Should You Commute To Nursing School?

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    Many prospective nursing students have asked if they should commute to nursing school. I've been there and done that twice without any regrets. This article tells my true stories about enduring lengthy commutes to nursing school.

    Should You Commute To Nursing School?

    Should I commute to nursing school even though it is located one hour away from my home? How far would you be willing to commute? These are questions that are asked every so often on these forums, so I thought I would address them with recollections of my personal experiences as a commuter.

    Commuting Story Number One:

    Back in 2004 I was a single 23 year-old female who had been working at a paper products factory for three years. I had been contemplating a career change for quite some time, but troubles at work brought the possibility to the forefront much sooner than I had anticipated. To keep a long story short, I needed to change careers as soon as possible, but I would be fighting an uphill battle due to lack of prerequisites and limited college experience.

    Furthermore, my factory job schedule entailed working 12-hour rotating shifts until infinity. I worked three weeks of day shift (5:00am to 5:30pm), then three weeks of night shift (5:00pm to 5:30am), then back to day shift, then back to night shift, and it never ended for the three years of employment at this workplace. Since all non-managerial employees worked rotating shifts, it was clear that they would not make any special accommodations for me to attend school. So, I resigned to attend school full-time.

    I selected a 12-month NLNAC-accredited vocational nursing (LVN) program with a solid reputation at a private nonprofit trade school that was established in the 1960s. Here's the catch: I was living in central California at the time, and the school was located in southern California. My commute was 95 miles one-way on Interstate 5 (190 miles round trip), five days per week for one year. That year passed surprisingly quickly. I graduated in late 2005 and passed NCLEX in January 2006.

    Commuting Story Number Two:

    Back in late 2008 I was a 27 year-old with nearly three years of experience as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN). Since I wanted more money and knowledge, I decided to obtain licensure as a registered nurse (RN). I had earned a 3.6 grade point average in my prerequisite courses, and although this was good, it was not extremely competitive for the schools in the metropolitan area in Texas where I was now living. My best friend, who had a non-nursing bachelor of science degree in addition to an LVN license, was also having difficulty getting accepted into local LVN-to-RN bridge programs.

    We chose a 14-month LPN-to-RN bridge program at a school in central Oklahoma. The school was located 225 miles away from our homes in Texas (450 miles round trip), so we drove to the school on Tuesday mornings, attended class on Tuesday afternoons, completed clinical rotations every Wednesday, went to class on Thursday afternoons, and headed back to Texas on Thursday evenings. We shared a small apartment near the school to prevent from driving back and forth daily, and kept our LVN jobs in Texas during that year. The 14 months passed relatively quickly and we graduated in March 2010.

    Although commuting is certainly not for everyone, I'm here to say that I have no regrets about driving my way to a better professional life, more opportunities, greater flexibility, and increased income. Cars, trucks, clothes, cell phones, handbags, and other status items will depreciate in value, but an education with marketable skills will appreciate in value and continually reap rewards.

    By the way, my user name exists for a very specific reason!
    Last edit by Joe V on Oct 28, '12
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    About TheCommuter, BSN, RN Moderator

    TheCommuter is a moderator of and has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.

    Joined: Feb '05; Posts: 38,035; Likes: 69,254
    CRRN, now a case management RN; from US
    Specialty: 11 year(s) of experience in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych

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  3. by   queen2bee
    Wow!!! You were very dedicated and determined! That's very inspiring!!!
  4. by   TheCommuter
    Quote from queen2bee
    Wow!!! You were very dedicated and determined! That's very inspiring!!!
    I am pleased that the story inspired you. My reason for writing it is to demonstrate that a 45-minute or one hour commute is possible. If I could manage to drive three hours one-way across state lines, then the person asking about commuting can certainly pull off a 45-minute ride.

    However, provisions should be made for inclement weather and hazardous road conditions. Some nursing school instructors will be very caring and supportive of your commuting efforts, while others will not give a rat's behind. My point is that you will need a 'Plan B' or backup plan.
  5. by   SummitRN
    My commute was 1.25-2hrs each way depending.

    The trick is to make your commute time product.
  6. by   zoe92
    I've always had to commute for school because I went to a private high school and currently attend a further away more distinguished community college than the one by my house. It can be a pain but Ido love that quiet car time to think my driving must haves are a cup of coffee and my iPod.
    Last edit by zoe92 on Oct 27, '12 : Reason: Edit
  7. by   peanutsauce
    It definitely IS possible! Bravo to you for making that long commute work. It shows a ton of determination to be able to pull that off!

    I did the train/bus game during nursing school... 1.5 hours in the weekday AM's when trains ran frequently, and 2 hours when I had to transfer trains on my way home from clinical (after a 12hr shift). Yes, it was exhausting, but it saved me a ton of money and is allowing me to pay off what debt I have more quickly. Not to mention, studying on the train was one of the ways I did so well in school!
  8. by   i♥words
    I commute roughly 40 minutes there 40 minutes back... when I start clinicals my commute will probably increase to 60 minutes or so. It gets a bit tedious at times, especially when driving home in the dark and feeling really tired. I haven't figured out a really good way to use my time in the car except to listen to something inspirational on the radio, sing really loud to music from my iPod, or think over everything that has gone on that day to somehow "detox" so I can sleep that night.

    Driving 3+ hours is definitely commitment! It's tough but doable!
  9. by   FutureFLRN2014
    Thank you for your story! I will be doing a long commute starting in Jan so that I could get into a nursing program that I wanted. I was worried about the 1.5 hour drive but you have inspired me that I can do it! I think it will allow me that time to have some "me" time from the stresses of nursing school. Once again thank you for showing me that it is possible!
  10. by   dsb_fam
    My mantra is that I can do anything for a year!
  11. by   nurse_starlight
    I commuted 1.5 hours to nursing school and it was worth it in my opinion.
  12. by   FutureCRNA?
    I've been commuting 150 miles a day, almost 3 hours in the car every day for a year and a half. There's really not much closer to where I live, so I don't have a lot of choice if I want the education. We tried to sell our house a while back, but no takers. I listen to XM talk radio or use the time to plan/reflect/meditate. Part of the key is getting good gas mileage
  13. by   Kadambari
    How did you manage to complete your pre requisites working full time at a factory?
  14. by   TheCommuter
    Quote from Kadambari
    How did you manage to complete your pre requisites working full time at a factory?
    I did not attend school at any point during the entire three years that I worked at the factory. I simply quit the factory job and enrolled in a private LVN program that required no prerequisites for admission.

    I did not start working on prerequisites for the RN program until I was working as an LVN at a nursing home.