8 Ways Students Can Manage Working While Attending Nursing School

attending nursing school spring arbor university online
attending nursing school spring arbor university online

Nursing is a rewarding career that allows you to dedicate your skills to the care and well-being of others. It also means staying on top of your time management abilities, especially for those who are working while attending nursing school.

Long hours and unpredictable schedules can make it difficult for working nurses to find work-life balance. Many nurses want to return to school and advance their careers, but have concerns given the demands of their current workload.

However, with a flexible online program and a few helpful tips, nurses can set themselves up to thrive when working while attending nursing school.

This article offers helpful advice for students who are looking to manage working while attending nursing school. It also highlights how Spring Arbor’s online nursing programs are uniquely designed for working nurses, allowing for a supportive educational experience.


maintain schedule while attending nursing school

Maintain a Schedule While Attending Nursing School

One of the best ways an online student can manage working while attending nursing school is to develop and maintain a daily schedule.

Consistency in your daily routine will be invaluable as it can help you:

  • Juggle the responsibilities in both of your roles as a nurse and as a student without feeling overwhelmed by the wide variety of tasks you must complete.
  • Reduce your stress levels so you can focus on what matters most in your current job and the online classroom.
  • Feel that you have some control over your day, which can be satisfying given the unpredictable hurdles that a nursing shift can present.

Committing to a set schedule will serve as a roadmap to help you plan, prioritize, and follow-through on tasks.

Working while attending nursing school is an adjustment and will make changes to your routine. Though your work shift as a nurse may be unpredictable, a flexible online program can help you find balance.

You can also maintain a consistent schedule with your schoolwork by setting aside times throughout your week specifically for courses.

Many online students designate the same blocks of time during the week to coursework, or commit to a certain amount of time (e.g. 15 hours) each week.

This way, you can ensure that you’re meeting your nursing coursework deadlines and progress toward your online nursing degree without feeling like you are falling behind or juggling too many tasks.


optimize organization while attending nursing school

Optimize Your Organization

Hand-in-hand with the importance of keeping a schedule when working while attending nursing school is making sure that you are as organized as possible.

Some ways to keep organized include:

  • Make note of your scheduled shifts at work and align them with your personal calendar so you can conceptualize what lies ahead.
  • Create lists and set reminders for tasks that you need to accomplish so you can track your progress.
  • Read ahead on your course syllabi as well, so you are aware of upcoming assignments and can meet those deadlines.

Maintaining this level of organization can help keep your overall stress levels low and optimize how you use your time by ensuring that nothing is overlooked or neglected.

Few moments are as panic-inducing as the realization that you are late for your workday at the hospital or that you missed submitting an assignment for your online nursing courses. By staying organized, you can sidestep these stressors completely.

Click here to read everything you need to know about key communication concepts for nurses.


stay focused while attending nursing school

Stay Focused While Attending Nursing School

You can spend hours looking at your textbook, but if you are distracted during that time or feel anxious, the productivity of those hours will be minimal. There are ways you can help sharpen your focus and feel positive overall.

When you establish designated blocks of time during the week set aside for your schoolwork, try to:

  • Be committed to your studies and the act of learning.
  • Center your thoughts around key concepts presented and take notes that effectively summarize those concepts.
  • Ask questions and review discussion boards so you can broaden your perspective. When paired with a study session, this can enrich what you have learned.

If disruptions come up, use them as learning opportunities to fine-tune your process. Also, make sure the space you set aside to do your work is comfortable enough, but not too cozy or you may feel tired.

Feeling focused when working while attending nursing school can seem difficult to achieve at first, especially when you are trying to establish a routine that works best for you. That is why self-care and patience are both essential to help you put your best foot forward.


spring arbor university online technology

Tap Into Technology

Modern technology has provided us with countless benefits over the years, and among those are amazing online resources and applications that can help with schoolwork for those working while attending nursing school.

Applications, such as Evernote and OneNote, allow you to:

  • Take your notes on your electronic device.
  • Highlight relevant terms or concepts.
  • Record audio files of online lectures relating to a course.
  • Continue to add to your notes when offline.
  • Scan handouts or any other materials and add them so that all of your work for the class is both consolidated and easily accessible at all times.

When it comes time for exams, you can also take advantage of applications such as StudyBlue or Cram, which are designed to help quiz you prior to tests with flashcards made from course materials.

Studying applications can be incredibly helpful for those who are working while attending nursing school because they can help you comprehensively review the essential content or give you a quick refresh on information just before an exam.

Aside from applications that can help keep your course materials organized, you can also take advantage of a myriad of programs that help with tracking time.

Some of the more popular time management applications, like RescueTime, Remember the Milk, and Focus Booster, allow users to:

  • Merge your calendars and devices so that you can have a consolidated list of assignments and deadlines, allowing you to sort and complete items efficiently.
  • Help you break larger projects down into digestible portions to reduce any procrastination and overall stress regarding your current tasks.
  • Share reports on a weekly basis so you can visualize how your are dividing your time over the course of the week.

By taking advantage of resources, such as time management applications, it can make the difference between staying on top of your work and studies, and simply staying afloat.


spring arbor university online disengage

Disengage From the Unnecessary

While the wave of new applications for studying and note-taking can be incredibly helpful to students who are working while attending nursing school, it is essential to remember that not all technology can benefit you in this way.

For instance, social media can distract us from our daily work for long periods of time. As a busy nurse, you might have to deprioritize social media while you focus and dedicate yourself to an advanced degree.

