Online learning has provided a new advantage for nurses in this day and age. The accessibility of quality education, regardless of geographic location, is a welcomed aspect.
Before online classes, nurses who live in areas that are far from good universities have to relocate to be able to enroll and attend classes in a master’s degree program.
Aside from the cost of the program itself, relocation entails a lot of expenses and would sometimes mean sacrificing an established career.
Due to such financial and personal constraints, many nurses have a hard time pursuing higher education.
Digital learning, however, allows nurses to attend classes and complete coursework from home. As long as a student can plug into a decent Internet connection, pursuing a degree online is attainable.
However, online classes also have unique challenges on their own. So, if you are a nurse who is pursuing a higher degree online, let’s take a look at some of the tips that can help you pursue your degree successfully:
1. Mind Your Work Schedule
As a nurse, your work schedule will depend on the department you’re assigned to, the number of cases that your team is currently handling, and the availability of people at any given time.
You’re definitely familiar with being on-call and having to take over someone else’s shift because they have their own emergency to settle.
Because of this, an online master’s program is ideal since you’ll mostly be doing your projects and course requirements on your own time.
However, you might need to attend virtual lectures from time to time, so you still have to check your work schedule and coordinate with your boss on how you can juggle both your career and school responsibilities.
2. Get Quality Equipment
Since classes are done online, you have to prepare the right equipment for it. Make sure that your laptop’s operating speed is of quality and that your internet connection is reliable.
Check if you need to download and be familiar with a learning platform that the school requires.
Don’t forget noise-canceling headphones and a microphone too.
3. Know How To Motivate Yourself
Online learning is flexible and self-paced, meaning that you need to personally commit to a huge part of the process.
Unlike a traditional classroom setting where teachers and classmates can nudge you to study or do classwork, you are mostly on your own in an online learning setup.
If you are unmotivated and lagging behind class schedules, you would later find yourself cramming for examinations and assignments.
Therefore, being self-motivated is very important to make sure that you pass your subject and complete the degree.
To help keep you motivated, you can try doing the following things below:
- Write down your goals
- Listen and watch motivational material
- Speak and spend time with your support system
- Track your progress so you can improve continuously
4. Be More Flexible
Juggling work and school is hard. While online learning provides a bit of flexibility, there would still be times that you cannot stick to a routine due to work and other responsibilities.
In that case, you need to be more flexible and adaptive too.
If you set aside a schedule where you can study for five hours but you only manage to study in three hours, then you have to make up for the remaining two hours on the following day.
5. Create A Conducive Study Environment
It is essential to make sure that your room is conducive for studying. This is quite difficult to do, especially if you share a home with other people.
Hence, you may need to try out different spots and environments to find the one that brings the best results. Keep in mind that one kind of environment may not always be ideal, and you may need to switch it up depending on the day and time.
Aside from setting up a study space in your home, you must also ensure that there are no distractions nearby whenever you log in to class or do homework.
For example, to keep yourself from checking up your phone and browsing social media during classes, avoid placing your phone on your study desk.
Keep your phone in a separate area where it is hard to reach so you won’t get easily distracted.
6. Form Online Study Groups
You can form or join online groups with other students so that you won’t feel isolated. Some students also feel that they can learn best whenever they have classmates and friends that they can study with.
If you are that kind of student, then you need to find or form an online study group or at least have a study buddy.
Get to know some of your classmates in the program and find those who would be in sync with your study schedule. You don’t have to meet up personally, you can do your study sessions via online calls and chat groups.
Taking part in group discussions or helping colleagues whenever possible will make the learning process interactive and more effective.
Ideas and perspectives that were shared may prompt you to carry out more research and note down things that you have missed from the material.
7. Don’t Hesitate To Interact With Your Teachers
Online learning doesn’t mean that you are literally on your own throughout the process. Lecturers, teachers, and tutors are still available to guide and help you out.
You may have to work around time zone differences and varying work schedules to liaise with your teachers. This dynamic may make it a bit more challenging, compared to the traditional learning method where there is a timetable that you can follow to reach teachers personally.
The advantage of online learning, however, is that the course material is always available. You can also consult your online groups with the material so your colleagues can chime in and share their perspectives.
8. Figure Out Your Best Learning Mode
One of the advantages of online learning is that the material comes in different forms. You can learn through video, text, audio, or live tutorials.
Some students learn better visually, while others enjoy listening to audio material. Others learn better through practical methods, which may be demonstrated through live videos.
You should try different learning methods so that you can assess the particular combination that works best for you.
9. Set Time Limits
When you create your study schedule, you should also set time limits on various subjects and tasks.
