the future.
Reflection is essential in any nursing program because it allows you to apply your course content and develop new critical thinking skills in real-time. The best thing about online learning at this time is that you can use your professional experiences to help you complete your class assignments and have insightful discussions in class.
Writing down your reflections can be as simple as jotting down your experiences on a notepad, phone, or computer. Some of my best reflections occurred while listening to relaxing music and admiring nature and photography. Perhaps this strategy can work for you as well. Even just 5 minutes a day can help you gather your thoughts during these uncertain times.
Many nurses have verbalized that they may not have enough engagement in an online program. Not so!
Many online programs have innovative ways for professors and students to be engaged with one another, such as Zoom, Skype, Voki, and real-time audio and video. Most online nursing schools have discussion boards. Aspen University, for example, has the Nurse Cafe — in which you engage with your peers and professors on a variety of topics.
Online courses often have their own unique ways to encourage discussion and engagement. One of the main benifits is that online discussions are mostly asynchronous, which means you can partake in discussions anytime during the week – 24/7!
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a great deal of stress, anxiety, and burnout for many of us. Self-care activities — like proper sleep, healthy diet, stretching, and other small changes to your daily routine — are so important as you treat patients and work your way through your online degree program.
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Don’t Ever Lose Sight of your Determination and Passion!
This is true not only in nursing but also in life. The nursing courses you will be taking may ask you to focus on a topic you are passionate about – perhaps you discover that you have a great interest in developing evidence-based policy/procedures for addressing future pandemics. Whatever your passion is, make sure that you hold it close to your heart and remain determined to reach all of your dreams and goals.
But most importantly, remember this as you continue to ponder your future in higher learning through an online setting:
Passion and determination make up the core of our aspirations, and higher learning sets the stage to help you showcase your dreams.
About The Author
Dr. Linda Marcuccilli is a professor of nursing at Aspen University and a registered nurse for 33 years. She developed a research program involving persons with implantable ventricular devices, published her research in several peer-reviewed nursing journals, and presented her research across the nation.
Dr. Marcuccilli is the author of the book The Journey Through Graduate School: Flourish and Be Happy and her blog Inspiring Learners: Find the Passion Within.
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