The key is moderation: you don’t need to give up your Facebook or Instagram check-ins completely, but don’t let these distractions consume so much of your time that they are a detriment.


take time yourself while attending nursing school

Take Time for Yourself While Attending Nursing School

One of the quickest ways to burn out when working while attending nursing school is to think that you have to work all day, every day.

We all have our limits, and nursing students have a lot to juggle on top of faith, work, family, and school. It is incredibly important that you make time during the week for what is important to you.

According to a recent article in Scientific American, studies have shown that disengaging from our daily tasks gives our brains a chance to both restore information  and recharge. In turn, this helps boost overall productivity.

This downtime is a form of self-care, and can be an opportunity for you to better process and retain what you’ve learned at work or in the online classroom; it can also be a way for you to check in with yourself and assess your overall stress levels and well-being.

Moderate physical activity is one way to take a break— even a 15-minute walk can be the break-away you need. Another way you can add recharge time to your schedule is to block out brief intervals for mindfulness or meditation exercises.

These can be done during a few minutes over your lunch hour or before bedtime, and can even be performed prior to logging into your online courses; think of it as a way to help you disconnect from your day and focus in on your classes.

Finding an enjoyable activity that feels right for you can help you keep both your personal and professional well-being on course.


learn say no

Learn to Say No

An important factor to consider as you master time management and continue working while attending nursing school is setting healthy boundaries.

When you burn the candle at both ends, you end up extinguishing your bandwidth too soon, so try to avoid too many commitments in your schedule.

Always keep in mind that it is acceptable to turn down opportunities in a polite way.

When considering your commitments and what to take on, try to establish what makes the most sense for you at this point in your life.

If you need time to think it over, don’t be afraid to say so. Give yourself time to make a list of pros and cons, or consider the prospect again after a good night’s sleep.

Your time is limited and valuable, especially when working while attending nursing school. Regardless of what you decide, you will stay in control of how your time is being used.

By being selective with your commitments and reserving time for yourself, you might even boost your productivity with your current responsibilities. When you decline an invite to a gathering and spend more time studying, it will help further your professional or academic development.

Remember, this is only temporary and you can always celebrate a job well done once your essential tasks are completed.

Click here to read everything you need to know about communicating effectively as a nurse.


spring arbor university online future

Consider Your Future

Our last tip to help you carry out your career goals when working while attending nursing school is to always keep your goals in mind.

Envisioning yourself as a nurse practitioner, for instance, and conceptualizing all of the benefits of that role that will be within reach is a powerful way to stay motivated.

From the moment you begin working while attending nursing school, it can be helpful to create a vision board and add inspirational messages or quotes to stay positive.

As a part of your self care plan and new routine, you can set aside time to reflect on your progress and envision the future “you.” This should help you stay on track and reframe your thinking if you ever feel overwhelmed.

While considering your future, remember to celebrate the small wins. Each step you take is helping you turn your vision into reality.

Click here to read everything you need to know about the advantages of being a nurse practitioner.


attending nursing school

Find Balance with Spring Arbor University

Working while attending nursing school is a commitment, and Spring Arbor University is equipped to help you reach your goals.

With an array of flexible, online nursing programs that are uniquely designed for working nurses, students are poised to advance in the healthcare field.

Some of the advantages of Spring Arbor’s online nursing programs include:

  • 100% Online Courses


Spring Arbor’s online nursing courses are offered completely online, so that you don’t have to worry about adding to your daily stress and commuting to campus.

  • No Log-In Times


The flexibility of online courses allows you to log-in and work on coursework when it is convenient for you.

  • 7-1-7 Model


Enjoy time to recharge after each course ends with a one-week break between each seven-week term.

  • Tailor Your Degree


With multiple nursing tracks available for ADN-prepared nurses and BSN holders, RNs can pick up where they left off and advance their career, especially with Spring Abor’s RN-BSN-MSN bridge programs.

Students can also choose from various specialities including nurse practitioner, nursing educator, and a dual MSN-MBA degree.

  • Engaged Faculty


With dedicated faculty who serve as field experts and mentors, you can feel supported by a community invested in helping you experience an enriching education, as well as professional, personal, and spiritual growth.

  • Student Success Coaches


Every online student is partnered with a Student Success Coach. Your Student Success Coach serves as a personal liaison between you and campus and is also available to help you overcome any challenges you might face on your journey.

Finding work-school-life balance is more manageable when someone is encouraging you every step of the way.

Click here to read everything you need to know about what you can do with an MSN in nursing education.

As students join Spring Arbor’s faith-driven community, faculty and staff become a part of their support system. Nursing students are also able to maximize their time with flexible online programs and successfully continue working while attending nursing school.

Learn more about Spring Arbor's online nursing programs.



Kristy S. Chunta, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, and Johanna Boothby, DEd, MS, RN. “Time-Management Strategies for Nurse Leaders.” American Nurse Today. https://www.myamericannurse.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/ant11-Time-Management-1017.pdf

Ferris Jabr, “Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime.” Scientific American, 15 October 2013. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-downtime

“Mindfulness exercises.” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/mindfulness-exercises/art-20046356

Shalini G. Nayak, “Time Management in Nursing – Hour of Need.” International Journal of Caring Sciences (Sept.-Dec., 2018). http://www.internationaljournalofcaringsciences.org/docs/72_nayak_special_11_3_2.pdf

Lee Nelson, “Effective Time Management Skills for Nurses.” Nurse.org https://nurse.org/articles/effective-time-management-skills-for-nurses

Camille Preston, PhD., “Promoting Employee Happiness Benefits Everyone.” Forbes, 13 December 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/12/13/promoting-employee-happiness-benefits-everyone/#38e938e2581a