For example, if your program has three different modules, you need to set time limits on each one.
This way, you can give equal time and attention to each module and additional requirements (if any).
10. Reward Yourself
Reward yourself for the seemingly small accomplishments which add up to your success. Achievements may be in the form of committing to your schedule, passing tests and quizzes, participating in group work, and completing projects.
Give yourself a breather so you can motivate yourself and go back to your classes feeling more refreshed.
11. Practice Self-Care
Practicing self-care helps you avoid burnout and enhances your productivity week after week and month after month.
There are many ways to practice self-care. This may be in the form of eating healthy foods, exercising daily, journaling, taking a walk in the park, going out for coffee, reading a novel, watching an episode of your favorite show, or spending time with loved ones.
When you are mentally, emotionally, and physically balanced, you will find that learning is enjoyable and worth the effort.
12. Learn To Be Patient
Navigating technical dynamics that come with online learning may be frustrating. You may have to work as a team and find that some of your members aren’t quite as familiar with technical assignments as you are.
Keep in mind that besides learning the material, students are also learning technical skills and navigating new platforms that they may not have been exposed to prior to the program.
If you have adapted to digital platforms more easily, be patient with your classmates and always offer a helping hand so they can eventually learn how to use such platforms more efficiently.
But if you find yourself lagging behind instead, don’t hesitate to reach out to a colleague or professor for help.
13. Speak With Graduates And Distinguished Nurses
Speaking with nurses who have graduated from master’s and doctorate programs may give you some insight into what to expect.
Their first-hand experience and their advice can help you prepare for what’s ahead. Their accomplishments can also remind you that pursuing the degree is going to be worth it.
It’s a long and hard road, but if you are diligent and patient, the rewards will be by leaps and bounds.
How To Determine Your Specialization
If you are still thinking twice about pursuing a higher degree online, then you might find this short guide helpful. After university, you are already equipped with the general knowledge and skills to succeed as a practicing nurse.
Then, you applied to your local hospital to gain some experience where you learn even more techniques on assisting fellow medical professionals in saving peoples’ lives.
Should you stop there? Not necessarily. You can explore more career paths when you take up a master’s program.
Learning more about nursing practices and techniques can boost your confidence in handling the cases assigned to you.
Moreover, it can open up career opportunities for you in your chosen field of specialization. Here are the possible career paths for people with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN):
- Administrator – A nurse administrator is someone who works in the office of hospitals, clinics, health agencies, and other medical organizations. Their primary duties include strategic leadership and operational management, such as making decisions on staffing, daily operations, and finance.
- Educator – If you’re more inclined to teach others, the ideal career path would be to become a nurse educator. You’ll be responsible for creating, implementing, and improving educational programs for aspiring nurses. You will be working as a nurse practitioner and an academician as well.
- Public Health Nurse – As a public health nurse, you’ll be responsible for the health of entire communities. Not only will you be caring for multiple patients, but you’ll also need to educate people about common health issues to boost the community’s health and safety.
- Primary Care Nurse Practitioner – Primary care nurses should be certified and licensed to provide comprehensive, long-term, and continuous care to their patients. They can also screen, diagnose, and treat common acute and chronic illnesses.
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner – This specialization focuses on newborns and infants who need thorough care and monitoring. Typically, you’ll be assigned to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).
- Healthcare Department Manager – This is another career opportunity for people who have an MSN. In this job, you’ll be overseeing an entire department or a team. It’s an ideal professional path if you have work experience as a nurse or medical assistant.
If you are a nurse who is thinking of pursuing a higher degree online, you must first determine the field that you want to specialize in.
Then, you should check your schedule to ensure that you can accommodate both your career and academic responsibilities.
If you are already enrolled in a program, you need to make sure that your laptop and internet connection are of quality.
Aside from that, always remember that online learning is self-paced and flexible, and you need to be a motivated self-starter to be consistent with your lessons and course work.
You can set a study schedule, but you must leave room for flexibility as not every day will be the same—especially with work and personal responsibilities in the corner.
Moreover, make sure to create a conducive study environment and get rid of distractions.
Form or join online groups to avoid feeling isolated. Interact with teachers whenever possible and explore the best learning mode for you.
To enjoy digital learning, respond to other students and participate in the discussion. Reward yourself for every milestone, and always practice self-care. Be patient with yourself and others as you all have to navigate the dynamics of online learning and new digital platforms.
Lastly, speaking with graduates and distinguished nurses in the field may also help you gain insight about what to expect in your journey towards a master’s degree, and what opportunities await you after that.