When is it the right time to go back to school? How do you choose a program? How do you know if you should stick with nursing? Is it worth it? What can I do in the mean time? Here are a few tips and pointers I've rounded up these last few years.
I was not what you would call a traditional nursing student, though these days the route I took seems to be growing in popularity. I spent four years of my life getting a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, studied abroad in Scotland for a year (taking whatever courses I wanted to), came home to finish my senior seminar, graduated and then headed straight into nursing school. Odd? One could think so. Do my life choices serve me, my patients and my career on a daily basis? Absolutely. But for me, at least, it makes considering another degree and bit sticky and even more so, quite confusing. So, how does one progress? Let me tell you where my head is...
Everyone is different when it comes to nursing. We all have specific goals (or at least are formulating them as they go). What I do think we all have in common is that we want to be educated. Whether education means that you are gaining certifications, CEUs (continued education credits), or going back to school for a BSN or advanced degree. There are SO MANY OPTIONS that it can be intimidating. How do you choose? This is where I found myself this year. As I watched many of my nursing comrades go back to school and walk across that stage for their BSN, I felt that pang for more. Their accomplishments are a HUGE feat. I am so proud of them. But as a non-traditional student, I don’t want another Bachelor-of something degree and would rather go straight into an advanced diploma. So where do people like me fit in? Where do you fit in?Maybe your situation isn’t the same as mine, or maybe you are struggling with different life and career choices. Here are some interesting steps I’ve come up with in the last few years that have helped me make decisions when it comes to education.
1. Find out where your heart is
Where in nursing do you feel like you want to shout from the roof tops and notify the press that you’ve got the golden ticket? My golden ticket takes the beautiful and majestic form of holistic nursing. I find it fascinating that our ancestors got through so much with roots and herbs. I furthermore believe that much of our health issues can be resolved with diet, exercise, mental health upkeep as well as fostering relationships and having some form of spiritual connection. What speaks to your heart? Write it down!
2. Ask yourself: Do you want to make that part of your heart a part of your profession, or do you want to keep it as a hobby
This is actually really important.
Do not skip this step!
There are SO MANY things that many of us really enjoy doing. BUT! Do you want to make that part of your day to day? Will it lose it’s luster? Will that thing no longer bring joy if it’s part of your profession? Do you want to go back to school for this?
For me, so far, I LOVE keeping my holistic stuff on the side. Doing this has helped me find what part of holistic nursing really makes me tick! So far, I’ve been certified in the first two levels of Reiki, I read everything I can about herbs, study and apply clean eating to my lifestyle and stay moving as much as possible (exercise, walking, dance, sports, etc). Do I want more education in these fields? ABSOLUTELY! Do I want to go back to school for a degree in this? Not yet.
Be okay with not wanting to commit to a program if you’re not ready. Just remember, when your gears are full-throttle, you will kick a degree program’s backside when you’re truly ready for that undertaking. In the mean time, make peace with the learning you are doing and all that is to come.
3. In making that golden ticket part of your profession, what schools are available to you to obtain your goal?
Online programs are SUPER accessible and can be extremely affordable in comparison to traditional programs (at a brick and mortar school). Be willing to discuss your expectations for an education program with recruiters on the phone. How long do you want to take to complete the program of your liking? How much is it? Is there a payment plan or is money due up front? Are there scholarships? Are there any contact hours? Are there clinicals? If no clinicals, is it entirely online with no in-person visits?
Make sure the program is working for you! It is your life and it is your education. If a program doesn’t meet your needs, MOVE ON! It’s okay. There will be a program that can accept the majority of your earned credits who will more than likely have a program that befits the majority of your professional requests. Get what you pay for my friend, and settle for no less. There is no problem in being picky. Once you find a good fit, commit and spring forth!
4. If that golden ticket is a hobby, how do you flourish and encourage growth?
I don’t know about you, but I truly do have MANY loves when it comes to nursing. I take pride in the fact that we have the ability to choose, that we are complex as humans and we can change our minds. Remember this!
For me, I’ve been able to foster my education by reaching out to mentors, researching nationally recognized (and certified) programs that I can gain CEUs through, reading certified texts and research studies on holistic nursing techniques and by following active practitioners in their art.
I do have intentions to go back to school. But (maybe) like you, I’m not ready. I can’t decide where I stand in my desire to go back to school. I have been throwing around nursing education, Nurse Practitioner and managerial type foci. Regardless, the honest to goodness truth is that I’m not ready.
So! If you’ve gained anything from this my friends, I strongly encourage you to take the plunge. Follow the numbers and see where you fall. If you are like me and haven’t found that niche yet, please, do not be stagnate. Seek education and seek forward progression in certifications and credits. The more informed we are, the better care we can give, and the strong we are standing together.
Have faith in your capabilities, you CAN do this!Last edit by Joe V on Oct 20, '17
About Jacqueline.Damm, ADN, RN
Jacqueline.Damm has '3' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Med/Surg, Onc., Palliative/Hospice, CPU'. From 'Virginia, USA'; Joined Aug '14; Posts: 51; Likes: 419.Jun 4, '15Very positive and uplifting post. However, it is not quite reality-based.
