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?”
Online nursing school is challenging no matter when you do it. But you can still be successful, even during the pandemic.
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 nurseAND 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.
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.
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.
This post has been sponsored by Zebra Pen. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
There is an astronomical amount of information to remember as a first-time nursing student or as a career nurse who returns to college or university for an advanced degree education. With all the meaty textbooks, scientific lectures, and in-patient clinical training, it can make even the most diligent learners feel overwhelmed.
Which leaves many nurses asking, what is the most effective way to retain all of this information?
That is one reason why, as a nurse and healthcare freelance writer, using a Zebra STEEL G-402® Gel Retractable Pen has been my voice for notetaking. It is a pen made for savvy and confident professionals and it allows me to whittle down my most important thoughts on paper instantly.
Here Are 3 Ways Using a Zebra Pen and Paper Will Help You Succeed in Nursing School:
1. Notetaking with a pen boosts memory and helps you retain more information
Taking notes with a laptop has become the norm for our tech-savvy generation of students who want to refer back to every detail that a professor says in class. However, this may not be the best way to learn when it comes to notetaking. In fact, from a learning and memorization standpoint, typing may cause you to remember less compared to taking handwritten notes in class.
A recent study has shown that students using laptops were able to take an overflowing amount of word-for-word notes, but they performed worse when tested on the ideas compared to students who handwrote notes. Writing handwritten notes helps with cognition, especially for students learning complex medical information.
2. Freehand writing with a pen and paper sharpens critical thinking
My professors in college reminded us that the nurses who succeed are the ones who learn how to “think critically” in school. In other words, take the facts and form a judgment. It makes sense to me now—every ATI test in nursing school, as well as the nursing boards, are almost ALL critical thinking/multiple-choice questions.
In the real world, nurses must take the medical facts and form a judgment on how to treat the patient in the correct order. Lives often depend on it. Handwriting allows you to “critically think” about data more effectively than typing. You can form more transparent connections between thoughts, instead of just typing out lecture information verbatim. Another way using pens can help you learn more critically is by using colored pens to organize your thoughts on paper.
3.Freehand writing can help you manage the stress that comes with nursing school
The benefits of putting pen to paper do more than improve brain health and enhance learning in the classroom. Your mental health can benefit from journaling sessions. Expressive writing can help decrease stress, lower blood pressure, improve organ function, and improve your mood. All good things for stressed-out nursing students!
Freehand journaling is a tool that you can use throughout your nursing program and into your nursing career to help keep your mind in a positive state. In fact, writing with a pen increases neural activity in certain areas of the brain in a similar way to meditation.
To thrive in the nursing profession, you must take care of yourself first. Being a nurse in charge of someone’s life can be extremely stressful, especially when dealing with very sick patients. Consider starting a daily journal to help you manage the anxiety that can arise from the responsibility of caring for patient’s lives.
Why I use a Zebra Pen STEEL G-402 gel pen as a nurse and freelance healthcare writer:
I keep a STEEL G-402 and a notebook in my bag, at my desk, and on the side table next to my bed. That way, I can write a quick note to myself at any time. If my mind throws out an idea that I want to remember, I jot it down quickly with my STEEL G-402 so I can remember it later when I sit down to write.
In addition to supplementing my writing and research, the STEEL G-402 is a(n):
Affordable writing accessory for nurses
Heavier weighted pen, which makes it more comfortable to write with for more extended periods
Durable pen with a steel metal barrel so that it doesn’t fall apart like other cheap pens in the hospital
In the nursing profession, where I wear the same scrub uniform as everyone else, there are very few ways that I can distinguish myself as an individual. So, I show it with my zany compression socks, my nifty coffee mug, and my stylish Zebra Pens! Check out more information here to see how you can Choose Different.
The Zebra Pen: A lifelong learning tool for nurses
Working nurses will tell you that nursing school will be the hardest thing you ever do. But by preparing yourself with the right tools to succeed and studying as efficiently as possible, you will tackle your knowledge base with the esteem of a seasoned nurse.
