Tips To Handle Nursing School While Employed Full-Time

Whether you're a traditional student or non-traditional adult learner, nursing school can be one of the most vexing ventures you will ever experience. Although many instructors will recommend that students not work during nursing school, full-time employment is feasible as a full-time nursing student. Here are some tips to help juggle both nursing school and full-time work.


Tips To Handle Nursing School While Employed Full-Time

As a traditional student or non-traditional adult learner, nursing school can prove to be one of the more demanding ventures that you will ever experience. Nursing school is daunting enough for a student who is not employed; however, the experience can be twice as imposing for people who contend with full-time jobs, family obligations, bills and other responsibilities. In this day and age, many students must maintain full-time employment while attending school full-time to stay financially afloat.

Even though some individuals choose to live off the proceeds of federal and private student loan disbursements to keep from working while going to school, other people are reluctant to borrow money or unnecessarily add to the amount they will eventually repay. Staying employed while attending school is a fiscally sound way to stay out of student loan debt or, at the very least, minimize the amount of money one borrows. While many instructors will recommend that students not work during nursing school, full-time employment is very much manageable as a full-time nursing student. Here are some tips to handle both nursing school and a full-time job.

Don't be afraid to neglect some tasks

If you are normally a clean freak, it's okay for your living space to be a little messy while you are a nursing student who works full-time. If your family has come to expect time-consuming home-cooked dishes prepared from scratch every dinner, it's alright to serve leftovers, sandwiches or other time-saving meals. Remember that your time is finite during this venture and you must use it wisely.

Manage your time sensibly

One of my former schoolmates was a busy wife and mother who admitted that she still ironed her sheets to ensure they were never wrinkled. After hearing this revelation, we all told her she needed to spend her time on the stuff that truly mattered such as schoolwork, her kids, the husband and the job. Ironing the sheets is a poor use of one's very limited time during nursing school because, once you lay on those sheets for several hours, they are going to develop wrinkles anyway.

Obtain a planner

You will be juggling multiple tasks, duties and responsibilities as a full-time worker and nursing student. A planner is one school supply that will help you stay on track to remind you of due dates, appointments, projects and other upcoming events that a busy person might forget.

Don't be a lone wolf

Although much of your time will be occupied by school and work, do not neglect your family and friends. Be sure to carve out the time for your friends, significant other, and immediate family members. Also, solicit their input and support. Furthermore, if any of your classmates seem like decent people, network with them. After all, no man is an island.

Do not procrastinate

I know it is tempting to put that essay, research project, or study time off until the last minute. However, you cannot afford to squander valuable time by putting assignments off until the day before they are due. Instead, set aside some time to study each day to keep from becoming overwhelmed on the day before a major test or project.

Temporarily revamp your expectations

If you received a 4.0 grade point average in your prerequisite courses, keep in mind that it is normal for GPAs to drop somewhat during nursing school. If you are accustomed to a full night's sleep, keep in mind that this might not always happen if you are a full-time student who also works full-time. In other words, shift your expectations during this time in your life.

Seek out time-saving activities whenever possible

Instead of cooking on a daily basis, prepare a large amount of food on the weekend, deep-freeze it and reheat as needed. If you have some responsible classmates, form a study group and divide the mountain of tasks between members to save some valuable time. If you regularly stop at a convenience store for snacks, also use the time to refuel your gas tank. Evaluate every activity in your life to determine if you can trim some time.

Find a place to study -- and stick to it

If you find yourself becoming distracted while studying at home, you might be better off using the library as your quiet spot. If you are fortunate enough to be able to study at home, find one place in the house and claim it as your personal space. If you live with others, let them know you are not to be interrupted while studying unless it's an emergency.

Take advantage of resources at your workplace

Some people are lucky enough to have occasional moments of downtime at their jobs. It would be wise to use this downtime to study if nothing else is happening. Some self-righteous people might say, "They aren't paying us to study!" To these people I respond, "Upper management isn't always working every single minute when at work."

If you're feeling stressed, take advantage of any employee assistance programs (EAP) that your place of employment might offer in the benefits package. Definitely use the tuition assistance if your employer offers it unless, of course, you dislike any of the strings that might be attached.

Be mindful of your career goals

You are in nursing school to eventually become a nurse, I assume. Therefore, you should treat nursing school as if it is one of your urgent priorities. It is best to invest your time and effort on your educational plan so as to learn as much as you can. After all, you want to pass NCLEX on you first attempt, right? Be cognizant of your goals and continually remember why you are in nursing school. Good luck!

TheCommuter, BSN, RN, CRRN is a longtime physical rehabilitation nurse who 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.

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105 Articles; 5,349 Posts

Specializes in Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds. Has 16 years experience.

Excellent advice, TheCommuter!


1,026 Posts

This is very helpful. Thanks for sharing your tips. ?


58 Posts

Has 2 years experience.

Great advice. I'll be starting an RN-BSN program so I'll need these reminders when I start working.

ArrowRN, BSN, RN

5 Articles; 1,146 Posts

Specializes in Med Surg, PCU, Travel. Has 9 years experience.

Thanks for the tips. I had been lapsing and really procrastinating lately and I needed this to get back on track. I'm going to print this and stick it on my wall until I pass the nclex.