Many people idealize nursing as a career that in which they can fulfill their "passion". It is a shock to discover that: 1) it may be very difficult just to be accepted to a nursing program due to previous life choices, cost, or other hard-to-modify circumstances; 2) it's impossible to 'start over' in another program without sacrificing time and $ already invested if you don't like the one in which you (finally) were accepted; 3) employers aren't hiring for those positions; 4) currently, insurance & other 3rd party payors do not cover those services (e.g., holistic, alternative therapies, lifestyle enhancement, etc.); 5) in order to be considered for that glamorous, well-paid, "satisfying" job, you have to have extensive experience - AKA, years of toil in less-desirable jobs or in a hard-to-get specialty area.
But I do love the optimism!Jun 4, '15This will probably come out wrong, so bear with me.
This is article is kind of a "Sound of Music" scenario. It's highly idealized. In that perfect world of sunny days and witty children, nurses can afford to make choices based on wants and ideals.
Most of the nurses I know, including myself, go back to school because we have to. For me, it's because I have a diploma and it's getting too hard to get hospital jobs without a BSN. For others that I know, they are getting their BSNs and MSNs to get into management and administration because their bodies are getting worn out and can't do bedside anymore. A couple of people I know were fortunate enough to know what they wanted to do from the get-go, and chose a path in the same way as the OP. One's a psych NP and another is working with a Doctors Without Borders kind of organization and is a true humanitarian.
But, for me, at least, back to school questions are more like "How long can I afford not to go back? Which school will get me to my goal the most quickly and for the least amount of money? Should I get a permanent position so I get tuition benefits?" I am having to deal with the poor choices I made in life before becoming a nurse and reaching my ideal is not practical at the moment.
But if I were Maria... I would definitely go back and get my MSN in education. My golden ticket is that "A-ha!" moment on students' and patients' faces when they finally understand.Jun 6, '15I understand both of your points about it all sounding like sunshine and butterflies. I am a serial optimist, what can I say? There are so many points I want to make here, it's tough, because this article isn't the root of what I want to portray at the max. Otherwise, this article would be entirely too long and wordy (I have a gift for that)! ; ) Anyways, I can totally understand feeling the pressure for a BSN because it's getting difficult to get hired. I'm having that problem as well. And I say this not to minimize your life experiences in the slightest, so forgive if this comes out wrong... I don't want to settle. I don't think nurses should HAVE to settle in order to make management happy. YES, we need education and YES it should be a must-- but to make ourselves miserable and in more debt than we may or may not already be is a total injustice to OUR lives. It's YOUR life. You should be able to do what YOU want. Yes money is ALWAYS a factor. (By golly, it's a HUGE factor). But it kills me to see so many miserable nurses. I hate it. I know not every day is happy or wonderful, and usually we have to take small wins from every day just so we can go home, sleep at night and do it all over again... I just feel this immense pull and desire to encourage nurses to follow their dreams. To focus on what they really want. Until we find it, we will burn out, we will quit jobs frequently. We will stay in once place because we feel locked in and scared. We all have so much potential it's hard for me as a person, as a nurse, to accept and swallow "well that's just the way it is." I love all of you and support all of you in what you do. But I truly can't accept the tides just because someone said so. Nursing as a whole needs a massive overhaul of the system starting at the political level. We will continue to be repressed and told to take on more every day as the big whigs continue to hold our licenses in their hands and dictate how we are to conduct our profession. Last time I checked, many other professions have the choice for degrees, advancing education, and so forth. I know that is a general understatement.. But I really think we all need to put our feet down and really proclaim our rights and desires again and again until it sinks in somewhere.
I want to move forward and be educated. But for me, it may sound immature or even childish, I refuse to go back to school just because someone thinks I am not good enough in their eyes because I am missing 9 leadership classes to complete a BSN. I love leadership, and I love being a nurse, but having or not having a BSN doesn't affect my ability to be a great nurse on a day to day basis. Therefore, for me, I will take my time until I find what fits for me. If I need things to supplement my income because my nursing job isn't quite meeting my daily needs, I will do it. I will do it because I want to be me, the best me I can in my life because I have just one life.
Yes, I'll be a nurse, because I love it. But I burns me to have someone dictate how I will spend 30,000-80,000 dollars on another diploma just because they said so.
So I agree with you both entirely. My article is all butterflies and rainbows. Why? Because that's what I want. That's what I expect. I WANT us to be able to do what we want, what truly drives us. But it's hard when orders trickle down from above dictating our lives. I'm not saying be anarchist towards management and education.. But I am asking everyone to evaluate their life and determine what is important to them, and if they are willing to give up time and money for something they believe in. Because you're right.. That's what education is, time and money.
So, when it comes to me. I believe in doing what I love, and therefore money will find it's way when it comes to getting experience in what I want and need.
I believe in Paul Coehlo's philosophy that when you go full-throttle into the world and you are fighting to claim your dreams that the "universe conspires" to help you obtain that goal.
Serial optimist? Absolutely!
Butterflies and rainbows? Unicorns and Maria with the Von Trap family? You got it!
It's time for nurses to be happier in their work and for their passion to fuel their lives. It will burn all of our souls out to just do what we need to get by. That's a tough life. I am sure we've all had a taste of it.
Xx Thanks for the great reviews so far all. I hope this lends some more explanation to the above. Xx
Happy Reading!Jun 11, '15Thanks for your article. I'm an optimist (and dreamer) too. So, yes I believe in doing what works for me and never settling (at least never long term) for something I really don't want. We only have one life, after all. However, unfortunately, to reach my dream, it's meant a lot of sacrifice (moving far away to a very rural area where I know absolutely no one) to advance my career and hopefully have opportunities in the future that simply aren't open to me now. I always say there's no price to achieving your dreams and being happy, whatever that means for you. Thanks again for your article!
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