Just remember to keep your laptop close, but your pen closer.
Nurses are in demand more than ever. So if you’re looking to change careers, here’s why you should consider a career in nursing.
Right now, there are over 4 million nurses in the US. However, due to the current healthcare environment and the fact that people are living longer lifespans, more nurses are still needed. The number of nurse jobs are expected to explode in the next decade, with some statistics showing that over 400,000 new nurses will be needed by 2024!
The dynamic growth of the nursing profession
One of the reasons for the nursing care demand is that both the general population and the nurse population are aging. Therefore, we need a lot of newer nurses to care for patients. Nurse Educators and Nurse Administrators are two of the most in-demand careers at this time.
More information about nursing education and salaries
At the moment (as you can see in the below infographic), the cost of getting a master’s degree in nursing can range from $20,000 to over $60,000 depending on the school and the field chosen. However, many nurses are making a great living with the salaries they earn after graduation.
In 2015 I became a nurse blogger. This venture was born out of my frustration with burnout as a registered nurse and my desire to create a more flexible work-life balance.
For clarity, my niche (or at least the niche I am striving to create) is: “nurse mom lifestyle blogger with an emphasis on self-care and wellness.” My goal has always been to write about things that interest me in regards to nurse lifestyle and living a healthier, more purposeful life (with a little mom stuff thrown in).
I have been chipping away on my nurse blogging journey for about a year, and my (self-proclaimed) title has evolved a bit. I’m sure it will continue to change as I work to find my “voice.”
To explain how I became a nurse blogger, I have to take you back in time a bit…
Once upon a time, I studied journalism.
Way, way back in the day, before I ever even considered becoming a registered nurse, I was a striving college student at California State University, Chico. As a journalism major with a minor in women’s studies, I wrote for our student newspaper, The Orion, and I loved it. Each week I met with other writers to discuss ideas and topics that were going to write about that week. I enjoyed the teamwork and even though I felt way in over my head a lot of the time I absolutely loved the challenge.
Each week I met new and interesting people I would have otherwise crossed paths with. I interviewed athletes, a magician, doctors from the student health center, professors, and lots and lots of students. One time I interviewed a woman who made and sold her own essential oils and she gave me a few samples to take home with me. My 21-year-old brain was fascinated with the people I met.
The internet was in its earlier stages and many people still read the newspaper in print form. So, each Thursday I looked forward to walking on campus and picking up a copy of The Orion to find my name listed above my article.
A bad internship altered my career path.
I loved journalism. But my emphasis was in public relations, which I disliked immensely.
One summer break, I did a 3-month internship at a celebrity public relations firm in Los Angeles. I worked as an assistant to the president of the firm. He had me ghostwriting about how he was like Abraham Lincoln. If that sounds weird, it is because it was. I hated it. I felt used.
At the end of my 3-month internship, I left Los Angeles feeling like I wanted to go in a completely different direction. As I drove back up to Chico to complete my senior year, I considered new career options.
As graduation etched closer, I also started wondering how I was going to survive financially out in the world. The thought of paying my own way in the world and paying off my student loans filled me with worry.
I went from inspired writer to salesperson.
After graduation, I excepted a position selling medical equipment to hospital operating rooms. I thought it was best to follow the path that I thought lead to faster money. Frankly, it did.
Soon I became enveloped in the business of medical equipment sales. And unfortunately, I didn’t write again for another 9 years.
Medical device sales is an extremely competitive and stressful industry. But I continued to work hard. In fact, I was actually very good at my job. I consistently exceeded my yearly quotas. As a result, I made more money every year, which made it harder and harder to move into other more clinical roles.
I wanted to grow clinically and help my patients directly.
Those who know me, know that I’m not even the “salesy” type. However, I did enjoy talking about medical equipment that could improve the quality of life for our patients or even be life-saving in some circumstances. I didn’t realize it at the time, but what I really wanted was to be an actual healthcare professional who worked with patients directly.