27 Posts

Has 7 years experience.

Thank you great advice!


81 Posts

Specializes in Mental Health.

Honestly this is all pretty much common sense! Ironing your sheets? Really? Who does that?! :roflmao: I worked full time during nursing school and it was definitely doable! My student loans only covered my tuition they didn't cover all the other school related expenses and my personal expenses.


6 Posts

Thank you, great advice that I definitely will be applying.


205 Posts

That may be good advice for anyone in a college degree program. Those have set schedules and they have regularly scheduled time off that you don't have to be in a classroom or clinical or sim lab. Find out as much as you can about exactly how a program is structured and how many days per week it will require you to be present on campus or in a clinical. In other words, how much time will NOT be your own.

But, I'd say that anyone at a diploma school that is teaching an "integrated" curriculum based around a hospital, not a college "block" curriculum program, can forget about working fulltime. If you are lucky, and have few or no family obligations, you might be able to work part-time on Fri night / Sat / Sun as a CNA or LPN, something that is synergistic with the R.N. curriculum. Most of the moms in my cohort quit their jobs altogether, and they also had to dump almost all of the household work and childcare onto their husbands. But all of the single childfree women I know who had CNA weekend jobs were struggling massively to get through RN school.

There aren't many diploma schools. Pennsylvania still has them. I went to one, for 1 year. It produced almost no A students, a few Bs, a lot of people squeaked through with Cs, and only about 40% of the original cohort finished the program in 24 months. We never had time off from school. You spent nearly every day, 8a-2p or 3p at the school, and all day Thur & Fri in clinicals. The lectures went on for hours. I'm not sure about anyone else, but I learn from quietly studying by myself, and doing practice exercises. I don't learn from sitting through hour after hour of lectures. I planned on having a part-time job but found that all of my time outside of RN school had to be spent studying. I had no kids, no house to take care of, no spouse. And I could not keep up with the diploma curriculum and the way it skipped and hopped from topic to topic, and the way the clinicals were handles as a separate set of rotations that were not sync'd with the lectures. Try doing labor/delivery clinicals when you've a) never had the material in lecture yet, b) never had a baby yourself, and c) never spend any time whatsoever around pregnant women or babies.


281 Posts

Has 5 years experience.

Another tip - don't talk about your studies to your co-workers in your day job. They won't be all that interested and may even say cutting things just to get you to stop going on about it - but it will leave you feeling deflated.

Specializes in Emergency Department. Has 8 years experience.

This is excellent advice for sure! I think it puts all the advice I've ever given to others all into one single post. I guess great minds think alike? ;)

I wouldn't say that some tasks should be neglected, but rather shifted over to others to do. You should find and use any resources you have at home so you can make use of your time. This ties in with the "don't be a lone wolf" comment. Look for ways to do all those tasks you normally do in a more efficient way. Think of it like clustering your care. Often it's better to group activities together and get it all done right now than it is to do the activities as they pop up. Oh, and don't be afraid to say "No, I can't do that right now." Your time is limited, so prioritize toward maximizing your efficiency and getting through school.

For a planner, I generally use Google's calendar app because you can sync it up with mobile devices pretty easily and use your mobile device or computer to help schedule your daily, weekly, and monthly activities. At my school, about a week or so before the start of the semester, we'd get our course calendar. I'd spend a couple hours inputting that into Google's Calendar so I always know what's coming up. If you don't want to do that, if your school's calendar is provided as an electronic document, save a copy and store it online so that you always have access to it and can modify it as needed.

Find where and how you study best and stick to that whenever possible. I'm very lucky because for me, that happened to be at work! If you're lucky to have some "down time" at work, try to use that for studying or at least reviewing what you went over in class. If your schedule is somewhat flexible, try to flex it so that you're able to get some studying in and can find a way to get to class, labs, and clinical without having to stress too much about it.

Sleep is absolutely critical! If you can at all help it, make sure you build into your schedule plenty of it. Sleep deprivation, for all intents and purposes, can be considered to be injurious. If you don't get enough sleep, it will hurt you. A few semesters ago, I had a rotation where the overall schedule was absolutely horrible. While I got about 5 hours of sleep every day, it was in 2.5 hour increments. Fortunately it was just one rotation and I survived it... but during that rotation, I wasn't able to think as clearly as I normally could and it was seriously exhausting. So, make sure you get your sleep!

It's been said a LOT on this forum (and elsewhere) but forget getting a 4.0 GPA while in Nursing School. While it is very nice to do (and occasionally possible) it's not very realistic for most. I already have a Bachelors degree. My post grad GPA is a 4.0 and I worked hard for it. Then I started Nursing School... I graduated with just over a 3.0 and that was seriously harder than any of the coursework I've ever taken. The difficulty was absolutely incredible. Of the nearly 40 grads in my cohort, only one earned a 4.0 and she didn't have to work... that's telling! Make peace with your GPA expectations, though still do your best. As long as you graduate and do generally well, continue to review the material as you go along, you'll probably do decently well on the NCLEX.

The hardest thing to achieve is a good balance. Watch out for people that don't like things to change as you rebalance your life around school. Your rebalancing act will make others have to do the same and some people just won't like it much.