Top tips to look after yourself as you complete an accelerated degree in nursing
A recent study into the attrition rate of student nurses found that on average, 20% drop out before they earn a degree. While it is concerning, the number is lower than the national average.
By definition, accelerated nursing programs are fast tracked. They take a shorter time to complete than traditional on-campus classes, and they tend to have a slightly higher attrition rate because students underestimate how much is required before they can earn their qualifications.
ABSN courses are usually for working nurses who want to expand their educational qualifications quickly so that they can get better jobs. They are also popular with non-nurses who want to change careers. Accelerated nursing programs teach how to become a nurse if you already have a bachelor’s degree.
Typically, these courses take between 12 and 16 months to complete and have a rigorous schedule. Although they are intended for full-time students, many enrollees are working professionals who cannot afford to take time off.
The drop-out rate should not discourage you. Another way to look at it is that 80% of nursing students complete their degree courses and successfully earn qualifications that can take them to the next level in their careers.
It is important to be well prepared before you embark on such a significant shift in your professional life. As you investigate how to become a nurse with a bachelors degree take some time to think about whether it is the right time to be doing such a course. Can you accommodate its demands and meet all the requirements of the program?
One way to increase your chances of success is to ensure that you are well prepared before the course begins. This article gives you tips on what you can do, as well as steps you can take once learning is underway, to ensure success.
Preparing for an accelerated nursing program
Before you are enrolled in a program, it is important to think through the logistics. Can you accommodate a rigorous curriculum that demands a few hours of quiet concentration each day?
Finances also come into play, because you ought to be able to afford school fees without completely upending your life.
Use the following tips to prepare yourself for an ABSN:
Organize your finances
There are two important things to consider here. The typical student pays for tuition and living expenses, but if you opt to take an accelerated nursing degree online you may not incur additional living expenses. You can also do your degree from anywhere, if you have a computer and an internet connection.
However, online learning is not easy, especially for working professionals, those with families, or people who enjoy a busy social life. It requires you to carve out time that you usually spend doing other things, and this may be difficult. Despite this, it is the smart option because it eliminates the need to commute and is often cheaper.
If you are already in the medical profession you should talk to your employer about getting financial aid or some sort of concession. Many organizations are happy to pay for higher education as long as you can contribute to their betterment after you earn your degree.
Other costs you may need to take into account are textbooks and learning materials. As you enroll, your admissions counselor will give you a list of supplies which may include things like a stethoscope, scissors, penlight and blood-pressure cuff.
Create a support system
Once you start your classes, you will need a support system both at work and at home. You may have to cut back on some important duties. Letting those around you know that you are enrolling in university allows them to find ways that they can support you in the coming months so that you can complete your course.
At work, find out whether you can rearrange your schedule in such a way that you have an hour or two set aside for study. You should also talk to human resources about days off for exams and assignments.
If you have a family, think about who will step in when you are absent. Talk to your spouse about the additional time he or she may have to sacrifice so you can study each day. Your relatives may be able to help with childcare if you let them know in advance that you are taking an accelerated nursing course and might need assistance.
Understand your learning style
As you learn how to become a nurse with a bachelor’s degree, you will find that learning concepts in nursing school are different from those in your previous university course.
Instead of memorizing facts and spitting them out in exams and assignments, you will have to learn how to incorporate theory into real-world clinical situations. This can be especially challenging for those who have a non-nursing degree.
You need to understand your course material, how information from different modules ties together, and how it can be used to care for patients.
Many nursing examinations have multiple-choice questions where all the answers are correct, but you are required to choose the one that best applies to the situation. You have to adjust your learning style to accommodate this kind of testing.
We are all unique in how we understand concepts and reproduce information. Maybe you absorb best when you discuss with others, or when you use flashcards. How will you make it work once you start nursing school?
A VARK questionnaire can help you find out your learning style.
Try to weed out bad habits that may get in the way of learning
We all have habits we wish we could leave behind. Will yours get in the way of your study? Maybe you are in the habit of getting to bed quite late. Once you start the accelerated nursing program you will be twice as busy, so you will need a more strict sleep schedule
Evaluate your diet and exercise too. They should be geared towards being healthy and helping you relax.
Prepare on the home front
This is especially important for working parents. Think about how your young family will get by when you are busy with classes and assignments. Some students shop in bulk so that they do not have to do a supermarket run every few days. Others cook and freeze meals so that feeding the family during the week is easy. Think about what you can get out of the way to make life easier for everyone.
Have a blast before class starts
Once you get into the program you will not have much time to go on holiday, take weekend breaks or spend time with friends and family. Take a few days off to relax and do something you like beforehand, so that by the time you attend your first lecture your mind is fresh and alert.
The following tips will help you during your online nursing course:
Become an excellent time manager
You will be cramming four years of learning into two. The better you manage your time, the higher your chances of succeeding. Each minute of your day counts and procrastination will not get you very far.
Create to-do lists, then slot them into a diary or calendar so you know what you are supposed to attend to each day.