(On reflection, I am so am grateful for my time in medical sales and I want to go back to work on the business side of healthcare at some point. My experiences have given me a much different perspective than many of my nurse peers. Working in the medical sales industry gave me valuable business and communication skills. I met a lot of great friends with whom I still have close relationships with. My organizational and time management skills are much more fine-tuned and I learned how to be a professional in the workplace. I just think of myself as being a little more well-rounded now!)
Just for fun, I toyed around with so many career ideas.
I took an amazing photography class in Venice (I’ll be a professional photographer! Yay!). I love practicing yoga so I thought becoming an instructor would be a great fit (I’ll become the next big yoga guru!). I even considered becoming a professional dog walker at one point and started writing a business plan! (Dogs are awesome, what can I say?).
After years of thinking about my professional future (and having several near mental breakdowns about it), I jokingly told my husband that maybe I should go back to nursing school. He responded with something like “you can do anything you want, but please do something because you might lose your mind!”
So, I did. And I have been working as a nurse at a major teaching facility for the last 6 years.
I went back to college for a second time.
After three years of nursing school, I graduated with a bachelor of science in nursing and I had a whole new journey ahead of me. I began my career specializing on a neuroscience and stroke unit and earned certifications as a Stroke Certified Registered Nurse and Public Health Nurse. In 2017, I began a new phase in my nursing career as an emergency room RN.
I also complimented my practice by becoming an Urban Zen Integrative Therapist. My intention was to help treat my patients with a more holistic approach using yoga and in-bed movements, guided meditation, Reiki, and essential oils. (I didn’t know at the time, but these were topics that I would write about frequently as a nurse blogger!).
An itch to write came back again.
A few years into my nursing career I had an urge to write again. I missed the creatively I had when writing back in my early college days. In addition, I wanted to create a more flexible career path for myself now that I am a busy mom with two great kiddos.
I also really do have a passion for nursing. I love that I help others for a living and I enjoy the mental stimulation I get at work during my 12-hour shifts. Becoming a nurse has even helped me deal with the craziness of motherhood in some ways because it helps me distinguish things that I should be concerned with things that are not a big deal. (I have my time on a neuroscience floor and as an ER nurse to thank for that!)
Becoming a nurse blogger was a logical next step. I am having so much fun learning how to make and manage a website. However, since I am already a busy ER nurse with two small babies I am very limited on time. I only have 5-6 hours a week to spend on the blog. But as my kids grow older and go to school the time will be there. Until then, I will just keep chipping away at it after the kids go to bed in the evenings.
A nursing practice can take many forms.
As I grow older (and hopefully wiser!) I am discovering that there are so many paths that nurses can take. The sky really is the limit as long as you work hard and are open to continually learning new skills.
My goal is to create a career for myself were I can combine my journalism degree with my nursing knowledge and motherly experience. This is the first “career” I have ever had where I didn’t have to fill out an extensive application and interview for the position. For the very first time, I am warming to the idea of being my OWN boss. And I really like it!
Never in a million years would my 21-year-old college-newspaper-writing- self would have guessed that I would be a nurse blogger. But every experience I have had up until now has been an important stepping stone to this place. And I have goosebumps just thinking about what I can make happen next. Stay tuned for more…
There are so many different types of nurses in various specialties that work within the hospital setting. So how do you figure out which one is right for you?
When I was initially toying with the idea of going back to college to become a nurse, I had no idea how many types of nursing specialties there were. I thought there was just a single “type” of nurse who did pretty much everything.
I was so wrong. That just shows how little I knew about the nursing world back then! I think many potential nurses who are contemplating getting a BSN may think the same thing as I once did.
The good news about starting in nursing school is that you don’t have to decide on what type of nursing specialty you want to go into right away. At least not until you get closer to the end of nursing school and start interviewing for jobs. Also, you can even change your nursing specialty during your career if you want (I did it and reignited my passion for nursing). So, if you find you don’t enjoy one specialty after a while, you can look into others that might better suit you.
