So you’re thinking of studying while you work fulltime? How will you manage it?
Here are my tips for managing a fulltime job and successfully continuing your nursing education.
Study at any time takes some commitment, so you really have to think about where you are in your life because that will impact on your capacity to study. Any big life stressors will certainly interfere with your ability to learn. So start with some socratic questioning.
What specialty am I interested in? Is there a course for this specialty? How long am I prepared to study? How much can I afford to pay to do the study? Is this a funded course? Are there scholarships available? Where do I want to study? How do I want to study (ie. distance education, study blocks, weekly tutorials)? Is there anything I can foresee that will interfere with my ability to do the course – like moving house, having a baby, being married or divorced? These are all good questions to start with and will begin to build a picture for you of how ready you are to take up the commitment of study.
Next, browse through the universities, colleges and other educational facilities. Internet browsing is the easiest. Go to any educational facility’s website, look for their handbook and go through the courses to find one that suits your needs and meets your interests. Once you have found what you want, examine what you need to do to enrol. Some courses require referees, interviews and other evidence. Read up on the requirements and gather it together before applying. Look at the costs of the course – some courses aren’t covered by HECS and even if they are, can you afford to pay?
You can always try obtaining a scholarship to help with fees, but you probably have to begin looking for these in the year prior to your course beginning. Googling ‘scholarship’ will get you started, but the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association also advertises scholarships, as does NSW Health. There are many to be had, it just takes some time to look around, fill in the applications and find your referees.
Once you have found your course, enrolled, found out if you can afford it, applied for scholarships and been accepted, this is where the real juggling act begins.
As I worked fulltime as I did both my Bachelor and Masters courses, I needed to be super organised. The first thing I always do is get my course outline and work out my timetable. I divide the semester up into weeks, look at the topics to be covered and divide the weeks up by topic, with a start and finish date for each topic. I also look at when assignments are due and put a start and finish date for them as well. All the readings and texts I put into order by topic. I get an enormous store of sticky tags, post-it notes and highlighters ready to mark and highlight as I go.
Your course outline will tell you how many hours per week you need to study for your course. I use this as a guide only. Sometimes a topic will take less hours per week, while some topics take longer. I usually set aside one full day per week to study as well as an hour or two each day. The main thing is to keep to your timetable and if you get ahead of your timetable, you will have time to spare doing the extra readings and research that give you high distinctions!
I also carried my texts, readings, highlighters and a notepad around with me wherever I went so I could take advantage of opportunistic study moments. There’s nothing like studying in the Medicare queue while waiting for your refund!
The main thing is I must always stick to my timetable, because this is how I know I will get through the work. Study is a disciplined business, especially if you want to do well.
Now, for assignments – always know what your assignments are and when they are due so when you are reading and going to tutorials, you can tag and mark your readings according to your assignment.
I always keep my assignment readings in seperate piles and as I read and write I do my bibliography as I go. My method is to use the laptop to write my thoughts and comments on each paper as I read and the assignment begins to form itself.
I could go on and on about reading critically and reflecting on evidence, but I won’t! The main thing is that to both work and study at the same time you must be really organised, emotionally, mentally and physically.
And remember – testamur, cap and gown at the end are such a hoot!