Avoid putting off your coursework — it will pile up and eventually overwhelm you. Do your assignments on time and if you cannot meet a deadline make sure to let your instructor know in advance.
Find a study method that works
Some people study best alone. Others prefer to learn in a group setting. Maybe you like to take in small bits of information at a time, or you prefer to set aside a few hours to study a whole topic.
Find out what works for you and use it. Many students find that combining various learning styles gives the best results.
Join class discussion groups
Discussion groups are a rich source of diverse opinions, and you will learn a lot from other students. As soon as the course begins, find out what formations exist and become a member. Be an active participant and do not be afraid to engage your peers. Stay professional and respectful of others at all times.
Talk to your instructors
The sole reason they are there is to help every student learn how to become a nurse. Talk to them about how best to be successful in your course. If you have questions, schedule some online time and get them answered.
Many professors and lecturers are happy to point their top students toward job opportunities after they finish their courses. Talk to them about this.
Learn about your clinical experience
Your course will include a clinical component. Where will it be and how will you get there? What will be involved and what sorts of reports and examinations can you expect?
Try to avoid surprises — they can throw off even the most organized person.
Sometimes being organized is confused with being a good time manager. You can be a good time manager who is disorganized. You can arrive on time for a meeting, for example, only to realize that you left important notes at home or in the car.
Being organized requires that you are in control — you know where what you need is, and you do not run around at the last minute.
Accountability rests on you
The nature of online courses is such that you have to do what needs to be done yourself. You must hold yourself accountable at all times. You are not learning in a classroom environment with an instructor to hold your hand.
You are alone and are responsible for covering the course material and getting assignments done on time. If possible, get an accountability buddy or someone who helps you stay on course.
Learn as you go
Just because you might not succeed in a module the first time around does not mean you are no good. Use that as a learning experience and avoid similar pitfalls in the future.
Use the knowledge and information you gather during your course to make adjustments as necessary. If, for example, you find it hard to study at home, why not start attending the local library where you can enjoy some quiet time?
Create study goals
They do not have to be complex or lofty — you can set a goal to study at least one hour a day or cover a certain number of topics. The point is to set a measure against which you can evaluate yourself. You can even set goals to score above a certain mark on tests and assignments.
Self-care tips for accelerated nursing program students
The above tips will help you cover course material with ease, but you need to take care of your emotional, mental and spiritual health as well.
Nursing is a taxing career, and even students often feel drained, especially when they start the clinical part of the curriculum. You can practice a little self-love with the following tips:
According to a 2022 sleephealth.org report, Americans are not sleeping enough. It is costing the country $16bn each year in medical expenses. As a nursing student, you may be tempted to stay up late at night and wake up early in the morning to get some studying done. If you work and have a family, your sleep hours are likely to be even fewer.
Your mental health is largely determined by how well you sleep each night. If you do not put in the recommended minimum of six hours, your attention span is shortened, you are irritable and you find studying a little bit harder.
Eat healthy meals
Life for ABSN students is fast paced, and even faster for those who have jobs and families. Getting a square meal can be a challenge when you have so much to do.
Poor eating habits lead to poor health, which negatively impacts your studies. With a little bit of planning, you can incorporate at least two healthy meals a day. Keep fruit handy for snacks to avoid overeating processed sugars.
Have healthy peer relationships
Some of the best and longest-lasting friendships are formed when students meet at university. Surround yourself with people who share similar goals. When you go for a clinical placement, you can find one or two older, experienced nurses who are willing to advise and mentor you.
Keep your body supple and your mind young with exercise a few times a week. Home gyms are generally not difficult or too expensive to create. With a few hundred dollars you can have a great setup at home where you work out at your own pace.
- Surround yourself with people who support you
Embarking on an accelerated degree in nursing is not easy. If you have someone constantly tell you that you are wasting your time, it will discourage you. Surround yourself with people who understand and support what you are doing.
Find a relaxing hobby
Register for something that you enjoy doing and do it at least once a week. It could be a cookery class, dancing lessons, hiking or fishing. It helps relax the body and mind, and you will find that stress does not affect you quite as easily.
Disconnect from time to time
Many of us spend hours every day looking online at what others are doing and updating them about what we are doing. There is not much to be gained from it. Social media is a distraction that you can do without from time to time.
It does not have to be your main medium of communication. Let the people who matter know that they can send you a text or call you instead of using a social media platform. You will feel more relaxed and free up a lot of your time to attend to things that matter.
Seek help when you need it
Your college has a support system in place for students who are struggling. Call the office and find out what resources are available to help you cope.
If you have problems in a particular module, schedule a video call with your instructor. Prepare the questions in advance so that you do not spend a lot of time on the call.
Your student discussion group can also help explain difficult concepts. If you find certain topics hard to understand, let your cohorts know.
If you are well prepared and already have a bachelor’s degree, you can successfully transition from your career and learn how to become a nurse. ABSN is a demanding course because you have to cover a four-year curriculum in about half the time, but you can do it with the tips discussed here. Remember, taking care of yourself is just as important as studying hard.