This particular post explores nursing career specialties within the hospital. If you don’t want to work in the hospital, that’s OK. There are a ton of opportunities to explore as a new grad nurse outside of the hospital setting too! However, if the hospital setting is for you (as it was for me), then this is a quick and dirty explanation of the different types of nurses and nursing specialties that may be available to you!
There are dozens of different nursing specialties and levels of care in the hospital to choose from. When deciding on a specialty, it may help to start with the level of care that works best with your personality and then work from there. While some nursing students think the intensity of working in an emergency room might be exhilarating, others may prefer to start by learning on a medical-surgical unit instead.
The next step may be to consider which patient age groups you would most enjoy working with. For example, a nursing school friend of mine knew from the moment she applied to nursing school that she had to be a pediatric nurse. Yet another student friend was passionate about working in the geriatric community. Some nurses find that they love working with newborn babies or children, while others find that they enjoy the intensity of managing patients at the ICU level of care.
Lastly, as you start studying more about the different body systems and doing clinical hours, you can decide which specialties that you are most interested in. Being a student nurse is a great time to learn all about the different types of nurses in the hospital you might want to work in!
If you are interested in learning more about the types of nurses that in the higest demand, check out this video:
Types of nurses, based on credentials:
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
LPNs perform a number of duties under the supervision of an RN. They have a more limited scope of practice than an RN, however, they can check vital signs, give oral medication and give injections. LPNs are trained through a state-approved educational program, which takes 12 to 24 months to achieve.
Registered Nurse (RN)
Registered nurses (RNs) are nurses with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. It takes two years to complete an associate’s degree in nursing and at least 4 years to complete a BSN.
Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is an experienced nurse who has also completed a master’s degree in nursing. CNS’s are trained in diagnosing and treating illnesses within a specific realm of expertise.
Nurse Practitioner (NP)
NPs work under the supervision of a medical doctor, however, they have the autonomy to diagnose diseases, prescribe medications, and initiate patient treatment plans. Educational requirements include a master’s or doctoral degree.
Levels of care in the hospital setting
Medical-Surgical Care, otherwise known as Med/Surg, is the largest nursing specialty in the United States. Med/Surg nurses care for adult patients who are acutely ill with a wide variety of medical issues or are recovering from surgery. Nurses on these units often care for 4-5 patients (or more) depending on acuity.
Telemetry Unit patients are often more acutely ill and need constant monitoring. Patients here are monitored with telemetry monitors that allow nurses to review a patient’s vital signs constantly so they can give more detailed care. Often, Med/Surg and Telemetry patients are referred to interchangeably as many Telemetry Units have both types of patients.
Intensive Care Units
An Intensive Care Unit, otherwise known as an ICU or Critical Care Unit is a unit that provides a higher level of intensive patient care. Patients in the ICU often have severe and life-threatening injuries that require constant, close monitoring. Nurses in the ICU usually only care for 1 or 2 patients at a time due to the high acuity of patient care.
ER nurses treat patients in emergent situations who are involved in a trauma or other life-threatening injuries. These nurses deal with patients from all age groups involving many different levels of patient care. You may have patients with illnesses and wounds, ranging from dog bites or minor burns to more serious conditions such as strokes or other trauma victims.
Patient age groups
Hospital units are also broken into different age groups to offer more specialized care. This is also something to consider when deciding on a specialty you want to work in. Some of the age groups include:
Here is a general list of hospital specialty units that many nurses work in:
What nursing jobs are you most interested in?
As you can see from the above information, there are so many different types of nurses and nursing specialties. You may want to pick a few that are most interesting to you and narrow your search in from there. Once you get your legs wet in the profession for a few years, you may even want to look into other alternative and unique careers in nursing.
Now that you have a better understanding of the different career options out there for nurses, you may want to brush up on your interviewing skills. Let us help you achieve that with this article “How To Land Your First Nursing Job In Six Steps.”
Are you thinking about becoming a nurse and wondering what nursing specialties might be best for you? Or do you have any other questions about the different types of nurses in the hospital setting? Please leave a comment or question below!